Student Projects 2009
Project Title: Mercury in the Sediment and Oysters in the Housatonic River Estuary
Bivalve mollusks (mussels and oysters) are used worldwide as indicators of metal pollution
and are known to accumulate mercury in their tissues. The Housatonic River generates
more than one-third of CT’s seed oysters from its public oyster beds. Mercury contaminated
sediment in the Housatonic River estuary poses a threat to the commercial oyster industry
and quantifying the relationship between sediment and oyster tissue mercury contents
is necessary for oyster habitat restoration efforts. This study examines the mercury
concentration in surface sediment and corresponding oyster tissues in the Housatonic
River estuary. The goal of this study will be to test the following hypotheses: (1)
sediment mercury content will vary in proportion to sediment grain size and organic
carbon content (Loss on Ignition) (2) the mercury content in oyster tissue will vary
in direct proportion to the sediment mercury content at that location; and (3) oyster
tissue mercury contents in lower Housatonic will, on average, be higher than other
regional coastal estuaries.
Biology and Marine Studies
Project Title: Sediment Metal Contamination in the Thames River and New London Harbor Complex
New London harbor is the best natural deepwater harbor in CT. The port area comprises
the lower 12 miles of the Thames River and includes the city of New London and the
towns of Groton, Ledyard and Preston. The Thames river watershed, and the area immediately
surrounding New London harbor, have been historically characterized by industrial
activity and are urbanized. Previous studies have been inadequate to describe the
extent of sediment metal contamination and the spatial variation in sediment types
within the river and harbor. This study examines the physical characteristics and
metal contamination in sediments within the Thames River/New London harbor complex.
The specific objectives of this research are to: (1) conduct a high spatial resolution
sampling of the sediment representative of the entire length of the river and harbor
areas; (2) measure the chemical (zinc, copper, manganese and iron) and physical (texture,
grain size, loss on ignition) properties of the sediment; and (3) determine the extent
of anthropogenic metal contamination in the sediment through a comparison of the results
of this study with other similar coastal rivers and embayments in Long Island Sound.
Honors College and Marine Studies
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