- Associated Press - Saturday, April 6, 2019

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) - A Missouri Southern State University student believes snails may be able to show the impact of mining cleanup efforts.

Cameron Priester, a MSSU senior, is studying the shell composition of snails from mined areas that have undergone cleanup efforts in Joplin and Webb City. He’s interested in researching whether the snails have absorbed harmful minerals, such as lead or zinc, the Joplin Globe reported .

Priester believes snails could show whether or not ecosystems are healthier after mining cleanup. He plans to compare the snails from mined areas to snails from sites that haven’t been subjected to mining activity to see whether their shells have higher concentrations of heavy metals.

He’s collecting snails from the university’s biology pond to serve as controls for the experiments.

“It could definitely tell us how well certain areas have been cleaned,” he said. “People are concerned about the effects (mining) has on them, but we also have to worry about how it makes its way throughout the environment.”

Priester’s research involved drying snail shells, grinding them and dissolving them in nitric acid. The solution is then analyzed through an atomic emission spectrometer, which allows Priester to determine the shells’ components.

Priester started the research last fall, but it’s unclear when the experiment will finish or yield any results.

The project’s approach is still being refined, according to Lynell Gilbert-Saunders, an associate professor of chemistry who’s helping with the experiments.

Priester is conducting the research with a $1,200 grant from nonprofit Prairie Biotic Research, which works to fund biological research in prairies and savannas.

He plans to present his findings at an upcoming conference for the regional chapter of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.

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Information from: The Joplin (Mo.) Globe, http://www.joplinglobe.com

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