Superfund Research Program
Mechanisms and Consequences of Evolved Adaptation to Environmental Pollution
Final Progress Reports
A major component of this project’s research on the impacts of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) exposure on development is field work in the Elizabeth River estuary in southeastern Virginia. Previous work in this system focused on comparisons between a population of Atlantic killifish (Fundulus heteroclitus) inhabiting a Superfund site, Atlantic Wood Industries, and a reference site, King’s Creek. This work demonstrated the profound resistance to the developmental effects of PAH mixtures at this site by progeny of Atlantic Wood adults compared to King’s Creek fish, and also revealed mechanisms underlying this adaptation. Researchers published a major review of this work, as a case study in evolutionary toxicology (Di Giulio and Clark 2015). Their work during the past year and currently is the in-depth examination of other sites in the Elizabeth River that embrace a large gradient of PAH contamination. The Atlantic Wood site has been largely remediated with the construction of a retention wall. Researchers have recently demonstrated that another former wood treatment site, Republic, demonstrates similar responses as Atlantic Wood and is not undergoing remediation (Lindberg et al. 2017). The third major facility on the River, Money Point, is undergoing remediation by the removal of contaminated sediments and the restoration of wetlands. Other sites that are being investigated are moderately contaminated. The population responses approach is being used to help stakeholders assess the success of remediation strategies in the River. Researchers are also evaluating deleterious biological effects or “fitness costs” associated with evolved resistance (Riley et al. 2016; Jayasundara et al.). For the latter, researchers are employing a state of the art approach for assessing bioenergetics developed in zebrafish (Raftery et al. 2017).