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Accession Number 5004728

Title Use of the Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) to assess the bioavailability and effects

of contaminants in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Project Description The Chesapeake Bay Watershed is known to be contaminated with organic and inorganic

contaminants. Rather than there being a continuous, homogeneous level of contaminants

throughout the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries there are hot spots which have been

designated as areas of concern. In most cases the contaminants are present in the sediments.

They are generally present in the sediment in a particular area because of long term use patterns,

but because of dredging for a variety of reasons and the depositing of the sediment in different

locations the contaminated sediments can be found in a variety of locations. The classes of

contaminants that have been of concern are PCBs and other chlorinated hydrocarbons, polycyclic

aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), metal ions such as Cu, Cd, Zn, and Hg, and more recently

pharmaceutical chemicals from concentrated animal feeding operations and sewage treatment

plants. We intend to ascertain, at a variety of locations, the bioavailability and possible risk of

terrestrial organisms to the classes of sediment contaminants enumerated above by the use of

the Tree Swallow as a sentinel species. Areas of concern for the National Park Service are two

reconstructed wetlands, Kingman Lake and Kenilworth Marsh, which were reconstructed with

Anacostia River sediments highly contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons,

organochlorines, and heavy metals. The concern is that these wetlands will attract wildlife, which

may be exposed to harmful levels of contaminants from the sediments. The selected sentinel

species, the Tree Swallow, consume emergent aquatic insects from the immediate surroundings

and may be bioaccumulating contaminants. To evaluate contaminant bioavailability and possible

toxic effects, a study with the Tree Swallow will measure (1) organic and inorganic contaminants

in sediments, prey items, eggs, and tissues, (2) biochemical responses to different contaminant

classes, and (3) reproduction and growth. Two reference sites will represent baseline

contamination at a tidal Anacostia River site (Dueling Creek) and no contamination at a nontidal

(pond) Patuxent Research Refuge site that has previously been used as a clean reference site for

Tree Swallow studies. Within the USGS Chesapeake Bay Program a number of sites have been

selected for concentrated study. One of those currently receiving such attention is the Pocomoke

River. These studies have been concentrated on the aquatic environment and have not addressed

the exposure and possible harm to terrestrial species from the aquatic contaminants. The tree

swallow is being utilized as a sentinel species for the bioavailability and possible impact of aquatic

contaminants at a site on the Pocomoke River, Shelltown, where other units of the USGS are

studying the aquatic environment. Field work during 2002 will consist of expanding the work being

done at several sites on the Anacostia River

Keywords risk assessment, sediment contaminants, tree swallows,

Principal Mark J Melancon, Paruxent Wildlife Research Center:;


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