Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science

Degree Name

Marine Science

First Advisor

Amy Hirons, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

David Kerstetter, Ph.D.


Southern Ocean, heavy metals, persistent organic pollutants, cetaceans, pinnipeds


The Southern Ocean encircles the continent of Antarctica and was once thought to be unaffected by human activities. However, evidence is increasing that this region has many different contaminants that threaten the region’s marine biodiversity, including marine mammals. Many of these contaminants are heavy metals or persistent organic pollutants and enter the Southern Ocean via both natural and anthropogenic processes. The impacts posed by these contaminants vary according to their type and the organism being exposed. All species of cetaceans and pinnipeds in this study were confirmed to have been exposed to one or more the contaminants reviewed. Although research on most contaminants in this study were found to be at concentrations below those required to have biologically significant effects on marine mammals, some of the anthropogenic activities that contribute to them are increasing in the southern hemisphere, and could pose a threat to pinnipeds and cetaceans. Further research into contaminant impacts and continued monitoring of the Southern Ocean is recommended.