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ENVS Research

Alison Draper - Toxicology


Average survival rates for fathead minnows for various chemicals.

Dr. Draper’s research interests are in environmental toxicology. Many pharmaceuticals are excreted or disposed of and escape through wastewater treatment systems in their active form. These compounds, then, may have toxicity to aquatic organisms and ecosystems. However, there is a lack of aquatic toxicity data for these agents, so LC50 values are determined using representative organisms including Daphnia magna, fathead minnows and others. Future work will involve analyzing toxicity of complex mixtures and examining the effect of water quality on toxicity.

Christoph Geiss - Geophysics

 

Magnetic susceptibility variations along a hill side in western Iowa. Darker browns indicate more magnetic soils, which are concentrated at the bottom of the hill due to sediment accumulation.

Dr. Geiss has analyzed the magnetic properties of soils and sediments to reconstruct past environmental change. His students are currently studying the rate of soil development for soils from western Iowa, the extent of wetlands in the Canadian Arctic and past environmental changes as recorded in several lake sediment records from New England.

Jon Gourley - Geochemistry


Lead concentrations in Hartford river sediment.

Dr. Gourley’s recent research investigates the contamination of sediments in the Park River watershed, a small urban river system that flows through the city of Hartford.  Metal finishing and aircraft industries along the river have historically dumped toxic trace metals such as lead, copper and nickel into the river.  According to data compiled in the National Sediment Quality Survey of 1997 toxic trace metals in U.S. river sediments pose the highest threat to human or aquatic life when compared to the threat posed by PCBs and PAHs.  A watershed wide survey of toxic trace metals in the Park River (see map) highlights locations where concentrations of lead exceed values known to impair aquatic organisms.  Currently, Dr. Gourley and his research students are developing detailed sampling methods to map metal contaminate plumes within river deposits using GIS mapping tools.  This project is also part of the ENVS 275 methods course.

David Henderson - Chemistry

Mercury concentrations in various cuts of swordfish.

Dr. Henderson has two active areas of interest, ultra-trace analysis of organic pollution in surface water and toxic metal speciation. The former project uses mass spectrometry coupled with solid phase extraction to analyze parts per trillion levels of anti-microbial and pharmaceutical chemicals. The presence of these chemicals, while interesting by itself, is also used to track the inputs of sewage water into the streams and wells. I have published work on speciation of toxic aluminum in streams and am also interested in speciation of mercury in water and fish.

Joan Morrison - Conservation Biology


Spatial distribution of nest sites and home ranges for red-tailed hawks in Hartford derived from radio telemetry.

Dr. Morrison's current research on Red-tailed Hawks focuses on how a top predator survives in Hartford's highly urbanized environment. She and her students are studying the hawks year round, and research questions address (1) the spatial distribution of hawks throughout Hartford in relation to green space and varying amounts of urban development, (2) the hawks' habitat use and home range size, and (3) the hawks’ foraging behaviors and reproductive success in these urban environments.  Along with gaining field experience, students are exposed to all aspects of local conservation issues. This project provides opportunities for their participation in environmental education throughout the Hartford community.