HCNSO Student Theses and Dissertations

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

First Advisor

Amy C. Hirons

Second Advisor

Dimitrios Giarikos

Third Advisor

Lawrence K. Duffy


The coastal, indigenous communities around Alaska have subsisted on marine animals for generations, often focusing on large apex predators such as seals, sea lions, and whales. Three species of pinnipeds (harbor seal, Steller sea lion, northern fur seal) and the northern sea otter have all undergone significant population declines since the 1970s, some regions more than others. Archived vibrissae (whiskers) and body tissues from these four species were available from the Bering Sea and throughout the Gulf of Alaska from the 1990s and early 2000s. Tissues from these species are exceedingly difficult to obtain; thus, the archived tissues provided a finite and irreplaceable resource of data. Analysis of these archived tissues indicates which species, tissues, and gender bioaccumulate metals more readily. In this study twelve heavy metals (arsenic, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, copper, lead, manganese, mercury, nickel, selenium, vanadium, zinc) were analyzed in vibrissae from the four select species, and in body tissues from harbor seals and Steller sea lions. The samples were collected from three regions (southeastern, southcentral, and southwestern Alaska) during the 1990s through early 2000s. Significant differences of heavy metal concentrations in vibrissae were detected among elements (p2(110) = 454.81, p2(66) = 310.88, p