Slimy Sculpin (Cottus cognatus) as a Bioindicator of Mining Impacts on Water Quality

EPA Grant Number: F13F11097
Title: Slimy Sculpin (Cottus cognatus) as a Bioindicator of Mining Impacts on Water Quality
Investigators: O’Neal, Sarah Louise
Institution: University of Washington
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: September 24, 2014 through September 24, 2016
Project Amount: $84,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2013) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Aquatic Ecology


The overarching objective of this project is to evaluate the utility of sculpins as bioindicators for the purpose of measuring the effects of mining on aquatic ecosystems.


The project will focus on slimy sculpin in headwater streams potentially affected by proposed copper-sulfide mining, and it will evaluate (1) the site fidelity and home range of sculpins to determine if their condition is reflective of the environment in which they are found; (2) inter-annual population variability of sculpins within and outside the area of potential mine impact; and (3) acute, chronic and indirect effects of copper on sculpins in both field and laboratory environments.

Expected Results:

The hypotheses are that sculpin movement is limited to short stream reaches, that sculpin comprise the highest densities of fish taxa in headwater streams potentially affected by mining activities and that sculpin are as sensitive—if not more so—than other fish species, making them an appropriate bioindicator taxa to detect acute, chronic and sub-lethal effects of mining.

Potential to Further Environmental/Human Health Protection

As bioindicators, detecting effects on sculpin from mining may prove to be a cost-effective tool to alert regulators that mine activities may be causing effects that could ultimately affect salmon and other fish if they are not changed.

Supplemental Keywords:

bioindicator, mining, sculpin

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2015
  • Final