Title

Contaminant Loads In Black And Turkey Vultures Of The Southeastern United States

Author(s)

Ashley Boone

School Name

Governor's School for Science and Math

Grade Level

12th Grade

Presentation Topic

Environmental Science

Presentation Type

Mentored

Mentor

Mentor: Dr. Beasley; Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, University of Georgia

Abstract

Vultures play a key role in the ecosystem worldwide, and serve as top-level consumers. Analyzing the contaminants present within vulture populations as a whole can serve as a baseline guide as to what is in the environment and what is affecting the wildlife within. Blood and feathers were collected from 295 vultures and analyzed for heavy metal loads including lead, mercury, and arsenic. These results were then compared between samples as well as between species. Black vultures (Coragyps atratus) showed significantly higher contamination levels than Turkey vultures (Cathartes aura), which was expected. Also, contamination levels in the feather samples were much higher than that of the blood samples, which was also expected. However, the degree to which these values differed was very surprising. Some vultures showed lead and mercury intoxication levels synonymous with death, but were living completely normal lives. Using vultures as an environmental sentinel to show what contaminants are presently affecting the ecosystem is important in many ways, especially regarding conservation efforts. Vultures are going extinct worldwide due to ecosystem contamination, and looking at and interpreting this data will aid in efforts worldwide to reduce contaminant load within the ecosystem.

Location

Owens 208

Start Date

4-16-2016 8:30 AM

COinS
 
Apr 16th, 8:30 AM

Contaminant Loads In Black And Turkey Vultures Of The Southeastern United States

Owens 208

Vultures play a key role in the ecosystem worldwide, and serve as top-level consumers. Analyzing the contaminants present within vulture populations as a whole can serve as a baseline guide as to what is in the environment and what is affecting the wildlife within. Blood and feathers were collected from 295 vultures and analyzed for heavy metal loads including lead, mercury, and arsenic. These results were then compared between samples as well as between species. Black vultures (Coragyps atratus) showed significantly higher contamination levels than Turkey vultures (Cathartes aura), which was expected. Also, contamination levels in the feather samples were much higher than that of the blood samples, which was also expected. However, the degree to which these values differed was very surprising. Some vultures showed lead and mercury intoxication levels synonymous with death, but were living completely normal lives. Using vultures as an environmental sentinel to show what contaminants are presently affecting the ecosystem is important in many ways, especially regarding conservation efforts. Vultures are going extinct worldwide due to ecosystem contamination, and looking at and interpreting this data will aid in efforts worldwide to reduce contaminant load within the ecosystem.