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Scripps Center For Oceans And Human Health


<p>This award will provide NSF support for the establishment of the Scripps Center for Oceans and Human Health at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography of the University of California - San Diego. The Scripps COHH research team will apply a multidisciplinary approach to elucidate the marine cycling of small, natural, brominated, aromatic compounds that share chemical characteristics with some anthropogenic contaminants. The study will be focused in the Southern California Bight where we have applied a new non-targeted analytical approach to demonstrate the presence of >300 halogenated organic compounds in dolphins - an apex marine predator - feeding either offshore or inshore. As many as 30% of these compounds contain bromine and have no known anthropogenic source. In some cases, similar compounds have been previously hypothesized to be of natural origin in other marine environments. Given that these compounds bioaccumulate in apex marine predators they must be available to enter human populations through seafood consumption. These brominated, likely natural organic compounds will be the focus of Center activity for two main reasons. First, although several studies have documented the presence of these purported natural compounds in top predators, most have been unable to delineate trophic transfer, and no study has definitively identified source organisms. The team has recently identified a biosynthetic cluster in a marine bacterium that is capable of producing most of the carbon skeletons and bromination patterns of interest. To establish spatial patterns and ubiquity of source organisms they will continue to characterize this biosynthetic pathway through culture studies and examine environmental distributions through metagenomics. Furthermore, by using our non-targeted analytical approach to comprehensively survey all trophic levels in benthic and pelagic habitats they will directly demonstrate how these compounds enter apex predators. This will further enable us to delineate potential pathways by which these compounds enter human populations. Secondly, the presence of these compounds in apex predators indicates that they must enter the human population via seafood consumption, but this has not been documented. To test this the team will apply a non-targeted method to analyze breast milk from local mothers who have been surveyed to document their seafood consumption habits. Since these compounds resemble anthropogenic contaminants such as PBDEs, PCBs and PCDDs, they are expected to have similar toxic effects in both humans and wildlife. Brominated, natural compounds that are most abundant in dolphins have pyrrole backbones and their toxic impacts are poorly documented, and so, they will examine the potential toxicity of these compounds in the zebra fish model. Together, these efforts seek to identify source organisms and biosynthetic mechanisms of production, and also delineate modes of transfer to human populations.
<Br>Broader Impacts: A more complete picture of the marine cycling of these compounds will enable us to assess how global change may impact sources -- something that up to now has been impossible. Furthermore, we will be in a position to assess the role that the burgeoning aquaculture industry and general seafood consumption plays in transferring these compounds to human populations. The Center organizational structure and ongoing collaborations with NOAA and local water resources management agencies will insure that the research approach and findings benefit from the input of individuals who dictate public health policy decisions, carry out environmental monitoring, and manage resources. The Center web portal ( and personal outreach efforts will also keep the public informed and engaged in our research activities through interaction with K-12 classrooms and local communities. A special effort will be made to engage URM undergraduates in the Center's research through participation in the UCSD STARS program, the SIO NSF-sponsored SURF program and the UCSD-Howard University Pathways program. JOINT FUNDING BY NSF AND NIEHS: The original proposal on which this project is based (P01 ES021921-01) was submitted to the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences (NIH/NIEHS) in response to Funding Opportunity Announcement RFA-ES-11-012 , 'Centers for Oceans Human Health (P01)?' an opportunity jointly sponsored by NSF. This project is cooperatively funded through separate awards from NSF and NIEHS.</p>

Moore, Bradley S; Aluwihare, Lihini
University of California - San Diego
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