Archived News

Aquatic Toxicology Laboratory

February 14, 2003

Laboratory personnel from the Aquatic Toxicology Laboratory of the School of Veterinary Medicine collect water samples from watersheds throughout California. Using approved laboratory tests, scientists then identify compounds which may be possible causes of toxicity to aquatic wildlife.

In cooperation with the State of California, the laboratory provides ongoing monitoring services for regulatory agencies, regional groups, and nonprofit organizations. Laboratory projects related to water quality and ecotoxicology also offer opportunities for interdisciplinary teaching and research at the school.

The Aquatic Toxicology program monitors California waterways as far north as the Klamath River and as far south as the Salton Sea. Many activities concern the Sacramento River Delta, the source of 60% of California's water supply. Samples have been taken from Sierra snow melt, agricultural drainage canals, flooded inland areas, water treatment facilities, and other sites along rivers and streams.

Over time, results have revealed widespread distribution of agricultural pesticides and herbicides being washed into the largest rivers of California. Ongoing projects also show that selenium, copper, and mercury, which can travel through the food chain in animal tissues, remain in Northern California rivers and streams from old mining operations. Storm drains and other collection sites in cities show seasonal changes in urban water pollution stemming from a range of substances from residential lawn care products to residues of flea shampoos. Professors also conduct tests on the toxicity of gasoline additives in water and their possible effects on fish embryo development.

Toxicologists use three indicator organisms: the water flea, the fathead minnow, and the green alga. The laboratory has begun monitoring Rainbow trout and other local organisms to increase our understanding of pollution's effects on free-ranging wildlife. Normal and abnormal growth, reproduction, and tumor formation in animals over time are among the issues being studied in conjunction with national research institutes.

As modern approaches to pollution control and habitat improvement emerge, the program helps evaluate outcomes related to new water treatment procedures, non-chemical pest management strategies, and other innovations designed to protect our water resources.

For more information, contact:

Victor de Vlaming, Director
Aquatic Toxicology Laboratory
UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine
One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616