Graduate Theses & Dissertations

An Investigation of Rare Earth Element Patterns and an Application of Using Zn and Cd Isotope Ratios in Oysters to Identify Contamination Sources in an Estuary in Southern China
Environmental monitoring and investigation of metal biogeochemical cycling has been carried out in the Pearl River Estuary (PRE), an important and complex system in Southern China. In this study, rare earth element (REE) patterns as well as isotope ratios (i.e., Zn and Cd) were evaluated as tools to identify contamination sources in environmental compartments (i.e., water and suspended particles (SP)) as well as in oysters collected from estuarine sites. Results show elevated concentrations (also called anomalies) of Pr, Nd, Dy and Ho, relative to other REE elements, in water samples, potentially from REE recycling and other industrialized activities in this area. Unlike water samples, no REE anomalies were found in SP or oysters, suggesting that the dominate REE uptake pathway in oysters is from particles. Secondly, site to site variations in Zn isotope ratios were found in water and SP, showing the complexity of the source inputs in this area. Also, in estuarine locations, larger spatially differences in Zn isotope ratios were found in water collected in wet season than those in dry season, which may due to mixing of different source inputs under the water circulations in different seasons. A series of laboratory experiments were conducted during which changes in Zn isotope ratios were measured during uptake under varying salinity and Zn concentrations and during depuration. Neither in vivo Zn transportation among the various tissues within the oysters nor water exposure conditions (i.e., different salinities or Zn concentrations) caused Zn isotopic fractionation in the oysters. Cd and Zn isotope ratios were also determined in oysters obtained from the PRE. Large variations in Cd and Zn isotope ratios suggest that oysters were receiving contaminants from different input sources within the PRE. A consistent difference (approximately 0.67‰) was observed for Zn isotope ratios in oysters collected from the east side of the PRE compared to those from sampling locations on the western side of the PRE, suggesting different Zn sources in these two areas. Ultimately, by combining biogeochemistry with physiology, this study represents a first attempt to assess pollution status, monitor contaminants using oysters and model/identify contamination sources using both REEs and metal isotope ratios. Author Keywords:
Characterization of Synthetic and Natural Se8 and Related SenSm Compounds by Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
Elemental selenium has been extensively quantitatively measured in sediments; however, its physical composition is largely unknown, despite it being the dominant selenium species in some reducing environments. Here, for the first time, it is shown that small, cyclic selenium compounds can account for a quantitatively-relevant fraction of the total elemental selenium present. A new method was developed to analyze for cyclooctaselenium (Se8) in both synthetic samples and selenium-impacted sediments. Despite some analytical limitations, this gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) method is the first GC-MS method developed to identify and quantify Se8 in sediments. Once this method was established, it was then applied to more complex systems: first, the identification of compounds in mixed selenium-sulfur melt solutions, and then the determination of SenSm in selenium-impacted sediments. Despite complications arising from pronounced fragmentation in the ion source, assignment of definitive molecular formulae to chromatographically-resolved peaks was possible for five compounds. Developing a fully quantitative method to obtain elemental ratio information can aid in the assignment of molecular formulae to chromatographically-resolved SeS-containing chromatographic peaks. Coupling the existing gas chromatography method to an inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometer (ICP-MS) system should accomplish this. However, due to a number of complications, this was not completed successfully during the duration of this thesis project. High detection limits for sulfur, retention time discrepancies, and inconsistent injection results between the GC-MS and GC-ICP-MS system led to difficulties in comparing results between both analytical methods. Despite these limitations, GC-ICP-MS remains the most promising method for the identification and quantification of SenSm compounds in synthetic melt mixtures and selenium impacted sediments. Author Keywords: gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, sediments, selenium
Effects of Silver Nanoparticles on Lower Trophic Levels in Aquatic Ecosystems
Due to their effective antibacterial and antifungal properties, silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) have quickly become the most commonly used nanomaterial, with applications in industry, medicine and consumer products. This increased use of AgNPs over the past decade will inevitably result in an elevated release of nanoparticles into the environment, highlighting the importance of assessing the environmental impacts of these nanomaterials on aquatic ecosystems. Although numerous laboratory studies have already reported on the negative effects of AgNPs to freshwater organisms, only a handful of studies have investigated the impacts of environmentally relevant levels of AgNPs on whole communities under natural conditions. This thesis examines the effects of chronic AgNP exposure on natural freshwater littoral microcrustacean, benthic macroinvertebrate and pelagic zooplankton communities. To assess the responses of these communities to AgNPs, I focused on a solely field-based approach, combining a six-week mesocosm study with a three-year whole lake experiment at the IISD – Experimental Lakes Area (Ontario, Canada). Our mesocosm study tested the effects of AgNP concentration (low, medium and high dose), surface coating (citrate- and polyvinylpyrrolidone [PVP]-coated AgNPs), and type of exposure (chronic and pulsed addition) on benthic macroinvertebrates in fine and stony sediments. Relative abundances of metal-tolerant Chironomidae in fine sediments were highest in high dose PVP-AgNP treatments; however, no negative effects of AgNP exposure were seen on biodiversity metrics or overall community structure throughout the study. I observed similar results within the whole lake study that incorporated a long-term addition of low levels of AgNPs to an experimental lake. Mixed-effects models and multivariate methods revealed a decline in all species of the littoral microcrustacean family Chydoridae in the final year of the study within our experimental lake, suggesting that this taxon may be sensitive to AgNP exposure; however, these effects were fairly subtle and were not reflected in the overall composition of littoral communities. No other negative effects of AgNPs were observed on the pelagic zooplankton or benthic macroinvertebrate communities. My results demonstrate that environmentally relevant levels of AgNPs have little impact on natural freshwater microcrustacean and benthic macroinvertebrate communities. Instead, biodiversity metrics and community structure are primarily influenced by seasonal dynamics and nutrient concentrations across both lakes. This thesis highlights the importance of incorporating environmental conditions and the natural variability of communities when examining the potential risks posed by the release of AgNPs into the environment, as simplistic laboratory bioassays may not provide an adequate assessment of the long-term impacts of AgNPs on freshwater systems. Author Keywords: Benthic macroinvertebrates, IISD - Experimental Lakes Area, Littoral microcrustaceans, Silver nanoparticles, Whole lake experiment, Zooplankton

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