Grant: 05-005R
Project Title: Historical and Current Associations between Agricultural Biocide and Fibropapillomatosis in Green Turtles (Chelonia mydas)
Project Manager: Dr. John Fauth
Organization: University of Central Florida (Research and Educational Institute)
Grant Amount: $22,695.00
Completion Date: 2011-05-23

Summary: Fibropapillomatosis (FP) is an emergent infectious disease threatening Florida populations of green turtles (Chelonia mydas). Fibropapillomatosis has been prevalent in juvenile green turtles foraging in Indian River Lagoon since before 1980, but was first observed in juveniles on offshore Sebellarid Worm Rock Reef in 1997. We will estimate pesticide, herbicide and fungicide loads in blood plasma archived from 1989-1996 (pre-FP) and 1997-2004 (post-FP) to determine if biocide loads were associated with this disease outbreak. We also will sample turtles at both sites in 2005-2006 to quantify seasonal variation in biocide loads. Our goal is determine whether a specific biocide was associated with the FP outbreak, and whether it still is present in the blood plasma of turtle populations with a high incidence of FP.

Results: We determined that too few samples existed for us to complete the historical analysis of plasma biocide concentrations. Unfortunately, samples were lost due to power and freezer failures during the last two hurricane seasons, and the remaining samples appear too limited to support our planned chemical analyses. Instead, we propose to return to the other facet of our project (which was removed due to lack of funding) and investigate contemporary plasma biocide concentrations in green turtles inhabiting three sites with dramatically different levels of fibropapillomatosis – Indian River Lagoon, Sabellariid Worm Rock Reef, and Trident Submarine Basin. Samples collected under our previous Sea Turtle License Plate Grant (04-031R) currently are being evaluated for plasma biocides, to test the methodology and support inferences drawn from that study.