Primary Investigator: Leonard Ferrington
Industry Partners: RMB Environmental Laboratories, Inc., Tetra Tech (Center for Ecological Sciences), AmiThompson Consulting, LLC
Award Type: Seed Grant – Postdoctoral Research Scholar
Problem: Fungicides accumulating in Minnesota’s surface waters threaten aquatic insects that rely on fungi in their stomachs to break down their food. Certain insect populations face declining growth rates, population size, and average life span, and one of the biggest contributors to these trends is the abundance of fungicides in waterways and ecosystems. In some cases, local species extinction has been documented.
Solution: Specific aquatic insects located in our state and region have been documented to maintain resilient gut fungi that can survive exposure to high levels of fungicides. Two groups of aquatic insects, “filter-feeders” and “shredders”, will be studied and analyzed specifically to identify environmentally tolerant gut fungi. Once identified, these resilient fungal strains will be isolated and used in a controlled cross-exposure experiment. Each insect will be exposed to the selected “fungicide resilient” fungi from the other insect to determine if cross-exposure will promote the replacement of less tolerant gut fungi.
Impact: Successful cross-exposure of tolerant gut-fungi could offer a tool to improve survivorship among insect populations exposed to high concentrations of fungicides. The revival of insect communities that have suffered due to fungicides would result in a more available food source for native fish and strengthen local ecosystems. This work also offers a potential water management tool for waterways contaminated with fungicides.