Development and application of molecular tools to assess the acute and chronic impacts of petroleum hydrocarbons on birds

The Northern Gateway Pipeline and similar projects propose to transport oil from Alberta to tidewater terminals in British Columbia and eastern Canada. Accidental release of petroleum distillates and related by-products would have consequences on the marine ecosystem. To evaluate spill implications for seabirds, we propose to develop and apply molecular tools to assess toxicological and health endpoints in selected seabird monitoring species, using a combination of laboratory and field research. This study will inform regulators about baseline molecular responses in seabirds to current levels of petroleum hydrocarbons in proposed shipping channels and to those anticipated in the unlikelihood of a spill. Results from this study will provide insight into the toxicology of oil in seabirds, will advance our ability to evaluate a change in the health of seabirds due to a spill and will enable our partner organization as they conduct risk assessments for proposed oil transportation.

Faculty Supervisor:

John Edward Elliott


Tanya Brown


Northern Gateway Pipelines




Management of companies and enterprises


Simon Fraser University



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