The Independent Research in Science course assigns students to specialists in various domains to assist them with their research. This semester, some of the students will share their progress, findings, and overall thoughts regarding their projects in this bi-weekly column. The students will have a chance to display their final analyses in the Science Symposium on April 28th.
The Ecological Impact of Antidepressants and NSAIDs on Aquatic Invertebrates
with Vanessa Gueorguieva
Evidence suggests that antidepressants have adverse effects on fish as well as on invertebrate communities. However, antidepressants are not the only pharmaceuticals released in the water! We also release metabolites in water through excretion, which can have profound effects on aquatic species. Some contaminated waters that are reused, such as in agriculture, make their way into the soil. Also, many veterinary medicines and over the counter drugs, such as Ibuprofen, are still present in water after they have been processed by water treatment plants. The toxicity of such drugs is highly variable depending on their sorption to the soil and their biodegradability.
At JAC’s Biology Research Lab, with Dr. Simon Daoust, we evaluated four ecological parameters on Ramshorn snails exposed to Ibuprofen and Escitalopram: survivorship, fecundity, reaction to stimuli, and feeding rate. For the long-term experiments, like survivorship and fecundity, we studied the snails for five weeks. We also attempted to see if there are immediate effects of Ibuprofen and Escitalopram since past studies suggest that some drugs affect invertebrates in a matter of minutes. We exposed the snails to the concentrations of drugs present in the environment and measured their reaction to stimuli and their feeding rate.
According to our results, Ramshorn snail populations are affected by current levels of Ibuprofen and Escitalopram found in the environment. The reaction time to stimuli was much lower in snails exposed to Ibuprofen, and even lower in snails exposed to Escitalopram. Also, fecundity was greater in snails exposed to SSRI Escitalopram. As snails are at the bottom of the food chain, any change affecting them propagates to their predators, affecting the aquatic community.