TXST’s Dutton to lead investigation into Matagorda Bay mercury exposure


Jayme Blaschke | April 11, 2024

matagorda bay

Jessica Dutton, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Biology, has received a grant from the Matagorda Bay Mitigation Trust to investigate mercury exposure through seafood consumption in the Matagorda Bay ecosystem. 

The three-year $474,900 award will allow Dutton to investigate people’s exposure to mercury through seafood consumption using hair analysis and surveys focusing on demographic factors, seafood consumption patterns and health issues associated with mercury toxicity. 

The project is the third part of a long-term Matagorda Bay mercury study. Since 2021, Dutton has been funded by the Matagorda Bay Mitigation Trust to investigate mercury concentrations in sediment and marine life in the Alcoa (Point Comfort)/Lavaca Bay mercury federal Superfund site, an area of Matagorda Bay that is closed to fishing. Mercury concentrations in commercially and recreationally important fish and shellfish species in the Superfund site (e.g., red drum, black drum, spotted seatrout, southern flounder, white shrimp, blue crab, eastern oyster) have been compared to mercury concentrations in the same species in other areas of the Matagorda Bay system and San Antonio Bay. The mitigation trust is investigating mercury concentrations in the sediment because of the proposed Matagorda ship channel expansion project which will dredge up sediment within the Superfund site and place it in other areas of Matagorda Bay, potentially remobilizing mercury into the environment.

On this new grant, Dutton will be working with co-principal investigators Dale Blasingame, an associate professor of practice in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and Sara Shields, a lecturer in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, to create social media accounts and a website to educate the public on the toxicology research occurring in Matagorda Bay, with a focus on the Alcoa (Point Comfort)/Lavaca Bay mercury Superfund site. Social media posts and the website will be written in English, Spanish and Vietnamese. 

For more information, contact University Communications:

Jayme Blaschke, 512-245-2555

Sandy Pantlik, 512-245-2922