Eagles being studied to determine water contaminationEaglets are being used to determine contamination levels in Northwestern Wisconsin and Minnesota waterways. The study is searching for traces of DDT, PCB’s and methyl mercury.
By: Rich Kremer, Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
Eaglets are being used to determine contamination levels in Northwestern Wisconsin and Minnesota waterways. The study is searching for traces of DDT, PCB’s and methyl mercury.
Researchers from the National Parks Service are undertaking a daunting task, studying young eagles still in the nest. In theory it’s simple, collect blood and feather samples and test them for contamination. But eagles’ nests are typically found in pine trees, 50-100 feet off the ground, and the eaglet’s parents are never far away.
Bill Route, coordinator of the Great Lakes Inventory Monitoring Network for the Park Service, says biologists are studying eaglets along the Mississippi River, the St. Croix and Namekagon Rivers, and the Apostle Islands to see how manmade chemicals are affecting wildlife.
Route says the eaglets tell a lot about what chemicals are in the food chain. He says different areas net different chemicals. On the Apostle Islands, Route says nestlings are still turning up chemicals that have been banned for decades. He says they are still finding evidence that DDT – banned in 1972 – is still breaking down.
He says that’s because of the sheer size and low temps of Lake Superior. On the bright side, those chemicals are declining by about 3-percent a year. On the St. Croix River system, Route says they’re finding concentrations of methyl mercury, an especially toxic by-product of burnt fossil fuels.