Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


College of Science and Mathematics



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Meiyin Wu

Committee Member

Xiaona Li

Committee Member

Walter Goessler

Committee Member

Lisa Hazard


Trace elements occur naturally in the environment and through anthropogenic pollution can become elevated beyond natural levels. Within an ecological community these trace elements can bioaccumulate and biomagnify up the food web. Elevated levels of trace elements can pose a significant threat to human health. Diamondback terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin) and common snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina) are two turtle species consumed by humans and were studied for trace element bioaccumulation. Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICPMS) was used to determine the total concentrations of arsenic (As), silver (Ag), cadmium (Cd), cobalt (Co), chromium (Cr), copper (Cu), mercury (Hg), nickel (Ni), selenium (Se), lead (Pb) and zinc (Zn) within muscle tissue, carapace, liver and adipose of the diamondback terrapins and common snapping turtles. Diamondback terrapins and common snapping turtles were collected within the State of New Jersey. Diamondback terrapins were collected from Cape May and the Hackensack Meadowlands. Common snapping turtles were collected in the eastern portion of Sussex County and the Hackensack Meadowlands. The objective of this study was to 1) quantify trace element accumulations in muscle, carapace, liver and adipose of the diamondback terrapins and the common snapping turtles; 2) identify tissue types that are prone to trace element accumulations; 3) Investigate effects of size, sex and location on trace element accumulations and 4) assess human consumption risks. The data collected from this study indicates that Ag, Cd, Cu, Hg, Se and Zn accumulated within the liver of diamondback terrapin and common snapping turtles. The highest mean concentrations of Co, Cr, Ni and Pb were found in the carapace of the diamondback terrapins and the common snapping turtles. In diamondback terrapins, As was found to accumulate in muscle tissues. Sex was found to have an impact on As, Hg and Zn accumulations within different tissue types of diamondback terrapins. Diamondback terrapin males were found to have higher concentrations of As within the carapace. Diamondback terrapin females possessed higher concentrations of Zn and Hg in muscle tissues and Hg in the carapace. This study did not find any significant difference of trace element contents between the sexes of common snapping turtles. No significant correlation between trace element accumulations and carapace length or specimen location was found.

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