Discipline: Ecology Environmental and Earth Sciences
Room: Exhibit Hall
Jonathan Chapman - University of Hawaii at Hilo
Sensitive ecosystems such as the Florida Everglades have been adversely affected by sizeable volumes of copper by way of the citrus agriculture industry. Copper is unable to degrade, and thereby bioaccumulates within the soil and water, raising concerns for aquatic organisms that reside in Florida’s mangrove forests. Copper impairs neurotransmitter and chemosensory functions in prey fish which can disrupt predator avoidance behavior. Therefore, it is crucial that further research is conducted in order to determine if copper contamination will impact sensory abilities that influence predator avoidance behavior.The predator species in this study was adult, hatchery-raised, largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) and wild caught sailfin mollies (Poecilia latipinna) were used as the prey species. After a 14 day quarantine period sailfin mollies were distributed into treatment and control replicates, in which the treatment specimens were exposed to 1.875 micrograms of copper solution. Both treatment and control were incubated at 25 degrees Celsius for a total of 96 hours following EPA guidelines for minimal non-lethal acute exposure to copper contamination. The main arena to observe movement was a prefabricated observation chamber with the area within the center of the chamber designated as the predator zone. A video camera above the observation chamber recorded movement, while tracking software fixed the position of the prey and collected data on movement. The video software translated swimming behaviors to three endpoints associated with predator-prey interactions: Total Distance Moved, Mean Distance From Predator Zone, & Cumulative Duration In Predator Zone. There was little disparity for the Total Distance Moved between the treatment and control replicates before the predator was introduced, while a sharp decline in movement was exhibited by the treatment specimens once the predator was introduced. Similar results were displayed for the Mean Distance From Predator Zone, while treatment specimens exposed to copper contamination spent a considerably longer Cumulative Duration In Predator Zone when within the vicinity of the predator than control specimens. This study shed light on the impacts associated with copper contamination within the estuarine waters of South Florida. The impairment of sensory abilities on copper exposed specimens disrupted predator avoidance behavior, leading to reduced movement and shelter seeking behavior. It would be ideal to repeat this study with a marine predatory species using a larger tank setting, along with implementing a mangrove structure to provide prey more opportunities to seek shelter from a predator. Continued exposure to copper contamination could reduce the fitness of subsequent generations bringing about the possibility of an ecological collapse. Closely monitoring copper contamination in coastal waters is important to the sustainability of economic drivers such as recreational and commercial fishing.
Funder Acknowledgement(s): This study was funded by the Center of Research Excellence in Science and Technology (CREST) partners at Florida International University and the National Science Foundation (NSF) as a REU project conducted at the Ecotoxicology and Risk Assessment Laboratory on the Biscayne Bay Campus of Florida International University.
Faculty Advisor: P.I. Todd Crowl by way of Brad Schonhoff (Program Manager), email@example.com
Role: I conducted every aspect of this research including: acquisition of specimens, animal husbandry, preparing specimens for the experiment, conducting the experiment, collecting data, and communicating results. Research was presented at the Florida International University Coastal Ecosystems REU Student Research Symposium and was published in the 2020 edition of the Hohonu Academic Journal.