Selenium in the Gros Ventre Watershed
Selenium is a semi-metalic element that is essential for both human and animal health. However, a narrow range exists between the essential amount and toxic levels. Elemental selenium is commonly found in soils containing Cretaceous and Tertiary marine rock. The Gros Ventre River Watershed is located in an area containing six geologic formations associated with selenium: Cody, Frontier, Frontier, Morrison, Phosporia, and Steele. Water filtering through seleniferous geologic formations and soil can oxidize elemental selenium into a soluble form, selenate (SeO42-), which readily bio-accumulates up the food-chain. Local biologists have noted nest failures and poor productivity in bald eagles, trumpeter swans, and ospreys in this watershed.
The objective of the study is to determine how much selenium is bio-accumulating through the food chain in the Gros Ventre Watershed by sampling species from varying trophic levels (i.e., algae, aquatic snails, fish, ravens, ducks, eagles, swans).