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  • Pierre Blévin

New funded projects in marine mammal ecotoxicology!

Fantastic news! Akvaplan-niva has been granted 8 million from the Research Council of Norway for the SLICE project. It is our talented colleague Pierre Blévin who will lead the project, which has passed through the eye of the needle in the Research Council. The topic of SLICE is effects on killer whales and polar bears from environmental toxins in combination with other influencing factors such as climate change and whale tourism. The project will combine experiments and field studies. Norwegian partners in the project are the Norwegian Polar Institute, the University of Bergen, UiT Norway's Arctic University, the Norwegian Institute for Water Research - NIVA and NILU - Norwegian Institute for Air Research. International partners are: Institute of Environmental and Water Research - IDAEA/CSIC, University of Alberta and UCLouvain – Université catholique de Louvain. The project will involve a 2-year post doc and several MSc students.

Pierre Blevin is also a partner in the Marma-detox project, which also received funding from RCN in this grant round. The project is led by Anders Goksøyr at UiB and here, too, the topic is the effects of environmental toxins (POPs and "chemicals of emerging concern (CECs)) on whales and polar bears.

(Post written by Trude Borch)

SLICE - Moving from field studies to ex vivo models for understanding and predicting toxicological responses to multiple stressors in marine mammals

Marine mammals are relevant sentinels of oceans and human health. Arctic top predators, such as killer whales and polar bears, are among the most polluted species on Earth. They are also exposed to additional anthropogenic stressors such as climate change, resource limitations, habitat loss, and human coastal activities. However, causeeffect and mechanistic understanding in pollutants response in marine mammals remain poorly understood, and there is a lack of knowledge on the combined effects of multiple stressors. There is a need to develop alternative solutions and move from a reductionist perspective to a holistic and integrative strategy to understand the complex patterns of responses. In SLICE, we will combine experimental and field-based studies, together with the application of toxicogenomic approaches to advance the knowledge on toxicological responses to multiple stressors in killer whales and polar bears. We will develop an alternative methodology through an ex vivo adipose tissue slices model for both species and use it to characterize genome-wide transcriptional and lipidomics responses to pollutants and stress. This novel cost-effective ethically sustainable tool enables to test responses to pollutants and stress separately or simultaneously, which is an important step forward to deepen our understanding of toxicological responses to multiple stressors in marine mammals. In parallel, we will conduct correlative field studies to assess potential combined effects with pollutants and stress related to climate change for polar bears and whale tourism for killer whales. As charismatic megafauna, polar bears and whales have a strong potential to raise environmental awareness. Scientific knowledge generated by the project (and beyond) on threats of anthropogenic stressors will be communicated to the the scientific community, the public (focusing on young) and relevant stakeholders.

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