Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Wildlife Algal-toxin Research and Response Network for the U.S. West Coast (WARRN-West)

WARRN-West and Biomedical Diagnostics

Photo of WARRN staff Kathi Lefebvre, Program Leader
Maryjean Willis, WARRN-West Coordinator
Alicia Hendrix, WARRN-West Laboratory Technician

Funding & Research Support

NOAA’s Ocean and Human Health (OHH) Traineeship program
ECOHAB (Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms) program
NOAA’s Office of Protected Resources
NWFSC Research Plan Near Term Priority 5

What is WARRN-West?

Algal toxin exposure can impact the health of many marine mammals, including dolphins, whales, sea otters and sea lions. WARRN-West is a coast wide surveillance program that identifies algal toxin exposure in marine wildlife populations. We monitor for domoic acid (DA) (the toxin responsible for Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning) and for saxitoxin (the most potent toxin of the Paralytic Shellfish Toxins).

The sampling network consists of federal, state, public, private, and academic partners as well as the major marine mammal stranding networks on the US West Coast. All species of marine mammals are tested and results are available in near real-time.

In a complimentary study funded by ECOHAB, a biomedical model (zebrafish) is being used to find biomarkers indicative of chronic disease caused by DA exposure. This marriage of biomedical model and field exposed sentinel species will allow for development of effective biomarkers of disease that can be used to assess “at risk” human and wildlife populations

Network partners include NOAA West Coast and Alaska Marine Mammal Stranding Networks and Office of Protected Resources, North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, The Marine Mammal Center, Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, Alaska SeaGrant, The Whale Museum of Friday Harbor, USGS National Wildlife Health Center, Alaska US Fish and Wildlife Service, Alaska Veterinary Pathology Service, NOAA Northwest and Southwest Fisheries Science Centers, Alaska SeaLife Center, Cascadia Research Collective, Marine Mammal Institute Oregon State University, Portland State University, University of Washington, University of Alaska Fairbanks, and the University of California Davis One Health Institute.

Map of WARRN-West surveillance of the entire US West Coast WARRN-West surveillance covers the entire US West Coast – from Northern Alaska to Southern California. Blue balloons indicate collection sites. Since 2009, the WARRN-West team has analyzed over 3,000 mammal samples!

Got Samples?

If you would like to submit marine mammal samples for testing, please contact Maryjean Willis via email: maryjean.l.willis@noaa.gov
or phone: (206) 860-3315

Sample collection instructions and submission forms can be obtained here:

*Submission forms are required for all samples.