Oswego center participating in $1.75M lakes study

laboratory visitSUNY Oswego’s Environmental Research Center is participating in a $1.75 million, five-year project to monitor the health of fish in all five of the Great Lakes. Researchers from Clarkson University, SUNY Oswego and SUNY Fredonia are collaborating on the monitoring program, which is funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes National Program.

“We’re proud to have three great universities in New York working on this,” said Louis Blume, quality assurance manager for the Great Lakes National Program Office. He was at SUNY Oswego recently as part of a team auditing the lab equipment where Jim Pagano, director of Oswego’s Environmental Research Center, will analyze fish tissue samples.

The Great Lakes Fish Monitoring Program began in 1980 to address concern over the declining health of the Great Lakes ecosystem. Its data form the basis for the advisories that state health departments issue regarding consumption of fish from the lakes, Pagano said.

Oswego will receive $690,572 from 2006 to 2011 for its share of the work, he said. The program’s principal investigator, responsible for overall management, is Thomas M. Holsen, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Clarkson. He is joined by Philip K. Hopke of Clarkson and Michael Milligan of SUNY Fredonia in addition to Pagano.

“Our project team consists of a group of investigators who have worked together on numerous similar-in-scale projects around the Great Lakes for more than five years,” Holsen said. “The team has expertise in state-of-the-art analytical techniques.”

The project will analyze about 110 samples per year, measuring concentrations of more than 30 contaminants, from DDT to mercury. Each fall, lake trout and coho and chinook salmon are collected from Lakes Michigan, Huron, Ontario and Superior, and walleye and rainbow trout are collected from Lake Erie. The fish go to a Canadian lab for processing, said Beth Murphy, manager of the Great Lakes Fish Monitoring Program, who also visited Oswego’s Environmental Research Center.

The processing results in two sorts of samples: whole predator fish and game fish fillets, which include only what humans would eat.

The whole fish samples are analyzed to assess trends in organic contaminants in the open waters of the lakes and to assess the risks of any contaminants that are found on the health of the fish and of the wildlife that eats the fish.

The game fish fillets are analyzed to assess potential human exposure to organic contaminants as well as to provide trend data for top predator species.

Milligan at Fredonia and Pagano at Oswego are responsible for the gas chromatographic analyses of all dioxin, congener-specific PCB, organochlorine pesticides and polybrominated diphenyl ether project samples, Holsen said.

The project will involve continuous methods of development, refinement and evaluation, including analysis of quality control samples consisting of lake trout that contains known amounts of pollutants.

The Great Lakes National Program Office and Environment Canada have entered into a cooperative monitoring program that will focus on one lake every year cooperatively and rotate throughout the Great Lakes Basin. The New York research group will also participate in this two-nation, cooperative monitoring program.

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PHOTO CAPTION: Fish studies—James Pagano (right), director of SUNY Oswego’s Environmental Research Center, is working with Thomas M. Holsen, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Clarkson University, on a project to monitor the health of Great Lakes fish as part of a $1.75 million grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes National Program.

(Posted: Oct 04, 2006)