Oceans and Human Health; the connection to Pollutant Responses in Marine Organisms

Sunday 24 May, 17:30 pm
Prof. John Stegeman
Biology Department and the Woods Hole Center for Oceans and Human Health
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Oceans and Human Health (OHH) comprises globally broad topics, really and conceptually, and the oceans are connected to health and wellbeing not only of humans, but all life on earth. The global scope of OHH is a strength attracting political attention and stimulating, requiring collaboration among researchers in diverse disciplines. However, the global scope also is a substantial weakness, in that as a meta-discipline, OHH can be perceived as having a lack of focus, not a unified field of study, but more a collection of loosely-related objectives, for which connections are not obvious, and seemingly artificial. This in part is a communication problem, perhaps overcome by following the dictum “divide and conquer”. That is, do not confuse the general ocean-environment connections that affect health of populations (e.g., water cycles, weather, shoreline erosion), from more specific or individual ocean-health connections, both positive (blue gym, pharmaceuticals) and negative (pathogen, toxin and toxicant exposures, direct or vectored through seafood. The former entails research, for example, on resiliency to disaster, global environment, climate etc. The later incorporates research themes that have been the strength of PRIMO for more than 30 years. However, as we pursue the basic mechanisms and magnitude of risks from chemicals or toxins to marine systems, for us the obverse is not OHH, but HOH (Humans and Ocean Health). Therein lies the essential nexus; PRIMO’s focus on mechanisms and marine systems can intimately inform the pursuits and practice in research to detect and understand how exposures may affect humans. Thus, PRIMO is part of a conceptual and real framework of an expanded “One Health”. Are there areas in which understanding is particularly deficient and mechanistic links cloudy that may be illumined by research on marine (aquatic) systems? There are many, both specific (neurobehavioral disorders, developmental origins of adult health, carcinogenesis, biomarker identification), and general (resource population effects, indices of global environmental condition, others). The key to seeing these as part of OHH is our perception of the context.  
• How do we pursue such connections in ways that contribute to the broader field, without diluting the core sciences?
• How does the pollutant response research at PRIMO blend with OHH?
• What are OHH issues linked to PRIMO science, as much of the questioning inform the pursuits and practice in research to detect and understand how exposures may affect humans, or other non-marine species
Network approach?
Are there then areas in which understanding is particularly deficient, where mechanistic links are cloudy and may be illumined by research on marine (aquatic) systems? I submit there are many, both specific (neurobehavioral disorders, developmental origins of adult health, carcinogenesis, biomarker identification), and general (resource population effects, indices of global environmental condition). The key in thinking of these as part of Oceans and Human Health is just that; thinking of these as part of OHH, as well as part of HOH.
Learning from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill

Dr Tracy K. Collier
NOAA Fisheries
Monday 25 May, 18:00 pm
The Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill took place in the northern Gulf of Mexico over several months in the spring and summer of 2010.  This spill was, and remains, the largest known accidental oil spill into marine waters.  The spill led to an extensive closure of fisheries in the region, and massive assessments of seafood safety by both organoleptic and chemical analysis (Ylitalo et al 2012; Wilson et al 2015).  Numerous lessons were learned, and in some cases re-learned, from the seafood safety effort, concerning the holistic threats to human health that can result from oil spills and associated fisheries closures.  The DWH oil spill also impacted nearshore habitats inhabited by several stocks of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), and for the first time there was both opportunity and effort to comprehensively assess the health of cetaceans following a significant oil spill (Schwacke et al 2014).  Results from that work demonstrate that, contrary to many prior assumptions, cetaceans are at substantial risk of being harmed by oil spills, and that oil spill-associated health effects in cetaceans can persist for years after a spill.  These results are important for interpreting observations from previous oil spills, such as the loss of orca whales (Orcinus orca) after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989.  Together with other work being presented at this conference on the effects of DWH oil on larval fish health, valuable lessons have been learned from this tragic spill, and this knowledge should be applied to assessments of future, inevitable, oil spills.
Schwacke, L.H., C.R. Smith, F.I. Townsend, R.S. Wells, L.B. Hart, B.C. Balmer, T.K. Collier, S. De Guise, M.M. Fry, L.J. Guillette, Jr., S.V. Lamb, S.M. Lane, W.E. McFee, N.J. Place, M.C. Tumlin, G.M. Ylitalo, E.S. Zolman, and T.K. Rowles. 2014.  Health of common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in Barataria Bay, Louisiana, following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  Environmental Science and Technology 48:93-103.
Wilson, M.J., S. Frickel, D. Nguyen, T. Bui, S. Echsner, B.R. Simon, J.L. Howard, K. Miller, and J.K. Wickliffe. 2015. A targeted health risk assessment following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill: Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon exposure in Vietnamese-American shrimp consumers. Environmental Health Perspectives 123:152-159.
Ylitalo, G.M., M.M. Krahn, W.W. Dickhoff, J.E. Stein, C.C. Walker, C.L. Lassiter, E.S. Garrett, L.I.Desfosse,, K.M. Mitchell, B.T. Noble, S. Wilson, N.B. Beck, R.A. Benner, P.N. Koufopoulos, and R.W. Dickey.  Federal seafood safety response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 109:20274-20279.