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Environmental Chemistry in the Pacific Northwest

Science to better understand the impacts of chemical stressors on the health of NOAA trust resources.

Over the more than 40-year history of the Northwest Fisheries Science Center’s Environmental Chemistry Program, we have developed state-of-the-art analytical methods to generate high-quality data. These data are needed to understand the effects of human-caused and natural environmental factors on the health and ecology of NOAA trust resources.

Silver cylinder-shaped piece of equipment with container in the middle. Blue light is shining through two holes on the cylinder, aiming toward the center.
Credit: NOAA Fisheries

How Our Research is Used

Our research uses advanced sampling and analytical methods for toxic contaminants and other chemical markers to support health assessments and population recovery. We apply these methods to many species and matrices. This often requires rigorous quality assurance protocols and acceptance criteria for analytical measurements. Our work informs fish and marine mammal research regionally and nationally. Notably, we provide critical support during oil spills by monitoring dispersal and bioaccumulation of oil-associated contaminants.

Research Areas

  • Legacy and emerging contaminant analysis in juvenile salmon entering Puget Sound. 
  • Contaminant analysis of fish and marine mammal tissue for Natural Resource Damage Assessments.
  • Targeted metabolomics analysis of hormones in killer whale feces.
  • Biochemical tracer measurement (such as stable isotopes) to better understand the feeding habits of killer whales and other marine mammals.
  • Measurement of marine biotoxins from Harmful Algal Blooms and pathogens


Woman wearing purple gloves and clear goggles smiles as she stands at the counter of a lab. She’s picking up a clear bottle from a tray of a dozen other bottles, each filled with a little bit of pale yellow liquid.
Credit: NOAA Fisheries

.The Center’s Environmental Chemistry Program collaborates with many groups, including the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Ocean Service, Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program, Office of Response and Restoration, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Toxics Biological Observation System (TBIOS). 

In collaboration with our partners, we:

  • Measure contaminants in marine and anadromous species.
  • Provide data to inform regulatory efforts.
  • Support fish, shellfish, and ecosystem recovery.


Marine Microbes and Toxins


Irvin Schultz, Environmental Chemistry Program Manager

Last updated by Northwest Fisheries Science Center on January 25, 2023