Contaminants - Sentinel Species - Research

Research Area #2 | Sentinel Species > Contaminants

Marine mammals and fish are exposed to a complex mixture of chemicals that can alter their disease susceptibility and initiate and promote carcinogenesis and other serious health effects. California sea lions have an unusually high prevalence of cancers, the majority of which are genitourinary (e.g., prostate, bladder, and testicular). Scientists have found that sea lions with cancer have higher levels of contaminants in their tissues than do those dying from other causes.


Our research goals (2004-2009) are to:

  • Use California sea lions as a sentinel and model for investigating the effects of toxic chemicals on organism health.
  • Determine mechanisms for initiation and progression of urogenital cancer in California sea lions to develop models that can link contaminant exposure to onset of disease.
  • Characterize factors, including exposure to toxic chemicals, that can alter susceptibility to disease in fish to assess potential risks to other species, including marine mammals and humans.



Principal Investigators:

Marine Mammals
Dr. Robert DeLong, Alaska Fisheries Science Center
Dr. John Stein, Northwest Fisheries Science Center

Dr. Tracy Collier, Northwest Fisheries Science Center

Key External Collaborators:

Marine Mammals
Dr. Frances Gulland, The Marine Mammal Center
The next link/button will exit from NWFSC web site Dr. Linda Lowenstine, University of California, Davis

Northwest Fisheries Science Center Researchers:
Dr. Peggy Krahn
Gina Ylitalo
Dr. Mary Arkoosh



Northwest Fisheries Science Center Environmental Assessment Program
Northwest Fisheries Science Center Ecotoxicology Program
Alaska Fisheries Science Center California Current Ecosystems Program
The next link/button will exit from NWFSC web site The Marine Mammal Center