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Florida Atlantic University

fau.edu

Founded Year

1961

Stage

Grant - VII | Alive

Total Raised

$7.2M

Last Raised

$1.5M | 8 mos ago

About Florida Atlantic University

Florida Atlantic University is a public research university that provides undergraduate and postgraduate education services. It was founded in 1961 and is based in Boca Raton, Florida.

Headquarters Location

777 Glades Road

Boca Raton, Florida, 33431,

United States

561-297-3000

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Florida Atlantic University Patents

Florida Atlantic University has filed 14 patents.

The 3 most popular patent topics include:

  • robotic submarines
  • amines
  • amphibious warfare vessel classes
patents chart

Application Date

Grant Date

Title

Related Topics

Status

8/8/2019

8/8/2023

Sample return missions, Luna program, NASA space probes, Vision, Robotic submarines

Grant

Application Date

8/8/2019

Grant Date

8/8/2023

Title

Related Topics

Sample return missions, Luna program, NASA space probes, Vision, Robotic submarines

Status

Grant

Latest Florida Atlantic University News

Study details toxic elements found in stranded whales, dolphins over 15 years

Feb 21, 2024

Credit: Annie Page/FAU Harbor Branch Whales and dolphins get their nutrients and essential elements through their diet. While eating fish, squid, octopus, crustaceans and other marine mammals, they are also exposed to heavy metal contaminants. Elevated levels of toxins have been found in stranded dolphins and whales along the Southeastern Coast of the United States. Monitoring toxic contaminants in these stranded marine animals, which serve as important sentinels of environmental contamination, and whose health may be linked to human health, is vital. Yet, data remain sparse on how specific elements are distributed within an animal’s body, especially for many rarely encountered species, and how toxicant levels relate to its sex, breed, age and other demographic factors. A study led by Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in collaboration with a team of scientists, evaluated the prevalence, concentration and tissue distribution of essential and non-essential trace elements, including heavy metal toxicants in tissue (blubber, kidney, liver, skeletal muscle, skin) and fecal samples collected from 90 whales and dolphins stranded in Georgia and Florida from 2007 to 2021. Researchers analyzed 319 samples from nine species for concentrations of seven essential (cobalt, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, zinc) and five non-essential (arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, thallium) elemental analytes. Species in the study all occupied high and similar trophic levels and consumed a mixture of cephalopods and fishes. Results of the study, published in the journal Cell Press: Heliyon, showed that Risso’s dolphins (Grampus griseus) and short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus) had the highest median concentrations of mercury, cadmium and lead, while dwarf sperm whales (Kogia sima) had the lowest. Adult pygmy and dwarf sperm whales that stranded during 2019 to 2021 had higher concentrations of arsenic, copper, iron, lead, manganese, selenium, thallium and zinc compared to those that stranded during 2010 to 2018, suggesting an increasing risk of exposure over time. “When we separated phylogenetic groups into age classes and compared median concentrations of heavy metals in specific tissue types between adult specimens of species, we found some interesting trends,” said Annie Page, D.V.M., Ph.D., senior author, an associate research professor and clinical veterinarian, FAU Harbor Branch. The highest concentrations of many elements (e.g., cadmium, cobalt, copper, manganese, molybdenum, thallium, zinc) were in fecal samples, illustrating the usefulness of this non-invasively collected sample. Aside from fecal samples, hepatic or liver tissues had the highest concentrations of iron, manganese, mercury, molybdenum and selenium in most species; renal or kidney tissues had the highest concentrations of cadmium; skin had the highest concentrations of zinc; and copper, arsenic and lead concentrations were primarily distributed among the liver and kidneys. The lowest median concentrations of mercury and cadmium were in liver, kidney, blubber and muscle samples, with the lowest skin mercury concentration and the lowest liver lead concentration all from dwarf sperm whales. Mercury is one of the most toxic elements in marine systems and can bioaccumulate and biomagnify through marine food webs. Cetaceans are exposed to mercury and other toxic metals mostly by consuming contaminated prey items, which tend to accumulate mercury in liver, muscle and other tissues over time. “Exposure to heavy metal contaminants can result in oxidative stress, which can impair protein function, damage DNA and disrupt membrane lipids,” said Page. “Heavy metal exposure has been linked to degenerative heart disease, immunodeficiency and increased parasite infestations, among other disease risks.” Findings from the study provide important baseline data needed to further assess the pathophysiological mechanisms and ecotoxicological hazards associated with exposure to and accumulation of trace elements in tissues of free-ranging whales and dolphins. “Because tissue concentrations of heavy metal contaminants also vary based on an individual animal’s sex, age class, trophic level and location, among other factors, it is important to first establish baseline values and then continue to monitor cetacean populations for exposure to these toxicants,” said Page. Species examined in the study were pygmy sperm whales (Kogia breviceps); dwarf sperm whales; Gervais’ beaked whales (Mesoplodon europaeus); Risso’s dolphins; short-finned pilot whales; sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus); melon-headed whales (Peponocephala electra); a Blainville’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon densirostris); and a false killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens). Study co-authors represent FAU Harbor Branch; the U.S. Coast Guard Academy; University of Alabama at Birmingham; Hubbs-Sea World Research Institute; Blue World Research Institute; Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, Fish & Wildlife Research Institute; and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. This work was supported by the Florida State License Plate Program “Protect Wild Dolphins” and “Protect Florida Whales” grants (administered by the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Foundation); the Link Foundation; the John H. Prescott Marine Mammal Rescue Assistance Grant; SeaWorld Busch Gardens Conservation Fund; Discover Florida Ocean’s License Plate; and the Brevard County Tourism and Development Council. – FAU – About Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute: Founded in 1971, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University is a research community of marine scientists, engineers, educators, and other professionals focused on Ocean Science for a Better World. The institute drives innovation in ocean engineering, at-sea operations, drug discovery and biotechnology from the oceans, coastal ecology and conservation, marine mammal research and conservation, aquaculture, ocean observing systems and marine education. For more information, visit www.fau.edu/hboi. About Florida Atlantic University: Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University serves more than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students across six campuses located along the southeast Florida coast. In recent years, the University has doubled its research expenditures and outpaced its peers in student achievement rates. Through the coexistence of access and excellence, FAU embodies an innovative model where traditional achievement gaps vanish. FAU is designated a Hispanic-serving institution, ranked as a top public university by U.S. News & World Report and a High Research Activity institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. For more information, visit www.fau.edu.

Florida Atlantic University Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  • When was Florida Atlantic University founded?

    Florida Atlantic University was founded in 1961.

  • Where is Florida Atlantic University's headquarters?

    Florida Atlantic University's headquarters is located at 777 Glades Road, Boca Raton.

  • What is Florida Atlantic University's latest funding round?

    Florida Atlantic University's latest funding round is Grant - VII.

  • How much did Florida Atlantic University raise?

    Florida Atlantic University raised a total of $7.2M.

  • Who are the investors of Florida Atlantic University?

    Investors of Florida Atlantic University include Florida Center for Students with Unique Abilities, U.S. Department of Transportation, National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Defense, State of Florida and 3 more.

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