Western Kentucky University

Poster Title

The Bio-accumulation of Mercury in Bat Hair in Kentucky/Tennessee National Parks

Institution

Western Kentucky University

Abstract

Mercury (Hg) is a persistent neurotoxin that is easily transported through the karst aquifer systems; for example the South Central Kentucky Karst (SCKK) ecosystem, which includes the Mammoth Cave National Park (MCNP) area. The largest source of mercury to MCNP is atmospheric deposition, largely produced by coal-fired power plants. Hg from the atmosphere deposits in rivers, sediments, and organisms through rain, wind and bio-accumulation. Our project has expanded to three other national parks in the Kentucky and Tennessee areas including Abraham Lincoln, Cumberland Gap, and Big South Fork National Parks. Over 350 individual bat hair samples have been analyzed for Hg from these four areas with a wide diversity in species. Hg levels in hair of different bat species, including federally listed endangered species have been determined and found to range between 1-13 ppm. In addition to bat hair several guano samples have been analyzed for mercury and found to be within 0.0030 ppm to 0.9470 ppm. Through the past year our research has expanded to analysis on insects to gain further insight regarding how Hg bio-accumulates in bats through the food chain. Mercury analysis has also been completed on several sediment and fish tissue samples. Quality analysis and quality control tests were done using human hair reference samples.

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The Bio-accumulation of Mercury in Bat Hair in Kentucky/Tennessee National Parks

Mercury (Hg) is a persistent neurotoxin that is easily transported through the karst aquifer systems; for example the South Central Kentucky Karst (SCKK) ecosystem, which includes the Mammoth Cave National Park (MCNP) area. The largest source of mercury to MCNP is atmospheric deposition, largely produced by coal-fired power plants. Hg from the atmosphere deposits in rivers, sediments, and organisms through rain, wind and bio-accumulation. Our project has expanded to three other national parks in the Kentucky and Tennessee areas including Abraham Lincoln, Cumberland Gap, and Big South Fork National Parks. Over 350 individual bat hair samples have been analyzed for Hg from these four areas with a wide diversity in species. Hg levels in hair of different bat species, including federally listed endangered species have been determined and found to range between 1-13 ppm. In addition to bat hair several guano samples have been analyzed for mercury and found to be within 0.0030 ppm to 0.9470 ppm. Through the past year our research has expanded to analysis on insects to gain further insight regarding how Hg bio-accumulates in bats through the food chain. Mercury analysis has also been completed on several sediment and fish tissue samples. Quality analysis and quality control tests were done using human hair reference samples.