Oxidative Stress, DNA Damage and Bone Metabolism Disruption in Small Mammal Populations Exposed to Arsenic and Heavy Metals in Yellowknife, NWT: A Preliminary Study

Regions: North Slave Region

Tags: contaminants, mining impacts, arsenic, wildlife, metals, mammals

Principal Investigator: Amuno, Solomon A (2)
Licence Number: 15924
Organization: University of Saskatchewan
Licenced Year(s): 2016
Issued: Jul 21, 2016
Project Team: Prof Som Niyogi (Co-Principal Investigator, Department of Biology, University of Saskatchewan )

Objective(s): To develop an increased understanding of the physiological changes and genetic responses of the selected small mammal populations to environmental contaminants due to historical mining activities.

Project Description: The first objective of this preliminary study is to monitor in selected small mammal population, specifically the snowshoe hare population the effects of metal exposure on oxidative stress parameters as well as metalothionenin gene expression and genotoxicity (DNA damage and mutation induction). The second is to monitor effect of metal exposure on bone microstructure alterations, including biomarkers of bone metabolism (osteocalcin and Vitamin D). The overall objective of this research project is to develop an increased understanding of the physiological changes and genetic responses of the selected small mammal populations to environmental contaminants due to historical mining activities.

The research team intend to capture a total of 30 wild rabbits for the preliminary study. Fifteen case animals will be trapped within and around the vicinity of the abandoned Giant Mine in Yellowknife, 15 control animals would be sampled approximately 30-50 km from Yellowknife. After euthanization, weight, length and gender of each animal will be recorded immediately. Blood samples will be collected from each animal and stored in prepared vials. Each animal will be dissected for the removal of target organs, such as kidney, liver, testicles, bones and fatty tissues. Tissue samples are to be stored in appropriate polyethylene vials for DNA assay, metal and enzyme analyses at University of Saskatchewan, and also in histology jars containing formalin for preservation of samples for histopathological studies. All biological samples will be stored in a cooler to facilitate transportation of tissues for analyses. No significant disturbance to the ecosystem is expected to result from the studies. In addition, 40 surface soils samples from depth of up to 20 cm will be collected from several locations within the selected areas, and with increasing distance from the mine area. Top soil samples will be collected using a hand trowel. 30-40 plant samples (lichens, berries or moss) will be collected by hand from the selected different locations, including the mine area. No significant disturbance to the ecosystem is expected to result from this sampling program. No waste is expected to be generated from this activity.

The research team plan recruiting research assistants through consultation with the Yellowknife Dene-Lands and Environment, and through engagement with students from Aurora College-Environmental Management/Technology program.

The results will be communicated through scientific publications and seminar/workshop with the Yellowknife Dene First Nations and presentations at Aurora College.


The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from July 21, 2016 to December 30, 2016.