Northwest Fisheries Science Center

Mary R. Arkoosh - Staff Profile

Federal, NOAA Fisheries
Job Title:
Supervisory Research Microbiologist


Mary Arkoosh received her B. S. in Biology from Saint Marys College in Notre Dame Indiana and her Ph.D. from Oregon State Universitys Department of Microbiology. Her thesis examined the development of immunological memory in juvenile salmon and the modulation of a mycotoxin, aflatoxin B1, on the response. Immediately after graduating from OSU, she joined the Ecotoxicology Program of the Environmental and Fisheries Sciences Division in Seattle as a microbiologist/immunologist to examine the effects of contaminants found in estuaries of Puget Sound on juvenile salmonids. In 1995, she transferred to NOAAs Newport Research Station (NRS) at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Oregon where she expanded her studies to examine the effects of anthropogenic and natural stressors (contaminants, pathogens, hydropower systems, temperature, etc) on fish health in coastal estuaries and the Columbia River Basin (CRB). At the NRS, she oversees the state of the art fish disease laboratory that is capable of providing both freshwater and filtered and ultraviolet-treated seawater for use in these studies, as well as microbiology and molecular laboratories. Recently, Marys team in Newport worked with the Army Corps of Engineers to study the potential roles of pathogen and contaminant exposures on the survival of outmigrating salmon in the CRB. They addressed a core challenge for NOAA and many other agencies working in the CRB; specifically, how to maximize the survival of threatened and endangered salmonids as they pass through the mainstem Columbia River in-river or in barges.

Current Research

As the leader of the Immunology and Disease Team, Marys team currently works in collaboration with the U. S. Forest Service and EPA Region 10. The NOAA-F Office of Protected Resources was engaged in an important national ESA consultation with the Forest Service. At issue were wildfires in the western United States, and the potential impacts of chemical fire suppressants (the pink powders dropped from aerial overflights) on listed salmonids. The ensuing Biological Opinion identified key data gaps, including toxicity to sensitive life stages; notably, smolts. In response, Marys team developed a research theme in collaboration with her USGS counterparts in Columbia, MO, with exposures implemented in Newport. The findings, mission-critical for NOAA-F, will be influential for many fire seasons to come. Marys team is also currently working on a high profile study for Region 10 Office of EPA. The work has focused on the toxicity of polybrominated fire retardants (PBDEs), contaminants of emerging concern over the past decade. The impacts of these chemicals on salmon health remain poorly understood. For these studies, Marys team adapted methods they established previously for PCBs and PAHs to assess immune function and disease susceptibility in exposed and unexposed fish. Mary has also served as an Associate Editor for the Journal of Aquatic Animal Health since 2011.