Anatomical and Behavioral Outcomes of Toxicant Exposure in the Anacostia River: Building a Zebrafish (Danio rerio) Model of Biological River Health
Aquatic, Development, Ecotoxicology, Exposure, Health, Sublethal
Degree Awarded: M.S. Biology. American University In the heart of our nation’s capital lies one of the ten most contaminated rivers in the United States, the Anacostia (MacAvoy, 2013). Rapid urbanization, industrial activity and runoff have all played a role in transforming the River from a biologically rich ecosystem to an ecologically threatened environment facing extensive pollution – all in a period of only 400 years (Phelps, 2002, Murray, 2013). In recent decades, numerous research groups and government agencies have documented extensive pollution that now plagues the region, but few have examined biological health of organisms residing within the watershed, or the resulting impacts on human health. The current study aimed to examine some of the biological consequences brought about by extensive pollution known to impact the Anacostia. Specifically, this study aimed to develop a bioassay that could be used to determine the impact of combined Anacostia contaminants on fish development and behavior from 0-30dpf in a zebrafish (Danio rerio) model, using water sampled from a historically contaminated region of the River opposite Washington Navy Yard. Both a water quality assessment and exposure assessment were conducted. Results indicated the presence of 13 bioactive organic contaminants, associated with accelerated growth and altered swim behaviors in Anacostia-exposed fish. These findings emphasize sublethal but significant impacts of exposure to organic contaminants experienced by fish residing in urban waterways.