From a remotely sampled dart biopsy of blubber (approximately 1 g in mass) the sex, reproductive status, stress status, and organic contaminant loads can be determined for a free ranging cetacean. This remote collection greatly reduces the manpower needed and the stress induced by capture for health and population assessments. NIST scientists have developed new mass spectrometry methods for the measurement of steroid hormones pathways in blubber using liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry and can pair this analysis with existing methods for persistent organic pollutants in blubber. By working with partners who conduct collections of dart biopsies and the Environmental Specimen Bank at the Hollings Marine Laboratory, NIST scientists can monitor populations pre and post unusual mortality events (UMEs) to determine population structure, examine organic contaminant trends over time, or investigate reproductive success or stress status pre and post disruptive events, all of which informs policy makers on the best approaches for protecting these species.
The monitoring of marine mammals under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 can be difficult and costly. NIST has developed new methods for the remote monitoring of steroid hormones and contaminants in blubber to assess population dynamics and reproductive health status of marine mammal stocks.
- Completion of method for steroid hormone measurement in bottlenose dolphins in (2016)
- Completion of method for steroid hormone measurement in humpback whale blubber (2016)
Related NIST Projects
- National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration
- Florida Atlantic University
- Duke University