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RAP opportunity at U.S. Environmental Protection Agency     EPA

Evaluating Passive Sampling for Predicting the Bioaccumulation of Hydrophobic Organic Contaminants by Fish and Shellfish


Center for Environmental Measuring and Modeling, Atlantic Coastal Environmental Sciences Division

opportunity location
22.08.01.C0053 Narragansett, RI 02882


name email phone
Robert M. Burgess (401) 782-3106


The use of equilibrium passive sampling with LDPE, POM, and PDMS for measuring PCBs, PAHs, dioxins/furans, DDTs and other hydrophobic organic contaminants (HOCs) in the water column and sediment interstitial waters is gaining scientific and regulatory acceptance. A principle advantage of equilibrium passive sampling is the ability to measure the freely dissolved concentration (Cfree) of HOCs. The Cfree has been shown to be a very good surrogate for the bioavailable concentration of this class of contaminants. Consequently, Cfree can be a very useful tool for making informed environmental management decisions regarding exposure and risk.

Recently, the use of equilibrium passive sampling for accurately predicting bioaccumulation by benthic and sessile water column organisms like marine polychaetes, freshwater oligochaetes, and bivalves has been demonstrated. However, this finding does not address the ability of passive sampling to estimate bioaccumulation by mobile and predatory organisms like pelagic fish and shellfish. Although a limited number of studies have investigated aspects of this problem, a major data gap continues to exist in environmental decision making by not having a better understanding of the ability for equilibrium passive sampling to predict bioaccumulation by these higher trophic level organisms.

The objective of this Research Opportunity is to evaluate the use of equilibrium passive sampling of water column and sediment interstitial water concentrations for predicting bioaccumulation by higher trophic level organisms. Research will involve (1) reviewing the scientific literature to assess the potential for passive sampling to predict this type of bioaccumulation, (2) determining how existing bioaccumulation models can be linked to passive sampler measurements of Cfree to estimate bioaccumulation, and (3) performing a case study(s) testing passive sampling based estimates of bioaccumulation in food chains including higher trophic level organisms under laboratory and/or field conditions.



Booij K, Robinson CD, Burgess RM, Mayer P, Roberts CA, Ahrens L, IJ Allan IJ, Brant J, Jones L, Kraus UR, Larsen MM, Lepom P, Petersen J, Proefrock D, Roose P, Schäfer S, Smedes F, Tixier C, Vorkamp K, Whitehouse P: Passive sampling in regulatory chemical monitoring of nonpolar organic compounds in the aquatic environment. Environmental Science and Technology 50: 3-17, 2016

Figueiredo K, Maenpaa K, Lyytikainen M, Taskinen J, Leppanen MT: Assessing the influence of confounding biological factors when estimating bioaccumulation of PCBs with passive samplers in aquatic systems. Science of the Total Environment 601-602: 340-345, 2017

Joyce AS, Portis LM, Parks AN, Burgess RM: Evaluating the relationship between equilibrium passive sampler uptake and aquatic organism bioaccumulation. Environmental Science and Technology 50: 11437-11451, 2016


key words
Passive sampling; Equilibrium sampling; Bioaccumulation; Trophic transfer; Contaminated sediments; Fish; Shellfish; Prediction; Marine organisms; Food chain;


Citizenship:  Open to U.S. citizens and permanent residents
Level:  Open to Postdoctoral and Senior applicants


Base Stipend Travel Allotment Supplementation
$65,000.00 0.00

$1,365 Supplement for Medical Screening Exams


$10,000 Supplement for Seniors

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