Name: Thomas George Scullion
Thirty years after the Chernobyl nuclear power plant (NPP) accident, controversy remains regarding the effects of radiation on wildlife and the environment in and around the exclusion zone. With the recent disaster at Fukushima Daichii NPP, a crucial opportunity is available to study the causal links between exposure to radionuclide contamination, response of individuals in natural habitats and the outcome as measured by performance or fitness.
The neuro-endocrine stress axis represents a primarily beneficial adaptive mechanism which allows individuals to respond and cope with challenges (stress) in the environment; when chronically activated through long-term environmental perturbation (such as that seen from radionuclide contamination), this response can have maladaptive consequences resulting in reduced performance or fitness. My research will involve measurement of the major avian stress hormone, corticosterone, using a non-invasive approach to hormone extraction from feathers. Initial work will test and validate the extraction techniques of corticosterone from rook (Corvus frugilegus) feather samples before moving onto a study of captive raptor and captive quail endocrinology in late 2016. Field samples of small passerines such as great tits and blue tits around the Chernobyl and Fukushima exclusion zones will be obtained in spring 2017, with the overall aim of translating radionuclide exposure to both direct (corticosterone level) and indirect (performance and fitness) effects.
December 2015 – Poster presentation at University of Stirling’s Winter Symposium for Biological and Environmental Science Department: “Investigation of direct and indirect effects of exposure to radioactive contaminants in free-living birds by analysis of feather corticosterone concentrations”
April, 2016, Glasgow – Presentation at the CoGER (Coordinating group on environmental radioactivity) annual conference: “Feather corticosterone: validation of extraction methodology”.
October, 2016, Lancaster – Presentation at CEH (Centre for Ecology and Hydrology) annual student conference: “Feather corticosterone: validation of extraction methodology”.
October, 2016, Manchester – Presentation at NERC Into the Blue event: “My road to Science”.
November, 2016, Stirling – Presentation for BES (Biological and Environmental Science) department, University of Stirling: “Feather corticosterone: a non-invasive biomarker of stress in birds”.
December, 2016, Lancaster – Presentation at the NERC funded TREE (Transfer, Exposure, & Effects) consortium annual meeting: “Investigating feather corticosterone as a biomarker of radiation exposure – field work plans for the CEZ”.
December, 2016, Stirling – Presentation at the University of Stirling’s annual winter symposium: “Investigating feather corticosterone as a biomarker of radiation exposure – field work plans for the CEZ”.
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