The Uptake of Petroleum Hydrocarbons into Fiddler Crabs, Uca Pugnax, from Contaminated Intertidal Marsh Sediments

EPA Grant Number: F5B20302
Title: The Uptake of Petroleum Hydrocarbons into Fiddler Crabs, Uca Pugnax, from Contaminated Intertidal Marsh Sediments
Investigators: Peacock, Emily
Institution: Boston University
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: September 6, 2005 through September 6, 2008
Project Amount: $111,172
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2005) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships


The objective of this project is to investigate the uptake and accumulation of petroleum hydrocarbons in salt marsh Fiddler Crabs, Uca Pugnax. The difference between the distribution of petroleum hydrocarbons in the crab tissues and in the sediments that the crabs eat will be examined. The study will provide data on a molecular level that was previously unattainable using analysis by traditional gas chromatography and other analytical techniques. This will lead to better prediction of how future oil spills will affect the health of shellfish beds, which is of particular interest since it directly affects the shellfish industry. Accurate predictions of how ecosystems will react to oil contamination will help all involved parties take the most effective steps towards recovery.


The study will be carried out on fiddler crabs collected from marsh sediments surrounding Wild Harbor (West Falmouth, Massachusetts), which was impacted by the Florida oil spill of 1969, and continues to be contaminated 35 years later. The Fiddler Crabs are good candidates for this study because they burrow into sediments and feed on detritus, mud, and algae. They are sensitive to pollutants and play an important role in balance of the salt marsh ecosystem. Fiddler Crabs and sediments will be extracted for petroleum hydrocarbons. Extracts will be analyzed using two-dimensional gas chromatography (GC × GC ) in order to compare the entire distribution of petroleum hydrocarbons in crab tissues and marsh sediments on a molecular level.

Hydrophobic organic compounds with higher octanol-water partition coefficients are more likely to accumulate in fatty tissues. Two-dimensional gas chromatography will provide insight on a molecular level that was previously unavailable.

Supplemental Keywords:

Oil spills, fiddler crabs, Uca Pugnax, salt marsh, petroleum hydrocarbons, Comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography (GC × GC), shellfish, bioaccumulation, Wild Harbor, West Falmouth,, Scientific Discipline, Waste, Water, Contaminated Sediments, Environmental Chemistry, Ecology and Ecosystems, aquatic ecosystem, food chain, contaminated marine sediment, shellfish beds, contaminated sediment, fiddler crabs, marine sediments, oil spills, aquatic sediment, bioaccumulation

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2006
  • 2007
  • Final