Environmental forensics is the application of scientific methods used to identify the origin and timing of a contaminant release. Continuous passive collection of POPs over decades of time provides a timeline that can be used to date contaminant episodes and releases. Whale ear wax just happens to provide just that…
Whales are the largest mammals on earth can travel very large distances as part of their migratory pathway and can live a long time. This makes them very good sentinel species for monitoring contaminants in the environment. Scientists have estimated whale ages (for those found dead of course) based on the layers of the earwax plugs of the animals. It has been estimated that blue whales live on average between 80 and 90 years. These earwax plugs are lipophilic (fat-like) deposits that accumulate each year. Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are also lipophilic and with exposure, will accumulate in fatty deposits of animals. Therefore, as whales swim their migration patterns, earwax in those whales is documenting the POPs that the whale has been exposed to.
To read more about how this is related to environmental forensics, visit this link to my guest blog at @ELSenviron.
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Dr. Court Sandau is the principal of Chemistry Matters and an adjunct professor at the University of Calgary in the Schulich School of Engineering. Dr Sandau provides expert support to projects involving litigious or contentious subjects including developing of a sampling plan, determining the appropriate data quality objectives, sampling and documentation to meet legal standards, analyzing and interpreting data and explaining the results in judiciary proceedings or public forums. He specializes in Analytical data quality, Data validation, Human bio-monitoring, Environmental forensics and Risk Assessment with the goal of improving data quality and the understanding of analytical measurements in the environmental industry.