As Part of Her Doctoral Research, Kennett Grad Finds Chemical Contaminants in Seabirds

Kimberly McGuane
Image of Anna Robuck via the University of Rhode Island.

Kennett High School graduate Anna Robuck, a doctoral student at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography, has found high levels of the chemical compounds called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (collectively known as PFAS) in seabirds from offshore Massachusetts and coastal Rhode Island and North Carolina.

The main finding of Robuck’s research was the discovery that the most dominant PFAS in the birds is perfluorooctanesulfonic acid or PFOS, which has been out of production since the early 2000s.

This demonstrates how these compounds do not break down in the environment and can be found in animal tissue for many years.

“Wildlife is being inundated with PFAS,” said Robuck. “We don’t really understand what that means for wildlife health overall, since scientists are just catching up with what PFAS means for human health. What we do know is that we’re seeing significant concentrations that laboratory studies tell us are concerning.”

Robuck’s research was recently published in Environmental Science and Technology.

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