University of California, San Diego
Scripps Center for Oceans and Human Health
The Scripps Center for Oceans and Human Health at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University Of California, San Diego is dedicated to advancing our understanding of the biology and chemistry of marine contaminants of emerging concern. Center researchers are specifically examining polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and polybrominated bipyrroles (PBPs), which are both halogenated organic compounds (HOCs).
Previously thought to be manmade environmental contaminants, researchers have learned that some HOCs are naturally produced. Naturally-produced polybrominated HOCs have been linked to endocrine and thyroid disruption, neurodevelopmental deficits, immunotoxicity, reproductive toxicity, and cancer. HOCs bioaccumulate in marine environments, and it is important to understand the chemical diversity, sources, distributions, and toxicity of these compounds.
Californians' PBDE body burden is the highest in the United States and the world. Thus, the Southern California Bight, a region with over 17 million residents from Ensenada, Mexico to Point Conception, California, is an ideal region to address fundamental questions concerning the biogenic origin and toxicology of naturally produced polybrominated HOCs.
The Scripps Center for Oceans and Human Health is structured into three highly collaborative and integrated projects involving six independent scientists and their collaborators. The research team envisions that the Center will help define the public health risks of naturally produced HOCs, provide better informed fisheries management and aquaculture practices, assist with quantifying risks associated with seafood consumption, and help to design relevant multiple exposure studies with respect to HOC toxicity.
Sources and sinks of halogenated organic compounds in the marine environment
Project leader: Paul R Jensen, Ph.D.
Researchers are working to identify the biological sources of PBDEs and PBPs in the Southern California Bight region through comprehensive sampling of bulk and size-fractionated plankton, sediments, benthic algae, and filter feeding invertebrates.
Biosynthesis and genomics of polybrominated organic compounds in the marine environment
Project leader: Bradley S. Moore, Ph.D.
The investigators aim to gain new insight into how organisms synthesize HOCs in the marine environment. They are conducting a comprehensive genetic, biochemical, and enzyme structure-based analysis of polybrominated metabolite biosynthesis in the model marine bacterial groups Pseudoalteromonas and Streptomyces, as well as other HOC-producing strains discovered in the course of the research.
The distribution, provenance, and human health implications of marine polybrominated organic compounds
Project leader: Lihini I. Aluwihare, Ph.D.
The researchers are building on an existing collaboration to combine a non-targeted analytical method with a food web research approach to assess sources and fates of the entire suite of HOCs in the Southern California Bight region.