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Sara Pedro

Advisor: Melissa McKinney

 

Sara’s research interests include anthropogenic contamination in Polar Regions and bioaccumulation within food-webs. Her PhD project at UConn focuses on climate change impacts on ecological processes in Polar Regions and how they are related to the transport of contaminants and nutrients and their distribution through the food-web. Sara, under the guidance of her advisor Melissa McKinney, are considering bottom-up and top-down impacts to arctic food webs.

With recent climate change and resulting temperature increases, certain invasive fish species are becoming more abundant in Arctic regions. Shifts in identity of main prey species in this system may alter the dynamics of environmental contaminants and essential fatty acids within Arctic food webs, possibly affecting contaminant exposures and body condition of sensitive marine mammal populations.

 

To understand the impact of these changes, Sara will be comparing resident and invasive sub-Arctic forage fish and invertebrate species, as well as ringed seals (Pusa hispida). She will evaluate the contaminant concentrations and fatty acid content from samples from low, mid, and high Canadian Arctic regions that have experienced different levels of species invasion.

 

The top predators of the Arctic food-web are also facing changes. North Atlantic killer whales (Orcinus orca) are becoming more abundant in the Canadian Arctic and as a result are feeding more frequently on marine mammals. This marks a shift away from a previously fish-based diet and the increased consumption of marine mammals may expose the whales to biomagnified contaminants such as persistent organic pollutants. Because killer whales are top predators, they are more vulnerable to these kind of contaminants and are consequently among the most contaminated animals on earth.  Having a better understanding of contaminant concentrations in killer whales and in other top Arctic predators such as ringed seal and beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas) have important implications for local communities, which rely on these mammals as traditional food sources.

 

 

 

 

Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation Center
Department of Natural Resources and the Environment
University of Connecticut
1376 Storrs Road, Unit 4087