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Texas State to study environmental impact of coastal water toxicity

Date of Release: 08/24/2005

SAN MARCOS—Texas State University-San Marcos has landed a million-dollar grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to study the combined effects of toxic chemicals and hypoxia on the nation’s coastal waters.

The grant, totaling a $1,201,200, will be administered through the university's Aquatic Research Consortium, a collaborative program with the University of Southern Mississippi. Part of the Consortium's mandate is to monitor the impact exposure to negative environmental conditions has on aquatic ecosystems, and does so by tracking genetic changes in animals and plants in affected areas.

This is the third in a three-part study on model organism fish, and will investigate how a specific carcinogenic environmental contaminant and hypoxia--or oxygen deprivation--affect embryonic and early larval development stages of fish. The first two studies focused on the establishment of tools for investigation of stress responses in the fish.

“The nation’s estuaries are a key ecosystem component and enhanced knowledge is critical to resource management in our coasts,” said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “NOAA’s partnership with Texas State University will help create the tools needed to improve understanding of how environmental pollution affects coastal resources.”

Over-enrichment of a water body with nutrients and the subsequent hypoxia are major factors responsible for declines in habitat quality and harvestable resources in estuarine ecosystems. Over-enrichment is often accompanied and made more severe by the addition of toxic chemicals from urban runoff, sewage treatment plants, and pesticides and herbicides from agricultural runoff. These declines in habitat quality threaten the functioning of estuarine ecosystems with potential serious consequences for recreationally and commercially important fisheries. Studies on how hypoxia and environmental contaminants affect the development of fish are needed, as little, if anything is known about the combined effects of these pollutants on fish, the researchers say.