Pollution contaminants such as mercury and Persistent Organic Pollutants have increased since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and are now becoming more prevalent in isolated regions of the planet.
These pollutants are stored in fat cells therefore have bioaccumulating properties which are readily quantified in high-trophic predators, such as penguins. Additionally, penguins serve as unique biomonitors for this contaminant exposure because they are relatively sedentary compared to flying birds. They also have a very limited migratory range during the non-breeding season. These characteristics make penguins excellent biomonitors for environmental contaminants throughout the region.
Our current study is comparing contaminant loads in Gentoo Penguins from the Falkland Islands, South Georgia Island and the Antarctic Peninsula to analyze the spread of these contaminants in these remote regions.
Determination of antibiotic exposure in penguins and quantification of antibiotic resistance from pharmaceutical exposure
This study focuses on colonization of penguins by antibiotic-resistant bacteria to determine if antibiotics are reaching these isolated regions of the planet and stimulating mutations of antibiotic resistance in bacteria. Pharmaceutical antibiotics aggregate in wastewater systems throughout the world following elimination in urine and these antibiotics eventually discharge into oceans.
Antibiotic-resistant strains of colonizing bacteria have been found on various marine fauna close to populated areas. We are investigating whether antibiotic levels in penguins are reaching high enough levels in the sub-Antarctic and Antarctic regions to initiate resistance in these isolated areas.