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NCER Grantee Research Project Results

Breeding Ecology of Two Sympatric Raptors in a Contaminated Sub-arctic Environment and Their Use as Environmental Bioindicators

EPA Grant Number: F5F21920
Title: Breeding Ecology of Two Sympatric Raptors in a Contaminated Sub-arctic Environment and Their Use as Environmental Bioindicators
Investigators: Booms, Travis L.
Institution: University of Alaska Fairbanks
EPA Project Officer: Just, Theodore J.
Project Period: September 1, 2005 through August 30, 2008
Project Amount: $102,724
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2005)
Research Category: Academic Fellowships



Birds are valuable bioindicators of system health and are useful in assessing contaminated environments. I plan to collect blood, feather, and addled egg samples from gyrfalcons (Falco rusticolus) and rough-legged hawks (Buteo lagopus) nesting various distances from a known, but little studied source of contamination in Western Alaska, the Cape Romanzof Long Range Radar Site. This will help the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge (YDNWR) determine if contaminants represent a threat to these nesting populations. Also, using these species as indicators of contaminant levels and contaminant distribution in the environment surrounding the military instillation will illuminate potential contaminant risks indigenous subsistence hunters and fishers that use this area extensively face. Our primary hypotheses are:

  1. There is no correlation between contaminant levels in raptor nests and distance from the radar site.
  2. There is no significant difference in contaminant levels among three geographically distinct study sites on the YDNWR.
  3. There is no significant difference in contaminant levels between rough-legged hawks and gyrfalcons nesting in the YDNWR.
  4. Contaminants in YDNWR raptors are not above levels documented to reduce productivity.

Given previous contaminants testing of the soil, water, vegetation, and a few animals very close to the site have yielded high levels of 39 contaminants, I expect birds nesting closest to the site will also have elevated contaminant levels. These levels should decline with distance from the site. I expect there will be a significant difference in contaminant levels among study sites and between species. Last, I expect contaminant levels are not above those that have been documented to reduce productivity.

Supplemental Keywords:

Cape Romanzof Long Range Radar Site, bioindicators, contaminants, Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, raptors, gyrfalcon, rough-legged hawk,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, wildlife, Environmental Monitoring, Ecology and Ecosystems, contaminants, stressors, raptors, Wildlife Risk Assessment, hawks, birds, bioindicators, avian research

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The perspectives, information and conclusions conveyed in research project abstracts, progress reports, final reports, journal abstracts and journal publications convey the viewpoints of the principal investigator and may not represent the views and policies of ORD and EPA. Conclusions drawn by the principal investigators have not been reviewed by the Agency.

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