Development of new approaches to identifying priority contaminants and evaluate their biological effects in the endangered St Lawrence Estuary Beluga population

The beluga population living in the St. Lawrence Estuary (Quebec) is endangered, and exposure to organic contaminants (i.e., polychlorinated biphenyls, short-chain chlorinated paraffins and polybrominated diphenyl ethers) may be one of the reasons that explain their steady decline. Recent studies using skin/blubber biopsies of St. Lawrence belugas showed that several of these organohalogens may perturb their regulation of thyroid and estrogen axes as well as lipid metabolism. However, biopsies in cetaceans may not be sufficient to show a general impact throughout the body, and results may be influenced by ecological factors such as diet. In order to contribute to the protection and recovery of the endangered St. Lawrence Estuary beluga population, this study presents a unique opportunity to validate whether the use of biopsies are suitable tissues for evaluating the impact of contaminants, develop new transcriptomic health assessment tools to evaluate the biological effects of contaminants, and prioritize (rank) the contaminants of concern in their diet and habitat.

Faculty Supervisor:

Tanya Brown


Antoine Simond


Ocean Wise


Environmental sciences



Simon Fraser University


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