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Harvard School of Public Health

Superfund Research Program

Assessment of Biological Responses to Organic and Metal Contaminants in New Bedford: Methods for Monitoring

Project Leader: Timothy Ford
Grant Number: P42ES005947
Funding Period: 2000 - 2006

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Project Summary (2000-2006)

This project is designed to evaluate the ecological health of New Bedford Harbor, MA (NBH), an EPA designated Superfund Site. Building on previous research that focused on distribution of metals in NBH sediments and the interactions between metals and microbial communities, researchers are evaluating both organic and inorganic contaminant accumulation in the biota. Accumulation alone, however, does not provide evidence of ecological effect. Therefore, physiological and biochemical responses in the macrobiota to pollutants, including effects on their endocrine systems are being examined. Development also continues on microbial community biomarkers of contaminant exposure, based on induction of genetic responses. The ultimate aim is to provide a suite of exposure biomarkers that can be used to evaluate ecosystem health. Investigators are integrating ecotoxicology, molecular microbiology and geochemistry to develop techniques reflecting the relationship between environmental contaminants and their bioavailability to higher organisms. This will be accomplished through a series of laboratory and field studies designed to identify candidate biomarkers and relate their frequency of expression in field samples with contaminant speciation (Project 9) and biological uptake measurements.

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