Investigating contaminant-related health effects in killer whales (Orcinus orca) using omics

Resident killer whale populations in British Columbia (BC) are listed under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) as “threatened” and “endangered” for the northern and southern populations, respectively. Common pollutants such as PCBs and PBDEs, are considered a significant impediment to the recovery of resident killer whales. These chemicals bioaccumulate throughout the food web and strongly affect apex predators in marine ecosystems. We aim to quantify the concentrations of these chemicals in killer whale blubber tissue and assess markers of associated health risks using molecular based approaches. The data generated will allow us to identify genes that are affected by chemical exposure and provide insights to health impacts in killer whales. With this information, recommendations can be made to regulators to improve management plans.

Intern: 
Bethany M DeCourten Commander
Faculty Supervisor: 
Tanya Brown
Province: 
British Columbia
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