Nature’s Chemical Clues: Predicting Diet Quality Using Glucuronic Acid as a Biomarker

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date

April 2017

Faculty Sponsor

Jennifer Forbey


There is an immediate need to develop rapid, predictable biomarkers to monitor the health of wildlife and to assess responses of wildlife to disturbances. One such biomarker that has been developed is glucuronic acid (GA). GA is a major pathway for metabolism of toxins in vertebrates that is related to the amount of toxin consumed, absorbed and metabolized. GA is therefore a biomarker of intrinsic toxicity and can be assessed by analyzing feces of birds or urine from mammals. In this experiment, we quantified toxin concentration of the plants consumed, the relative amount of toxins not absorbed (excreted unchanged in feces) and GA concentrations in the feces of various populations of Greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) consuming sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata). We found that toxin concentration of plants consumed and in the feces of sage-grouse and GA varied across populations. We are currently investigating the relationship between the relative amount of toxin consumed and absorbed (ratio in feces relative to in plants) and fecal GA concentrations. This study will provide essential data needed to validate the use of GA as a biomarker to predict diet quality of sage-grouse populations across the landscape and over time following disturbances or habitat restoration.

This document is currently not available here.