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Microsoft word - birdhealth06off-1.doc

Mapping threats to arctic bird populations. The effect of infectious organisms
and pollution on bird health. IPY #172 BirdHealth

Project description

Sveinn Are Hanssen, Geir Wing Gabrielsen, Tatiana Savinova, Kjetil Sagerup, Jan Ove Bustnes, Kjell Einar
Erikstad, Ivar Folstad, Staffan Bensch, Dennis Hasselquist, Ron A M Fouchier, Olga Dolnik, Kjetil Aasbakk,
Kirill Galaktionov and Alexey Konoplev

Project summary
The arctic environment and its unique wildlife are currently being threatened at several levels; from climate
change, from pollution and from infectious diseases. Health (infection levels and immune responsiveness) in
wildlife is regulating population numbers through individual survival and reproduction. Little is known about
the combined impact of infectious organisms and pol ution on the health of arctic organisms. Due to the
short arctic summer and limited food resources arctic birds typically have an exhausting breeding season
were they rely upon accumulated body reserves for breeding. This leaves arctic animals very vulnerable to
environmental stressors during breeding. This study proposes to (i) experimentally test how infectious
organisms and (ii) how exposure from persistent organic pollutants (POPs) – both legacy and new
compounds and selected heavy metals (HMs), affect the health, reproduction and survival of breeding
female common eiders Somateria mol issima. Moreover, (i i) by comparing health and infectious organisms
of eider populations from three areas differing in migration patterns (wintering and breeding areas) we will
assess the potential large scale effects of avian migration and climatic zones for distribution of infectious
organisms. Also, (iv) waterfowl is considered the main source of avian influenza (AI) viruses, and may thus
constitute a possible source for infection with bird flu to humans. We will thus identify previous exposure to,
and current infection of, the different AI viruses in eider females from different populations to establish which
individuals are most susceptible and also the geographical distribution of AI in the arctic. The eider is the
most numerous sea-duck with a wide circumpolar distribution. Northern eider populations have been
declining in recent years without any clear explanation. The arctic breeding strategy is extreme in the eider
as the female does not eat for ~30 days while incubating eggs. This study will quantify geographic variation
in individual levels of POPs and HMs, and in the prevalence of selected pathogens. The effect of these
stressors on parameters related to individual fitness like immune function, survival and reproduction will be
assessed through individual health monitoring, experiments and large scale comparisons of different eider
populations from different climatic zones with different pol ution levels.

Principal objective
To understand how infectious organisms and pollution may affect the health, reproduction and survival of
arctic bird populations.
Sub goals
-To experimentally document how infectious organisms impact arctic bird populations
-To examine if the arctic breeding strategy (extreme use of accumulated body reserves) is vulnerable to
environmental stressors like infectious organisms and POPs/HMs
-To map and understand the distribution and spread of infectious organisms including viruses such as
internal parasites and avian influenza-viruses in arctic migrating and non-migrating eider populations
The polar environment presents unique challenges for its wildlife. The arctic “summer” is very short and with
temperatures often below freezing. Moreover, constant daylight in summer and complete darkness in winter
further challenges the organisms breeding and living at high latitudes. Many arctic birds display what we
term the “arctic breeding strategy” where the short breeding period and limited food resources forces them
into depending upon stored body reserves for egg-production and incubation. The common eider Somateria
is extreme in this arctic strategy as they do not eat for 30 days and thus loses 40% of their body
mass during breeding (Parker & Holm 1990, Gabrielsen et al. 1991). This strategy leaves arctic animals very
vulnerable to environmental stressors and diseases during breeding. For instance, human pollution is having
a damaging effect on immune systems in wild birds (Grasman et al. 1996, Bustnes et al. 2004), which will
reduce health of bird populations. These new threats may lead to increased infection levels and to higher
prevalence of old and new infectious organisms (Sagerup et al. 2000, see Box 1). To experimentally reveal
the impact of reduced immune defenses and increased parasite levels on fitness of individuals without
adversely affecting the birds studied,
one may experimentally improve the
health of individuals by reducing POLLUTION
2003a). Such experiments may quantify the strength of the relationship between parasite level/immune function and reproduction/survival of individuals and thus its effect on population trends (Hanssen 2003). Furthermore, reduced IMMUNE INFECTION

