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Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center

Aquatic Toxicology

Assessing the Vulnerability of Lake Fish Communities to Endocrine Disruption Using Pond Mesocosms

Principal Investigator: Kim Fredericks

Impact of UMESC Science

The results from this study will be used to determine if there is the potential that human derived endocrine active compounds can influence the population dynamics of fish communities in lakes susceptible to point and nonpoint source inputs of those compounds.


testing contaminantsRecent work has identified on-site septic systems as a source of endocrine-active emerging contaminants to lakes (Carrara et al. 2008; Godfrey et al. 2007), and recent results from whole-lake experimental exposures to endocrine disruptors have documented complete reproductive failure of short-lived species of fish (Kidd et al. 2007), raising questions about the effects of these compounds on longer-lived species of fish common to Minnesota lakes.  Preliminary data from ongoing research in Minnesota have found biomarkers of endocrine disruption in female fish from urban lakes (Schoenfuss et al. unpublished data) raising questions regarding how Minnesota fish communities will respond to endocrine-active emerging contaminants exposure.  Given the large number of lakes at risk from point and nonpoint sources of emerging contaminants, there is a need for relevant data on how vulnerable fish populations respond to chronic endocrine-active emerging contaminants exposure from contaminated lake water and sediment.

Fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) and bluegills (Lepomis macrochirus) will be exposed for 6 weeks to 2 environmentally realistic concentrations of the endocrine active compound 17-β estradiol (E2) during 2 sensitive ontogenetic stages, a fry stage and a stage where the fish have reached sexually maturity.  Largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) will be exposed for 6 weeks to 2 environmentally realistic concentrations of E2 during 1 sensitive stage, the sexually mature stage.  Control and E2 exposed sexually mature fish will be assessed for reproductive output, induction of vitellogenin, and histological alterations consistent with endocrine-active emerging contaminants exposure.  Fathead minnow and bluegill fry will be exposed to E2 from within 48 h post-hatch to 6 weeks post-hatch.  Control and exposed fry will be assessed for the induction of vitellogenin and their ability to perform C-start predator avoidance behaviors.  Control and exposed fathead minnow and bluegill fry will be reared to sexually maturity (~1 year for fathead minnows and ~2 years for bluegills) before undergoing a second control or E2 exposure period when reproductive output, induction of vitellogenin, and histological alterations will be assessed.


Develop quantitative data on juvenile and adult fish vulnerability to endocrine-active emerging contaminants found in Minnesota lakes using pond-scale enclosures (i.e., mesocosms).


Carrara C, Ptacek CJ, Robertson WD, Blowes DW, Moncur MC, Sverko E, et al.  Fate of Pharmaceutical and Trace Organic Compounds in Three Septic System Plumes,
Ontario, Canada.  Environmental Science & Technology 2008, 42(8):2805-2811.

Godfrey E, Woessner WW, and Benotti MJ. Pharmaceuticals in On-Site Sewage
Effluent and Ground Water, Western Montana.  Ground Water 2007, 45(3):263-271.

Kidd, K. A., Blanchfield, P. J., Mills, K. H., Palace, V. P., Evans, R. E., Lazorchak, J. M., Flick, R. W. 2007. Collapse of a fish population after exposure to a synthetic estrogen. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.104:8897-8901.

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