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Ecotoxicology in the Pacific Northwest

Science to understand and reduce the impacts of pollution on sustainable fisheries, protected species, and coastal habitats.

We study how toxic chemical contaminants shape the environmental health and sustainability of NOAA trust resources at biological scales ranging from gene expression to the dynamics of wild populations and aquatic communities. The Northwest Fisheries Science Center’s Ecotoxicology Program has continuously conducted ocean pollution research for 50 years, serving as a national scientific support team within NOAA since the early 1970s.

Arial view of canal showing sewage in water
Aerial view of sewage spill into a canal in Seattle, WA .Credit: NOAA Fisheries

How Our Research is Used

The results of our research are used to:

  • Assess the impacts of non-point source pollution (e.g., toxic urban runoff) on salmon and their habitats.
  • Determine injury to aquatic natural resources following major oil spills or the cleanup of historically polluted industrial sites.
  • Evaluate risks associated with emerging chemical contaminants.
  • Anticipate the interacting effects of contaminants and other major habitat stressors, including climate change.

Research Areas

  • Urban stormwater runoff, including green infrastructure mitigation effectiveness
  • Oil spills
  • Modern pesticides
  • Historical industrial pollutants
  • Emerging contaminants
 A bearded person in a lab holds two thin, tubular pieces of equipment over a sample under a microscope. He looks at a nearby monitor of a laptop that shows us the microscopic image of the sample. The image glows in bright blue and shows us a brown round sac with four smaller circular shapes within it.
Credit: NOAA Fisheries
A person wearing sunglasses kneels on the sandy wet shore of the water’s edge near a bright orange bucket. It’s a bright sunny day with a strip of land in the background. She’s wearing an orange safety vest, blue baseball cap with a NOAA logo on it, light blue waders, and yellow work gloves. She holds a green object in her left hand over the bucket.
Credit: NOAA Fisheries


Nat Scholz, Ecotoxicology Program Manager

Last updated by Northwest Fisheries Science Center on October 25, 2022