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Rosie Williams
PhD Research
Biodiversity and Ecology

Persistent Organic Pollutants: assessing the threat to cetaceans

The impact of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) on wildlife health has concerned scientists for some time. Cetaceans are long-lived and feed at a high trophic level and therefore accumulate some of the highest levels of POPs in wildlife. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a class of POPs, are known to have endocrine disrupting effects and there is a growing weight of evidence linking high levels of exposure to PCBs with increased disease prevalence and suppressed reproduction incetaceans. However, a limited amount of work has been done to quantify toxicity thresholds and determine the effects of PCB exposure at population level. This PhD will look at the spatial and temporal trends in POP blubber concentrations to assess the current state of POPs levels in the UK. PCB toxicity thresholds for suppression of the immune and reproductive systems in cetaceans will be quantified and used to build population dynamics models to understand and predict the long- term effects of PCB exposure in cetaceans. It is imperative that the threat from PCBs is studied, beyond individual level, to inform policy decision making so that the necessary disposal and clean up legislation can be implemented.
Susan Jobling
Paul Jepson
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