News

James Powell (PhD candidate, Duffield Lab) has been awarded an EPA STAR fellowship.
Author: James Powell
Posted: June 3, 2016

Biology Department  PhD candidate James Powell (Duffield Lab) has been awarded an EPA STAR fellowship to continue and expand his doctoral research on bone density in bottlenose dolphins. Since starting his program at PSU, James has established a normative distribution of bone density values for bottlenose dolphins utilizing a comprehensive archive of skeletal specimens and has developed a custom ultrasound device to clinically assess live, wild bottlenose dolphins in capture-release health assessments. The 3 year fellowship awarded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will support investigation of an association between bone density and environmental contaminant exposure levels. These contaminants adversely affect health both through direct damage and through effects on growth and development. Exposure to contaminants is known to reduce bone density, alter bone mineral composition, and result in abnormal bone growth. Bottlenose dolphins are an ideal model to further investigate these issues as they are long-lived mammals known to be affected by exposure to contaminants that also affect humans. Bone density can potentially provide a record of an animal’s chronic environmental contaminant exposure and provide a mechanism to model similar effects that would be expected in humans under similar exposure conditions.