Algal toxins in Alaskan marine mammal populations: Assessing current and emerging exposure threats
Rationale: Current climate trends are likely to expand the geographic range and duration of bloom-favorable conditions in northern regions, making algal toxins a growing concern in the Alaskan marine food web, especially for marine mammal populations which are already declining or depleted.
Overall Goal: The overall goal of this project is to characterize the spatial and temporal patterns of algal toxin exposure in Alaskan marine mammal species in order to assess impacts on health, reproductive success, and mortality in marine mammal populations including those that are threatened, declining, and ESA-listed.
Approach: We will measure two types of algal toxins in marine mammal samples. The first is domoic acid (DA), an emerging problem in Alaskan waters. This toxin is responsible for many cases of marine mammal death and illness in California and has recently been detected in marine mammals in Alaska. The second group of toxins are paralytic shellfish (PSP) toxins, a suite of toxins which have a long history in Alaska. Many human illnesses and deaths have been reported over the past two hundred years, but there is little recorded information regarding effects of PSP toxins in Alaskan marine mammals. Sample material will come from stranded animals, subsistence harvested animals, and opportunistic sampling as part of other marine mammal projects. All results will be compiled in a searchable database.
Data and Resources
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