By Jeff Dute

DAUPHIN ISLAND, Alabama – Dr. Alison Robertson, a marine toxicologist with the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, is counting on the American alligator to tell her the tale of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta’s health.

Since alligators such as the World Record animal killed by Mandy Stokes and her crew this year on the Alabama River are large predators at the top of an extensive food chain and they’re long-lived, they make perfect bio-indicators or collectors of the natural and manmade elements occurring in the ecosystems where they live.

Robertson has dedicated her career path toward looking at environmental health in relation to naturally produced and manmade chemicals such as toxins.

“I look at the movement of toxins through the food web and the impacts of those toxins on ecosystems and organisms living there, including humans,” said Robertson, who is also a professor at the University of South Alabama. “Because of how they live and their place in the Delta’s ecosystem, alligators are a prime indicator of its health. The Delta really is a diverse nursery ground for all of the fish in the Gulf of Mexico. Any negative impact on these juveniles is potentially a really bad thing.”

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