Project Overview

Actions of Microplastic-derived Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals on SeabirdsThe constant exposure of humans and animals to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) is a global environmental and public health problem (1). An ubiquitous source of man-made EDCs in the marine environment is plastic waste. Plastics do not biodegrade and instead are subject to physical fragmentation into microplastics while simultaneously leaching plastic-derived EDCs into the marine environment and bodily tissues (e.g. BPA, phthalates and alkylphenols) (2). The future implications of plastic exposure in human health and in wildlife species need to be explored as populations and plastic production are set to grow (3).The increasingly adopted ‘One Health’ paradigm describes ‘health’ as a universal cross-species good. This supports the use of toxicological studies in invaluable sentinel species to understand adverse health outcomes in humans (4). The sentinel species to be used as a proxy to investigate the actions of plastic-derived EDCs is the predator seabird, the northern fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) (fulmar hereafter). This long-lived species is also a robust and sensitive indicator for plastic pollution in the North Sea due to its high levels of plastic ingestion, as defined by the Oslo-Paris convention and the Marine Strategy and Framework Directive (5). Individual differences in foraging locations within a long-studied fulmar colony in Orkney, Scotland has been established through geographic information system (GIS) technology (6-8). This data will facilitate understanding of how plastic-derived EDCs influence gene expression through epigenetic and transcriptomic marks in feathers and blood samples, by comparison with the relative plastic pollution levels of individual foraging areas, and microplastic or chemical loads in tissues. A systems level approach will be used to collate data and model adverse outcomes in fulmar health in a manner that is applicable to humans and other species (9).

  1. Diamanti-Kandarakis E, Bourguignon JP, Giudice LC, Hauser R, Prins GS, Soto AM, et al. Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals: An Endocrine Society Scientific Statement. Endocr Rev. 2009;30(4):293-342.
  2. Koelmans AA, Besseling E, Foekema EM. Leaching of plastic additives to marine organisms. Environmental Pollution. 2014;187:49-54.
  3. Lebreton L, Andrady A. Future scenarios of global plastic waste generation and disposal. Palgr Commun. 2019;5.
  4. Zinsstag J, Schelling E, Waltner-Toews D, Tanner M. From “one medicine” to “one health” and systemic approaches to health and well-being. Preventive veterinary medicine. 2011;101(3-4):148-56.
  5. Van Franeker J, Heubeck M, Fairclough K, Turner D, Grantham M, Stienen E, et al. ‘Save the North Sea’Fulmar Study 2002-2004: a regional pilot project for the Fulmar-Litter-EcoQO in the OSPAR area. Alterra; 2005. Report No.: 1566-7197.
  6. Dunnet GM. Population Studies of the Fulmar on Eynhallow, Orkney-Islands. Ibis. 1991;133:24-7.
  7. Edwards EWJ, Quinn LR, Thompson PM. State-space modelling of geolocation data reveals sex differences in the use of management areas by breeding northern fulmars. J Appl Ecol. 2016;53(6):1880-9.
  8. Grissot A, Graham IM, Quinn L, Bråthen VS, Thompson PM. Breeding status influences timing but not duration of moult in the Northern Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis. Ibis. 2019.
  9. Hardiman G. An Introduction to Systems Analytics and Integration of Big Omics Data. Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute; 2020.


Christina Biamis - Microplastic-derived Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals on Seabird Epigenetics Video Presentation


  • Travelling, Science, Art and Food
  • Microplastics


  • MSci Biochemistry