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The use of the Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) as a biomarker for environmental micro-nano plastics (MNP) impacts

Grant number: 22/03440-0
Support Opportunities:Scholarships abroad - Research Internship - Master's degree
Effective date (Start): August 01, 2022
Effective date (End): January 27, 2023
Field of knowledge:Biological Sciences - Physiology - Compared Physiology
Principal Investigator:Renata Guimarães Moreira Whitton
Grantee:Cecilia Bertacini de Assis
Supervisor: Gerard Hardiman
Host Institution: Instituto de Biociências (IB). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil
Research place: Queen's University Belfast, Northern Ireland  
Associated to the scholarship:20/14252-5 - The influence of Astyanax altiparanae males co-exposure to calcium and the drug carbamazepine on seminal quality, BP.MS


Exposure to micro-nano plastics (MNPs) is ubiquitous and implicated in human disease including cancer, infertility, allergies, and metabolic syndrome. However, as mankind is uniformly exposed to plastics it is difficult to understand exactly how they impact hu northern fulmar man health. Many bird species including the northern fulmar are long-lived, top-level predators, sharing a similar pattern of exposure to MNPs as humans. Ingestion of plastic has been widely studied amongst seabirds, where it is mistaken for food. Omics and Big Data approaches now provide exciting opportunities to understand the ecotoxicological consequences of this exposure. The northern fulmar is used as a plastic indicator species by Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR) and the EU Marine Strategy Framework due to its high ingestion of plastics that is representative of levels found in its environment. Fulmars that spend winter months in different areas of the global marine environment offer a valuable opportunity to assess the impacts of MNPs exposure. This project will examine perturbations in gene expression via RNA-seq and Q-PCR analyses of the liver transcriptome. Differential expression (DE) analyses will identify genes with significant up- and down-regulation in fulmar liver in the context of geolocation, MNP contamination and physiological markers of health status. These biomarkers will permit correlative analyses with plastic burdens and bird health to reveal the impacts of foraging area on gene expression. (AU)

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