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STEM Illustration

Every spring Alabama A&M University (AAMU) encourages students to showcase their science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) research projects during STEM Day. This year Destinee Simmons, a 2024 AAMU chemistry graduate, and a former Extension biweekly student and volunteer, won first place for a second time in the poster contest for her presentation on the Distribution of Mercury in Flint Creek Watershed: Implications for Mercury Bioaccumulation.

Simmons also garnered a “Best Poster” presentation award for this work at the 2024 Alabama Chapter of the American Fisheries Society Annual Meeting, February 21-22, 2024, in Guntersville, Alabama.

Other poster co-authors included AAMU Professor and Advisor Paul Okweye, Environmental Extension Specialist Karnita Garner, and Elica Moss, AAMU research assistant professor.

About the Research

The research study examines the bioavailability and toxic effects of mercury and its compounds in water, soil, and fish found in the Flint Creek Watershed in Hartselle, Alabama. It also examines the distribution of mercury within the Flint Creek Watershed and the implications for mercury bioaccumulation.

Simmons worked for and volunteered with Alabama Extension’s Synergistic Efforts to Reduce Pharmaceutical Impacts on the Environment (SerPIE) program. She garnered a first-place win in the 2023 AAMU STEM Day poster contest for her presentation on the Occurrence of Pharmaceutical and Personal Care Product Contamination in Southern Alabama Waters. Other poster co-authors included AAMU student and professor Amya Miller and Paul Okweye and Alabama Cooperative Extension System specialist and agents Karnita Garner, Roosevelt Robinson, Allyson Shabel, and Mary Dixon (former agent).

SerPIE highlights the connection between pharmaceutical drugs, personal care products, and pollution by tackling tough topics like the opioid crisis and giving the public information to protect their home and the environment.

To date, considerable research has shown that highly soluble pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) released into surface waters contaminate aquatic ecosystems and may adversely affect fish and animal populations. Simmons’ poster emphasized the connection between PPCPs and water pollution.

Research findings further indicated that PPCP concentrations were detected in some of Alabama’s water sources. The study underlined the need for improved pharmaceutical use and management and the development of evidence-based water quality guidelines.

About the Student

Simmons is now a graduate of AAMU and plans to study pharmacy at the Southern University of Savannah in Georgia. In addition, Simmons is a recipient of the MAKER’s Scholarship, which includes conducting research, building prototypes, and participating in National Science Foundation initiatives.