REU student studies Biscayne Bay oysters’ exposure to PFAS

By Maria Gabriela Gonzalez Starchek

Kaylor in the lab

Catherine Kaylor set out to spend her summer expanding her hands-on research skills as they related to her interests in the ocean, marine creatures and the environment. 

The undergraduate majoring in oceanography at Texas A&M University joined the FIU Institute of Environment’s Coastal Ecosystems Research Experience for Undergraduates. Kaylor worked in the Emerging Contaminants of Concern lab under the mentorship of Natalia Soares Quinete and institute postdoctoral associates Leila Soledade Lemos and Danni Cui. Her research focused on whether oysters in Biscayne Bay are exposed to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS.

During her research this summer, Kaylor found that PFAS accumulate in oysters. PFAS can be found in different industrial and commercial products which don’t degrade easily. When these chemicals end up in waterways, organisms, including oysters, may end up with PFAS in their system through bioaccumulation, either from exposure or by directly ingesting the contaminants, impacting their development. Kayor found that as PFAS increased, the shell thickness in oysters decreased. The oyster’s shell deterioration could increase oyster mortality.

“I was using different chemistry techniques to extract the tissues from the oysters we collected from Biscayne Bay and prepare the samples to be run in a liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry machine,” Kaylor said.

Kaylor hopes to find solutions to environmental issues and keep our planet healthy for the next generations to come.