With all the modern technological advancements our society has to track damage to our environment, one scientist is bringing it back old school style.

Post-doctoral fellow Daniel Hanley at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada is the author of a new study which discovered that local levels of environmental contamination could be predicted by the color of herring gull eggshells found around the Great Lakes region. By examining 700 eggshells stored at the National Wildlife Research Centre in Ottawa which were gathered from different years between 1977 to 1993, Hanley and study co-author Stephanie M. Doucet from the University of Windsor were able to match variations in coloration to different levels of environmental contamination from chemicals such as PCBs.

Herring gull eggshells are normally blue-green and brown, but by using a spectrophotometer to measure color variation the team discovered that the more contamination there was in the region the less coloration the eggshells exhibited.

“Our goal here was to be able to use some of these eggs … to be able to determine whether or not you can use colour as an indicator of environmental stress,” Hanley said.

By utilizing such a natural form of measurement – eggshells – to research the effects of contaminants on the local environment, Hanley and Doucet are demonstrating that sometimes it doesn’t take millions of dollars and technological advancements to show how our treatment of the planet effects everything else living on it. This study proves that nature itself acts as an early-warning system if we would just take a moment to notice. “Like a canary in a coal mine,” Hanley said about his results, and I couldn’t agree more.

[via Guelph Mercury]

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