Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI), a nonprofit ecological research group based in Portland, Maine, conducts innovative wildlife science worldwide.
BRI’s Center for Mercury Studies plays a lead scientific role in understanding the exposure and effects of mercury on wildlife in New England, North America, and around the world. The Center for Waterbird Studies is dedicated to assessing current and emerging threats to waterbirds. The programs in our Center for Ecology and Conservation Research aim to understand the workings of wildlife and their habitats while exploring how ecological stressors affect different species and ecosystems.
BRI's researchers are available to talk to journalists and provide expert information on both their work and the broader topics of their expertise.
To set up interviews, contact:
Deborah McKew, Communications Director
Gorham, ME—Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI) announced the completion of its first project in México in alignment with its technical-scientific agreement signed in December 2012 with México’s federal environmental agency, the National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change (INECC). The three-week survey of beach contaminants for the State of Guerrero, an area that encompasses several major resorts including Acapulco, found strong evidence of environmental pollutants including plastics, mercury, and petroleum pollution along the coastline.
“It is unusual for foreign, nongovernmental organizations to conduct scientific research in México, but the memorandum of understanding between the two entities signals our commitment to conservation throughout all of North America. For this study, we are honored particularly to have worked with the State Government of Guerrero as it responded to Tropical Storm Manuel,” says BRI’s executive director David C. Evers, Ph.D. “This initiative helps continue BRI’s interest to understand and minimize the effects of pollutants like mercury to both wildlife and humans in the Western Hemisphere.”
In cooperation with the State of Guerrero and in partnership with Sustenta Soluciones S.A. de C.V. (a green marketing and communications company headquartered in México City), BRI conducted a three-week pilot study in Acapulco, San Jerónimo de Juárez, and Zihuatenejo/Ixtapa from mid-October to early November 2013 to check for environmental signals in fish, birds, and humans for three common pollutants often used as reliable predictors of ecological toxicity: plastics, mercury, and petroleum (PAHs).
BRI’s research found mercury levels in wildlife and edible fish above the guidelines considered safe for humans; one type of PAH cited by the U.S. EPA as a hazardous substance was found in 10 out of 26 blood samples taken from captured wildlife. Further, more than 70 percent of women sampled (all of reproductive age) exceeded the known lowest observed adverse effect level. High enough for human and ecological health concerns, these preliminary findings warrant more research on marine debris and associated contaminants.
The pilot study was a component of a much larger campaign called Limpia Guerrero 2013, a Guerrerense initiative based on public education and communication to clean beaches, raise environmental awareness, and engage stakeholders from both the public and private sectors to find a sustainable solution to coastline pollutants in Guerrero.
“Guerrero needs our help,” says Manolo Ruiz, director general of Sustenta and the head of Limpia Guerrero, “Our project will help Guerrero’s citizens and tourists live more sustainably with the environment in the future.” Sustenta business partner Santiago Lobeira, a member of BRI’s board of directors, added that “Limpia Guerrero has the potential to transform people and the landscape to promote healthy ecosystems that will attract tourists from all over the world.”
BRI’s director of scientific advancement, H. Bruce Rinker, Ph.D., a tropical ecologist, led the research project. “This project represents a timely and multi-disciplinary approach to the study of marine debris. Our field crew found indisputable environmental signals in fish, birds, and humans for three common urban pollutants. Where did they come from? How long have they been there? Our waste streams are diminishing biodiversity around the world. Ultimately, it’s all about a change in attitude. This study is just a first step: a snapshot, really. What we need is a full-length documentary.”
BRI submitted its findings to the State Government of Guerrero in early December 2013. BRI’s scientific analysis of the beach contaminants will help promote environmental education, public awareness, and policy recommendations for this high-density tourist resort state. For a copy of the full report, contact Dr. Rinker at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to BRI’s mercury laboratory, the Center for Environmental Sciences and Engineering at the University of Connecticut will assist with sample analyses. Other collaborators on the overall project include the University of Guerrero, local government, law enforcement and military personnel, local businesses, and more than 500 temporary workers. “One way of creating ways to live sustainably in the natural world is through projects such as this one that brings together multiple stakeholders to focus on a common—and often complex—issue. Ultimately, it’s all about a change in attitude. Our waste streams are harming biodiversity around the world,” says Rinker.
The mission of Biodiversity Research Institute, now in its 15th year, is to assess emerging threats to wildlife and ecosystems through collaborative research, and to use scientific findings to advance environmental awareness and inform decision makers. BRI’s research encompasses a variety of ecological stressors: physical contaminants such as plastics pollution as well as chemical toxins such as mercury and petroleum pollution.
Sustenta Soluciones S.A. de C.V. is an 11-year-old company that has lead four consecutive annual beach clean-up campaigns in México’s Yucatán Peninsula in the State of Quintano Roo (with BRI’s assistance in 2012 and 2013). Its mission is to promote a socially and environmentally responsible consumption culture. For more information, please see www.sustenta.com. Details about Limpia Guerrero may be found at www.limpiaguerrero.com and www.facebook.com/limpia.guerrero.
© 2021 Biodiversity Research Institute is a 501(c)3 non-profit