Graduate Students

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Marler photograph

Hillary Marler

Advisors: Dr. Clayton Nielsen and Dr. Da Chen

Research Interests
  • Bioaccumulation and biomagnification of organic contaminants (legacy and emerging) in marine wildlife
  • Qualitative and quantitative evaluation of marine and freshwater wildlife exposure to organic contaminants
  • Using stable isotope data in conjunction with tissues concentrations to understand trophic transfer of emerging contaminants in marine food webs
  • Sharks and marine mammals as sentinel species for emerging contaminants in marine food webs Physiological effects of exposure to organic contaminants

Wildlife are exposed to a variety of anthropogenic pollutants through air, water and dietary consumption. Many of these persistent organic pollutants (POPs), such as brominated flame retardants (BFRs), can have negative effects at the individual, population and ecosystem level. POPs biomagnify within food chains, so there is particular concern about their effects on top predators. Sharks are an ideal species for toxicological studies because they are apex predators due to their high trophic position and because they have few natural predators. My study will examine a North Atlantic food web and a southeastern coastal food web. My research objectives are to: (1) describe the variance of exposure to BFRs within a single species (shortfin mako shark) in the North Atlantic food web; (2) describe the variance of exposure between similar species in the same/different regions; (3) examine the trophic dynamics of flame retardant exposure in a marine food web involving invertebrates, teleost fishes and sharks; and (4) explore potential associations between flame retardant exposure (as indicated by chemical analysis) with various biomarkers in sharks.