backResearcher Profile

Peter S. Ross

Job Title: Research Scientist
Employer: Institute of Ocean Sciences
Place of Birth: Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada
Public School attended: Connaught
High School attended: Fisher Park
Further Education: Trent University (B.Sc.), Dalhousie University (M.Sc.), Utrecht, The Netherlands (Ph.D.).
Geographic focus of research: British Columbia, U.S., the Netherlands

Brief synopsis of current research:
I am carrying out research on the effects of environmental contaminants (PCBs, PCDDs, PCDFs and pesticides) on marine mammals. This work is focussed on the harbour seal, but we are also carrying our research on killer whales and other species for which we have good background information (ie. condition, age, sex, ecology etc) with which we can better interpret our contaminant and toxicological studies. Primary research effort involves the live capture of seals and blood/blubber sampling, analysis of blubber for contaminant levels and patterns, and quantification of various endocrine and immune function parameters. We collaborate with a number of researchers to collect biopsy samples from killer whales, which are used to measure the levels and patterns of environmental contaminants. Ultimately, we view marine mammals as "sentinels" of marine ecosystem health, and are involved in efforts to more rigorously use these wildlife species in integrated risk assesments.

Mailing address:
Institute of Ocean Sciences, P.O. 6000, Sidney BC V8L 4B2


Recent Publications:

Ross,PS, Ellis,GM, Ikononomou,MI, Barrett-Lennard,L, Addison,RF. 2000, High PCB concentrations in free-ranging Pacific killer whales, Orcinus orca: Effects of age, sex and dietary preference. Marine Pollution Bulletin (in press, February).

Ross,PS. 2000. Marine mammals as sentinels in ecological risk assessment. Human and Ecological Risk Assessment (in press, February).

Ross,PS, De Swart,RL, Addison,RF, Van Loveren,H, Vos,JG, Osterhaus,ADME. 1996. Contaminant-induced immunotoxicity in harbour seals: wildlife at risk? Toxicology 112: 157-169.

Ross,PS, De Swart,RL, Reijnders,PJH, Van Loveren,H, Vos,JG, Osterhaus,ADME. 1995. Contaminant-related suppression of delayed-type hypersensitivity and antibody responses in harbor seals fed herring from the Baltic Sea. Environmental Health Perspectives 103: 162-167.

Ross,PS, De Swart,RL, Visser,IKG, Vedder,LJ, Murk,W., Bowen,WD, Osterhaus,ADME. 1994. Relative immunocompetence of the newborn harbour seal, Phoca vitulina.

Understanding the effects of environmental contaminants on our environment is essential to the management of human activities and conservation issues. Marine mammals represent valuable sentinels of ecosystem health, and their study serves to integrate food chain contamination. While support for such research in Canada is minimal, the work is rewarding.