Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center

UMESC - Terrestrial Sciences - Contaminants

Terrestrial Sciences


Resource-management and regulatory agencies face many complex problems associated with the contamination of our air, land, water, and biological resources by an array of chemicals originating from agricultural, industrial, municipal, and residential sources. Some contaminants are toxic and can cause stress, injury, or death in exposed organisms. Methylmercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are of special concern because they readily accumulate in exposed organisms and can biomagnify to high concentrations in organisms near or at the top of food webs.

The pollution of aquatic and terrestrial environments with toxic contaminants can greatly diminish habitat suitability for biota. Many toxic contaminants do not dissolve readily in water, but instead adhere to small sediment particles. Consequently, the bottom sediments in many water bodies are contaminated with metals, PCBs, and other substances. Once toxic, sediments can remain so for years or decades, greatly hampering ecological recovery. Center studies examine patterns of contamination in terrestrial and aquatic environments, identify factors affecting biological uptake and exposure, assess biological effects, develop and test biological indicators of contaminant exposure, and facilitate the identification of remedial measures.

Project Title
Contaminant effects on tree swallows: A nationwide indicator species
Bioaccumulation and effects of PCBs on tree swallows nesting along the Housatonic River, Massachusetts
Adult tree swallow survival on the Houstonic River
Exposure and effects of dioxins and other organochlorine chemicals on tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) nesting along the Woonasquatucket River, Rhode Island
Effects of industrial contamination on wildlife
Wildlife contaminant research in the Upper Midwest
Effects of mining activities on wildlife
Trace element concentrations in moose livers from northwestern Minnesota
Contaminants in tree swallows in relation to water level management
Exposure of nontarget birds to DRC-1339 avicide in fall baited sunflower fields
Tree swallows as indicators of mercury bioaccumulation in the North Fork of the Holston River, Virginia

Page Last Modified: April 3, 2018