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Education and Outreach Programs

Oak Lawn Community High School ESRP 2014

Trace Element Mapping of Fish Otoliths Using Synchrotron Microbeam X-ray Fluorescence as an Indicator of Fish Movement in the Illinois River System


  • Students:
    • Matt Gorecki
    • Vincenzo Guidino
    • Bushra Hamad
    • Daniel Kalinin
    • Nick Minnella
    • Emmet Nugent
    • Sean Nugent
    • Juliet Torres
    • Matthew Zwolinski
  • Teachers:
    • Christopher Repa
  • Mentors:
    • Antonio Lanzirotti (University of Chicago, Center for Advanced Radiation Sources)

Advanced Photon Source Sector 13: GSECARS

The goal of the study was to use trace element content to determine the migratory patterns of the Silver and Bighead Carp in the Illinois river system and its tributaries. These species of Asian Carp are considered invasive to this region. These fish populate the Midwest region of the States and are destructive to the natural ecosystems throughout. Their feeding habits starve the native species which preside in the rivers and lakes by outcompeting them for available food supplies.          

Migratory patterns can be constrained by measuring trace element content within fish otoliths. Otoliths are calcareous biomineral structures found in the inner ear of fish used for orientation. Otoliths accrete calcium carbonate continuously over time, resembling tree rings, with the most outer zones being the youngest. The goal of the experiment was to analyze the concentrations of known trace element (e.g. Strontium) using synchrotron X-ray fluorescence microprobe and compare measured Sr/Ca to the ratio found in regional water bodies. Comparing the otoliths’ strontium concentrations to known concentrations of Strontium in the Illinois river system, we were able to conclude that Silver Carp were more migratory and likely to move downriver to the Mississippi River.

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