MS in Integrated Biological Diversity

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    An Evaluation of Heat Shock Protein Expression in the Blood Cells of Free-Living Common Loons (Gavia Immer)
    (2022-08-15) Griggs, Ericka
    Common loons in the northeastern United States are subjected to a wide variety of environmental and anthropogenic stressors. Many of the biomarkers currently used to assess individual or population health of common loons are influenced by capture and handling, therefore there is a need to develop new biomarkers of physiological condition that can aid in the management of this species. Heat shock protein 70 (HSP70) is a stress protein found within the red blood cells of many vertebrates that has been used as a biomarker of general stress in avian species. The objective of our study was to evaluate the use of HSP70 as a potential intracellular biomarker of physiological condition of loons from across New England. We collected blood samples from adults and hatch-year chicks across Maine, New York, and Massachusetts during the 2021 breeding season, and measured indicators of stress at the circulatory (% hematocrit, plasma glucose, blood mercury), immune (heterophil to lymphocyte ratio), and cellular level (hemoglobin and HSP70 protein expression). Our results revealed that: (1) HSP70 is present in the red blood cells of common loons; (2) HSP70 expression does not vary significantly with age or sex; (3) HSP70 expression does not appear to be correlated to blood mercury levels, and (4) there is a trend that higher expression of HSP70 in blood cells may be associated with anemia in common loons. Together, the evidence we present suggests that HSP70 should be further investigated as a potential blood biomarker of physiological condition in loons when combined with other measurable factors of environmental and anthropogenic stress.
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    Introduction of Native Podostemum ceratophyllum Michx. (Podostemaceae, Hornleaf Riverweed) into the Norwalk River, Wilton, CT
    (2021-05-16T00:00:00-07:00) Nealon, Kelly
    Podostemum ceratophyllum (Podostemaceae), “Hornleaf riverweed,” is a native aquatic flowering plant that occurs only attached to rocks in fast flowing water. The species occurs in much of eastern United States and Canada. Over the last several decades the species has notably declined in numbers, largely as a result of human induced factors. The ecological importance of P. ceratophyllum in rivers is well documented. This research is the first attempt to transplant the species into a river where it was not known to occur, with the goal of helping to mitigate the loss of populations. The plant was taken from two “donor” rivers where the species grows naturally, and moved into the Norwalk River (Wilton, CT), as well as between the two donor rivers. Relative growth rate was significantly impacted by the location the plants were moved to, but not by the source (donor river) plants were moved from. Transplanted P. ceratophyllum grew in each of the three rivers, although growth rate was significantly lower in the Norwalk River. Within the Norwalk River, plants from neither source had a significantly different growth rate, suggesting that the location plants grow in is more important than the river they are moved from. Results from one field season show that the methodology used to transplant P. ceratophyllum was successful, as the plants survived and grew during the 4-5 month period. Future studies will investigate causes of lesser growth in the Norwalk River, and improve upon the methodology used.