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Examine temporal and spatial variation in trace metal concentrations in the western Arctic through the analysis of Black Guillemot feathers. Temporal trends being examined using study skins collected as early as 1897. Spatial variation examined in conjunction with carbon isotope signatures in feathers and by sampling both winter and summer plumages. Regional climate change monitored through examination of annual variation in breeding chronology and success in relation to snow and ice melt.
I. Objectives: I.1. To determine the normal range of values (natural variability due to time of year, age, gender) for basic nutritional and health parameters (blubber characteristics, essential and non-essential elements, structure of basic tissues) in the bowhead whale. a. Blubber thickness (depth and girth), chemical composition (lipids, water, calories), and tissue structure (light microscopy and special stains) will be assessed. b. Essential and non-essential elements (heavy metals) will be measured in liver and kidney. c. Tissue structure (light microscopy) characteristics obviously related to nutritional status in liver (glycogen, lipid and lipofuscin stores), pancreas (zymogen granules), and intestine (mucosal microvilli) and any evidence of inactivity/atrophy will be examined. d. Documentation of "normal" structure of basic tissues and evaluation for evidence of disease will also be conducted. I.2. Using data from Objective 1 to identify the parameters most important in assaying the health status of other mysticetes residing in the Bering Sea or Western Arctic that are harvested or stranded. I.3. Using data from Objective 1 to help determine the role of the bowhead whale as an indicator of ecosystem health and development of an optimized protocol for assessing mysticete health for the Bering Sea and Western Arctic, and other regions.