Melting permafrost may lead to contaminated Northern Aquatic Rivers: TrentU PhD Candidate Explains his Research

Vaughn Mangal, from Georgetown, Guyana is currently conducting research for his PhD in the Environmental and Life Sciences program at Trent University.

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Due to climate change, the acceleration of thawing soils has lead to an increase in natural organic molecules and metals leaching into Northern aquatic rivers and wetlands.

This increase in abnormal metals being released in these areas could lead to the absorption of metals in plants and animals, that affect their health and normal functions.

Vaughn’s research focuses on understanding the impact of how these metals transport in aquatic systems!

He is studying the molecular structure of these organic molecules and how they can interact with metals.

He hopes to predict how metals enter microbial food webs – and can affect them, long-term. These metals can even make their way up the food-chain to enter humans so it is important to understand their impact!

Vaughn’s field work was conducted in Churchill, Manitoba, during the spring between 2014-2017 to capture the spring melt period along the Churchill River and surrounding wetlands.

Water samples were collected over a 10-day period and brought back to Trent University’s Water Quality Center, where a series of mass spectrometry (an analytical instrument that is used to identify the amount and type of chemicals present in a sample) techniques were used to monitor metals such as cadmium and vanadium. 

The samples showed what types of organic molecules entered the aquatic system and how they changed in composition!

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This information allows us to understand how these contaminants enter food webs, specifically during spring months in Northern aquatic systems. 

Vaughn’s research sheds light into a growing concern: the increase in aquatic contamination in the North due to the rapid increase in temperaturesA growing concern is the increase in carbon as a result from melting permafrost may shuttle even more contaminants into our food chain!

Understanding the fundamental chemistry is so important to understanding the impacts of climate change and necessary to predict the quality of Canada’s North for years to come.

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Vaughn says: “Trent has provided me with a variety of unique opportunities such as presenting at conferences around the world, expertise with state of the art analytical techniques, and the overwhelming support from renowned faculty that all foster my graduate student experience.”

Thanks for sharing your research with us, Vaughn! Keep up the great work!

trentu

 

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