Date of Award


Degree Name

Environmental Science


College of Science

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Scott Simonton

Second Advisor

Mindy Armstead

Third Advisor

Michael Egnor


Selenium in mining-related discharges has created concern in the Appalachian Region where coal is a significant resource. In West Virginia, evaluation of streams receiving mining discharges focused attention on the Mud River watershed where bioaccumulation of selenium was highest in preliminary surveys. Chronic exposure (mainly dietary) of mature female fish to selenium has the potential to cause developmental abnormalities in developing embryos due to the maternal transfer of selenium into the eggs. Literature suggests that factors affecting the bioaccumulation rate of selenium, and the concentration of selenium associated with the aforementioned effects are site-specific. The purpose of this study was to determine the whole-body selenium tissue concentration which is protective of aquatic life in the watershed as defined by the effective concentration resulting in greater than ten percent deformity (EC10). Further, this study was undertaken to evaluate whether whole-body tissue concentrations in fish in the watershed are within an acceptable range and to test a trophic transfer model which would allow monitoring of selenium whole-body fish tissue concentrations via modeling of the food chain using periphyton (algae) and water column selenium concentrations. By evaluating larval fish deformities within the Mud River watershed, it is demonstrated that a whole-body selenium value of 23.69 mg/kg dry weight (dw) selenium is the concentration shown to be protective of fish communities in this watershed. Whole-body fish tissue concentrations from streams sampled within the watershed generally show compliance with this safe level. Predicting the whole-body concentration using the trophic transfer model was successful for the streams evaluated except for Sites 1 and 2 where variable interactions and site variability reduced the models predictive ability. This analysis confirms the trophic transfer model as a useful predictive tool in this watershed.


Fishes - Larvae - Environmental aspects.

Mines and mineral resources - Appalachian Region - Environmental aspects.