Studying Whale Earwax to Discover Contaminants in Oceans
WACO, Texas--Baylor University researchers Dr. Stephen Trumble, assistant professor of biology, and Dr. Sascha Usenko, assistant professor of environmental science, are currently studying whale earplugs, specifically earwax, to learn more about the animal's possible exposure to contaminants and how pollutants affects its physiology.
Trumble and Usenko hypothesized that these plugs store hormones and contaminants, which they have subsequently found to be true. Currently, the team is working to quantify lifetime hormone and contaminant profiles in these animals.
Usenko is working on the contaminant profiles while Trumble is working on hormones, stress and development, in whales. The goal of the research is to provide the first-ever lifetime profiles of whales and how they interact and are impacted by their environment.
Bio of Stephen Trumble, Ph.D.: Stephen Trumble, Ph.D.
Bio of Sascha Usenko, Ph.D.: Sascha Usenko, Ph.D.
News reports about the study:
Earth Preservers, March 9, 2012: Believe it or not, Scientists are Using Whales' Earwax to Study Ocean Contaminants
UWire, Feb. 14, 2012: Unusual pollution research studies whale earwax
Baylor Lariat, Feb. 14, 2012: Unusual Unusual pollution research: Earwax-environment link studied
Waco Tribune-Herald, Feb. 6, 2012: Baylor researchers get an earful (of whale earwax)
Science Magazine, December 2011: Tracking Contaminants in Whales-Using Their Earwax
Contact Information: Tonya B. Lewis, (254) 710-4656, or the Office of Media Communications at (254) 710-1961.