Investigating the effect of oil spills
on the environment and public health.
revert menu
Funding Source: Year 3-5 Investigator Grants (RFP-II)

Project Overview

The Combined Effect of Environmental and Anthropogenic Stressors on Fish Health

Principal Investigator
University of Connecticut
Department of Pathobiology and Veterinary Science
Member Institutions
Purdue University, University of Connecticut, University of Southern Mississippi



In 2013 Dr. Thijs Bosker at the University of Connecticut was awarded an RFP-II grant at $1,385,339 to lead the RFP-II project entitled “The Combined Effect of Environmental and Anthropogenic Stressors on Fish Health.” This project consisted of 4 institutions and 21 research team members. During the first year of the project, Co-Principal Investigator Dr. Sylvain DeGuise, also at the University of Connecticut, was named the lead Principal Investigator on the project in Dr. Bosker’s stead.  Through this project, Dr. DeGuise and his team aimed to: 1) determine under which environmental conditions (salinity, oxygen levels and temperature) the effects of petrogenic contaminants are greatest; 2) determine the life-stage most sensitive to exposure; 3) determine the impacts of petrogenic contaminants on reproduction under different environmental scenarios; and 4) model observed biological effects and body burdens of petrogenic contaminants in relation to different environmental conditions for prediction of population consequences.


Research Highlights

Dr. DeGuise’s research resulted in 1 peer-reviewed publication, 7 scientific presentations  and 3 datasets submitted to the GoMRI Information and Data Cooperative (GRIIDC), which have now been made available to the public. Dr. DeGuise engaged 11 students over his award period. Significant outcomes of his research are highlighted below:


Theme 3: Environmental Effects

  • The team at Purdue University found LC50 values for Gulf killifish embryos (
  • The team at the University of Southern Mississippi has conducted a series of exposures to identify critical exposure windows. Embryo/larval Fundulus (24 hours post-fertilization - hpf) were exposed to increasing concentrations of HEWAF. Exposures were performed for 24-48 hpf, 24-120 hpf, and 24-192 hpf, after which the embryos were laced into clean water and followed until hatch. Heartbeat, development, time to hatch, length at hatch, and gene expression are endpoints assessed. Results indicate that transient exposure may alter heartbeat and development of Fundulus. Further assessment and experiments are ongoing. These preliminary results suggest that early life stages represent an important window to consider in assessing the developmental toxicity of oil exposure.

  • The team at the University of Connecticut has conducted a series of exposure in adult sheepshead minnows and determined the range of concentrations that exert some reproductive toxicity at optimal environmental conditions. Experiments at sub-optimal environmental concentrations are ongoing.

PDF Proposal Abstract

This research was made possible by a grant from BP/The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative.