• Estimates of primary production sources to Arctic bivalves using amino acid stable carbon isotope fingerprinting

      Rowe, Audrey G.; Wooller, Matthew; Iken, Katrin; O'Brien, Diane (2018-12)
      Benthic invertebrates are a crucial trophic link in Arctic marine food webs. However, estimates of the contribution of primary production sources sustaining these organisms are not well characterized. Potential sources could include sinking particulate organic matter from sea ice algae and phytoplankton, terrestrial organic matter eroded from the coastal environment, macroalgal material, or microbial organic matter. Proportions of these sources could also be significantly altered in the future as a result of environmental change. We measured the stable carbon isotope values of essential amino acids in muscle tissue from two common bivalve genera (Macoma spp. and Astarte spp.) collected in Hanna Shoal in the northeastern Chukchi Sea, considered an Arctic benthic hotspot. We used stable isotope mixing models in R (simmr) to compare the stable carbon isotope amino acid fingerprints of the bivalves to a suite of amino acid source endmembers, including marine phytoplankton, brown and red macroalgae, bacteria, and terrestrial plants, to estimate the proportional contributions of primary production sources to the bivalve species from Hanna Shoal. The models revealed relatively high contributions of essential amino acids from phytoplankton and bacteria averaged across both species in the region as a whole. We also examined whether stable carbon isotope fingerprints could be measured from essential amino acids preserved in bivalve shells, which could then allow proportional contributions of food sources to be estimated from ancient bivalve shells, allowing source estimates to be extended back in time. To investigate this, we measured the stable carbon isotope values of essential amino acids in a suite of paired modern bivalve shells and muscle from Macoma calcarea from the Chukchi Sea. These analyses revealed a correspondence between the fingerprints and mixing model estimates of the dominant primary production source of essential amino acids derived from analyses of these two tissue types. Our findings indicate that stable carbon isotope amino acid fingerprinting of marine bivalves can be used to examine dominant organic matter sources in the Arctic marine benthos in recent years as well as in deeper time.
    • Insight into the diet history of ice seals using isotopic signatures of muscle tissue and claws

      Carroll, Sara Shanae; Norcross, Brenda; Horstmann-Dehn, Larissa; Quakenbush, Lori; Wooller, Matthew (2012-05)
      Climate change and sea ice reduction in the Arctic may impact foraging of ice-associated predators. The goal of my thesis work was to examine interannual differences in the diet of ringed, bearded, spotted, and ribbon seals as described by stable nitrogen and carbon isotope ratios of muscle tissue and claws to assess foraging plasticity. Isotopic mixing models from muscle data were used to describe the proportional contribution of prey groups during 2003, 2008-2010. Results showed a higher proportional contribution of smelt (Osmeridae) and benthic prey to ringed and bearded seal diets in 2003 compared to 2008-2010. Seasonal keratin layers deposited in claws can document trophic history up to about 10 years. During 2007 (record ice minimum), proportionally more ringed seals fed at a lower trophic level, while spotted seal adults and young-of-the-year fed at a lower trophic level during 2006. Bearded seals may have been foraging more pelagically from 2008 to 2010. Ice seals may be taking advantage of more abundant pelagic crustaceans as the Arctic ecosystem changes to a pelagic-dominated food web. Interannual variations and high variability among species and individual diets illustrate the opportunistic nature and flexibility of ice seals to changes in prey composition.
    • Sensitivity to hydrocarbons and cytochrome P4501A enzyme activity in Arctic marine birds and waterfowl

      Riddle-Berntsen, Ann E.; Hollmén, Tuula; Buck, C. Loren; Aguilar-Islas, Ana (2017-12)
      The Arctic is host to a taxonomically diverse group of birds, including species of conservation and subsistence importance that spend many months of their annual cycle in the region. With prospects for oil and gas resource development and increases in vessel traffic in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, arctic birds could be valuable bioindicators to monitor contaminants and specifically hydrocarbons from crude oil. Using liver cytochrome P4501A (CYP1A) activity, I measured levels of hydrocarbon exposure in three bird species of subsistence importance: king eiders (Somateria spectabilis), common eiders (Somateria mollissima), and greater white-fronted geese (Anser albifrons). Over the course of three years, I collected liver samples during spring and fall hunts near Utqiaġvik (formally Barrow) and validated methods for both direct-take and opportunistic liver sampling. Enzyme activity results show significant differences in CYP1A activity levels among species, seasons, and years. Except birds collected during fall 2014, when significantly high enzyme activity was observed in all sampled species, all other collections resulted in median activity levels similar to those reported in other sea duck species in Alaska from un-oiled or non-industrialized habitats. I also used species-specific hepatocyte culture in a broader selection of arctic marine birds and waterfowl candidate bioindicators to assess and compare species CYP1A activity responses as a measure of sensitivity to hydrocarbons. Cytochrome P4501A results from hepatocyte cultures dosed with positive control reference reagents and Alaska North Slope crude oil showed differences in species responses. Based on sensitivity results, I recommend the common eider and common murre (Uria aalge) as bioindicators for use in CYP1A monitoring due to their consistent and measureable responses in our experiments. However, additional species are promising candidates (e.g., tufted puffin; Fratercula cirrhata) but further testing is needed. This is the first study of reference hydrocarbon exposure and comparative laboratory assessment of CYP1A inducing compounds for arctic marine birds and waterfowl and these results form the basis for hydrocarbon monitoring programs and risk assessments.