Project Type

URC Presentation


Biological Sciences

College or School


Class Year

Junior, Senior


Environmental Sciences, Biomedical Science

Faculty Research Advisor

James Haney


After years of unsuccessful breeding among the Common Loons of Province Lake, NH, locals were delighted when a single loon chick hatched in July 2019 and affectionately dubbed it Luna. The body of the chick was found five weeks later, having died of an unknown cause. As cyanobacterial blooms were observed on the lake that summer, we investigated whether cyanotoxins could be a possible underlying cause for the death of the chick. A necropsy was performed to learn whether and at what level the neurotoxin BMAA was detectable in the deceased loon. Samples of lake water, phytoplankton, zooplankton, and fish were collected from Province Lake and tested for BMAA using the ELISA technique. BMAA was found to be present at all trophic levels in Province Lake with biomagnification from phytoplankton to zooplankton and biodilution higher up in the food chain leading to the loon. While the loon’s immediate cause of death was determined to be attack-related trauma, sublethal levels of BMAA may have impacted the bird’s survivability and contributed indirectly to its death. The detection of BMAA in loon lung tissue raises the question of whether inhaled aerosolized cyanobacteria could be another significant route of exposure to cyanotoxins in both animals and humans.