Reading the signs: researcher uses fish bones as a record of pollution

Living organisms are continuously exposed to substances through the consumption of food and contact with their environments; exposure to metals can result from both natural sources and pollution.

UWindsor professor Joel Gagnon will explain how he uses tiny bones in fish to reveal a historic record of heavy-metal pollution in a free public presentation entitled “Fish Bones, Lasers, and Heavy Metals: Tales of Environmental Exposure,” Wednesday, November 19, at Canada South Science City.

The bones grow layer by layer as the fish ages, with each layer recording a sample of the environment at that time. Dr. Gagnon uses a laser to vaporize thin layers of the bone that can then be analyzed, allowing him to read a history of the aqueous environment in the fish’s habitat.

Gagnon is an associate professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and head of the metals laboratory at the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research, where he uses femtosecond laser ablation for elemental and isotopic microanalysis of geologic and environmental materials.

His lecture starts at 7:30 p.m. at Canada South Science City, 930 Marion Avenue. The event is part of the Science Café series, which offers discussion of important science research for the general public.