Application and Calibration of Confocal Microscopy with Fluorescent Tags to Monitor the Growth and Development of Freshwater Mussels and Fish Exposed to Metals Pesticides and Polyacrylamide (PAM) Flocculants in Highway Runoff

Focus Area

Water Quality/Wetlands


Natural Resources






1-2 years

Research Idea Scope

We propose to test existing live cell and whole organisms using physiological techniques, in particular fluorescent tags combined with confocal microscopy to image changes in physiology, growth and development caused by  known road runoff contaminants, including heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides and PAHs.  We propose to use larval zebra fish, trans-genetically modified so that their nervous system Fluoresces when excited with an appropriate light frequency, expose them to serial dilutions of ionic and complexed Copper II, Zinc, Cadmium at levels known to exist in road runoff, document EC50 through direct time lapse imaging of differences in their growth and development,and show the mitigating effects of dissolved organic carbon. We also propose to develop a field method, based on UV absorbency to characterize natural Dissolved Organic Matter (DOM) as to its efficiency in absorbing the toxic heavy metal species in natural surface waters.

Urgency and Payoff

The proposed research will provide direct evidence of the effects of Highway runoff effects, if any on growth and development of fish and invertebrate species.  Actual Assay times will be reduced to days or perhaps hours.  Application and calibration of the technique for use with other species, taxa, and physiological systems and chemical pollutants could follow depending on needs and funding available.

Suggested By

William Van Peeters, FHWA Resource Center San Francisco, CA

[email protected]