Date of Award


Degree Type



Biological Sciences

Director of Thesis

Dr. Timothy A. Mousseau

First Reader

Daniel Einor

Second Reader

Daniel Einor


Much is known about the effects of high doses of ionizing radiation exposure, but little is known about the effects of low doses of ionizing radiation over extended periods of time. Nuclear power plant disasters, in particular the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, have led to long-term radioactive contamination of their surrounding areas, and more research is needed to learn about the effects of the contamination. In order to better understand the impacts of low-dose ionizing radiation on animal populations, bank voles (Myodes glareolus) from the Chernobyl exclusion zone were studied. Voles were captured from 64 sites throughout the exclusion zone, and capture areas were classified as either control or contaminated. Blood samples were taken from the voles for further analysis. It was expected that voles from contaminated areas would have higher male:female sex ratios, greater DNA damage as assessed through a greater proportion of cells responding to the procedure, the comet assay, and lower peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) concentrations on slide areas compared to voles from control sites. However, statistical analyses showed that low-dose ionizing radiation exposure was not associated with significant effects on sex ratio, comet response, or PBMC concentration between control and contaminated areas for the studied voles. Factors such as the adaptation of the voles to the ionizing radiation, the radioresistant nature of the vole species, storage biases for blood samples, the use of Proteinase K in the comet assay, and trapping biases could have affected the results of the study.

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© 2017, Justin Sindoni

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