Students Win 1st & 2nd Prize at Wildlife Disease Association Conference
Physical Effects of Chemically Dispersed Oil on Common Murres, by Emily Whitmer
This project is an investigation into the effects of exposure to chemical dispersant and dispersed oil on seabirds. Seabirds are vulnerable to marine oil spills because they rely on their plumage to form waterproof barrier between the cold ocean water and their skin. When exposed to oil, the waterproof barrier is disrupted and the bird rapidly loses body heat and buoyancy. Dispersants emulsify oil into small droplets and can break up oil slicks on the sea surface, so they have the potential to reduce the risk of seabird exposure to oil on the sea surface. However, we know very little about the effects of exposure to dispersants and dispersed oil on seabirds.
The Oiled Wildlife Care Network team undertook this project to investigate the impact of exposure to dispersant and dispersed oil on the feather structure, waterproofing, thermoregulation, and behavior of seabirds. Our aim is to provide data to inform decision-making and net environmental benefit analysis for chemical dispersant use during marine oil spill response.
We were fortunate to collaborate with and draw on the expertise of veterinarians, biologists, and other scientists from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and the One Health Institute, the UC Davis Department of Environmental Toxicology, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Organochlorines in California sea lions - Temporal trends and association with cancer and infectious disease, by Nistara Randhawa
The study was on PCBs and DDTs (organochlorine contaminants) in the blubber of California sea lions: their association with biological factors like age and sex; trend over time; and association with health. These pollutants were found to be significantly associated with adverse health, increasing the risk of cancer and infectious diseases. Additionally, their levels were found to decline over time. On the basis of this study, California sea lions could be considered useful sentinels for monitoring marine environment health.