ETSU’s Bidwell Receives Grant to Study Effects of Mercury Contamination


JOHNSON CITY (July 3, 2014) – Dr. Joe Bidwell, professor and chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at East Tennessee State University, has received grant funding from the university’s Research Development Committee to examine the lasting effects that contamination from metals could have on insect populations.

Much of Bidwell’s work will be centered in Virginia, in the North Fork of the Holston River, where mercury contamination has occurred for years.

Titled “Metal Tolerance and Energetics in an Invertebrate from a Mercury-Contaminated River,” the grant will make it possible for Bidwell to analyze how organisms living in polluted waters may become more tolerant to the chemicals surrounding them.

“While this tolerance may allow populations to persist in contaminated areas, it may also be associated with a higher ‘cost of living’ due to the energetic demands of detoxification and/or tissue repair,” Bidwell said. “In turn, these increased energetic demands could lead to reduced tolerance to other environmental stressors such as altered water temperature due to climate change. Those stressors could put populations at risk of local extinction.”

Bidwell will test seasonal levels of mercury in caddisflies, algae and suspended sediments, along with invertebrate metabolic rates and tolerance to metals in the water.

Bidwell believes this study will establish critical baseline data for future investigations of pollution tolerance and associated ecological effects on aquatic species.

Grants awarded by the ETSU Research Development Committee support and encourage research that includes the sciences and non-sciences, including the humanities and the fine and performing arts. 

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