The Arctic is a coastal system that acts as a sink for chemicals produced and released in industrialized parts of the world that are transported northwards by sea, air and water masses, making it a truly global problem. Seabirds living in this ecosystem, such as the ivory gull (Pagophila eburnea), are particularly vulnerable to contaminants because they bioaccumulate toxic compounds throughout their life and are top predators displaying high levels of contamination (through biomagnification). This project aims at (1) comparing temporal variations of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and trace element levels (TEs) in the ivory gull population of Svalbard to evaluate the effect of climate change on contaminant loads in this species, (2) assess spatial variations of POPs and TEs along gulls circumpolar distribution (Svalbard, Canada, Greenland and Russia), (3) investigating the relation between contaminant concentrations and trophic habits of gulls, and (4) evaluating the effect of contaminants on wild gull metabolism at the cellular and organism levels. Indeed, little is known about the consequences of contaminants, especially POPs, on the cell responses in seabirds. This project gathered knowledge and analytical skills on genetics, seabird ecology, climate change in the Arctic, physiology and ecotoxicology. Consequently, it involves the Norwegian Polar Institute which is active within the fields of scientific research, mapping and environmental monitoring in the Arctic and Antarctica. The applicant is an experienced researcher in ecotoxicology of waterbirds. She obtained her PhD working on waterbird contamination and had postdoctoral positions working on shorebirds using genetic biomarkers. Through this project, the applicant will complete the team with her experience on genetic biomarkers and stable isotope analysis and acquire new techniques in contaminant analyses. Results obtained will be used in the Marine Strategy Directive.
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