Caitlyn Donadt, former M.Sc. Student
B.Sc. Honors in Animal Biology (University of Alberta)
Biologist, Alberta Health
Assessing patterns in fish mercury levels and bioaccumulation in aquatic ecosystems of the Red Deer River, Alberta (Co-supervisor: C. Cooke; link to thesis).
Mercury contamination is widespread in freshwater ecosystems across the world. Mercury is a heavy metal capable of biomagnification in food webs. Elevated concentrations in the tissues of fish may negatively impact their health, as well as of wildlife and people who consume them. In the Red Deer River, recent studies have shown surface water mercury levels which surpass Alberta guidelines for chronic and acute levels. My project aims to understand spatial patterns in fish species from this river system and ascertain if they reflect levels in the abiotic components. Additionally, a food web study will be conducted to assess bioaccumulation of this heavy metal and determine which food sources contribute to elevated mercury levels in organisms occupying top trophic levels. The results from my research will be important for informing fish consumption advisories in the Red Deer River and mercury contamination management decisions.