of infectious organisms is increasing when hosts (the birds) are gathered in larger concentrations. Thus, the combination of high densities and reduced immune function may increase the chances of epidemic outbreaks of REPRODUCTION
usual y “harmless” infectious organisms SURVIVAL
in wild populations of birds. Furthermore, these threats may not only have negative consequences for waterfowl populations. The waterbirds’ highly social behavior during the non-breeding season and their association with water – an ideal medium for the survival and distribution of excreted viruses (e.g. Krauss et al. 2004) – makes waterfowl perhaps the prime host and vector for influenza viruses among birds (Fouchier et al 2000, 2004, 2005). A stress related reduction in immune system efficiency caused by human related activity such as pollution and climate change may increase the prevalence of influenza viruses. More vulnerable hosts will lead to a larger virus gene pool which may again lead to faster evolution of the viruses’ virulence. Furthermore, more immobilized sick birds in wintering areas may increase contact between humans and sick/dead birds. This may also increase the chances of dangerous mutations appearing in the virus, mutations which may for instance increase the virus’s ability to spread between humans. The current Asian/European/African outbreak of the H5N1 strains of avian flu and its considerable interest in the media, further amplify the need for better knowledge of how stressors influence the immune system and thus infections in water birds. This study will quantify geographic and individual variation in levels of POPs and HMs, and in the prevalence of pathogens and parasites. The effect of these stressors on parameters related to individual fitness like immune function, survival and reproduction will be assessed through individual health monitoring, experiments and large scale comparisons of three different eider populations with different migration patterns and with different pollution levels. The study system
Populations of several northern sea ducks are declining, including populations of all 4 eider species
(Somateria spp. and Polysticta stel eri; Kertell 1991, Stehn et al. 1993, Gratto-Trevor et al. 1998). Declines
in common eider populations have been documented in Greenland, Hudson Bay, and Alaska (Robertson
and Gilchrist 1998, Sudyam et al. 2000, Merkel 2004). In the White Sea area dead eider nestlings, heavily
infected with helminths are recorded every year at the coast of the Kandalaksha Bay, however contaminant
levels have never been studied in these birds. A large mass death (90% of all nestlings) was recorded in
1976-1977 (Bianki & Karpovich 1983). Reasons behind these population decreases vary, and many are
unclear (besides parasite outbreaks, possible explanations have been human disturbance, overharvesting,
and climatic events, Robertson and Gilchrist 1998, Suydam et al. 2000, Merkel 2004). The females of the
common eider Somateria mollissima engage in an exhausting incubation period where they fast for 22-30
days which leads to a mass loss of more than 40% (Parker & Holm 1990). We will study common eiders
from three populations, a Northern (Svalbard), an Eastern (White Sea) and a Western (Grindøya, Troms,
North Norway) (Table 1). The White Sea population inhabits a heavily polluted area. The White Sea and
Grindøya populations only migrate locally,
whereas the Svalbard population migrates Box 1 Immunoecology and BirdHealth
south to northern Norway during winter and Infectious organisms and their hosts are locked in partly mixes with the North Norway an evolutionary arms-race dictated by the parasites population during winter (Bustnes & Tertitsky dependence on their host’s resources and the 2000). The Grindøya colony has been hosts wish to reduce the detrimental impact of the investigated continuously since 1985 and the infectious organism. The host’s weapon against data base contains information on individual infections is the immune system, however this reproductive histories of females since their weapon demands resources, resources which cold presumed first breeding. Also in Ny Ålesund be used by the animal for other vital activities such and the White Sea eiders have been studied as reproduction (e.g. Sheldon and Verhulst 1996, extensively for at least the last 10 years. Hanssen et al 2004). This has lead to a delicate balance between the needs of the immune system Common eiders are capital breeders that and other vital physiological functions such as for distribute their accumulated body reserves to egg production and incubation (Erikstad et
al. 1993, Erikstad & Tveraa 1995, Hanssen et al. 2003b). Eiders are susceptible to a wide range of
gastrointestinal parasites such as nematodes and cestodes (Clark et al. 1958, Garden et al. 1964, Itamies et
al. 1980, Warelius 1993). Previous studies in the Grindøya colony have uncovered that low-condition eiders
are more vulnerable to costs of parasitism (Hanssen et al. 2003a) and more often down-regulate their
immune system during breeding (Hanssen et al. 2003c, 2004, 2005).

Approach and methods
Continued demographic measurements of colonies (2007-2009).
The colonies will be searched for nests from mid-May until mid-June in the seasons 2006-2009. A minimum
of 70 breeding females wil be captured in each colony and year (Norway, Svalbard and Russia) and blood
and feces samples will be col ected for later analysis in order to identify parasite species, avian influenza
infection (previous and present) health status (immune function) and contaminant levels. In the White Sea
area in addition to blood samples tissue samples will be available for parasitological, contaminant and
biomarker analyses. All sampled females will be individually market with leg-rings and the study colonies will
be intensely searched for marked birds in the seasons following the experiment 2008 and 2009 in order to
estimate recapture rates and survival (Yoccoz et al. 2002). Female eiders show strong breeding site
philopatry; 98% of re-sighted females repeatedly return to their birth colony (Baillie & Milne 1989; Swennen
1990) and even in cases of disturbance and reduced breeding success only 2.5% of the exposed females
change breeding colony (Wakeley & Mendall 1976). Thus recapture rates are closely associated with
survival.The biostatistical analyses will be done in cooperation with Professor Nigel Yoccoz at the University
of Tromsø.
Experimental parasite removal The experiment will be performed in the 2007 and 2008 breeding seasons in all three study populations. Five days after laying of the last egg females will be randomly assigned to two groups, one treatment group and one control group. The two groups will be randomized with regard to laying date and clutch size. The individuals in the treated group will be administered a 2ml (50 mg fenbendazole, ~ 26 mg/kg body mass) oral dose of 2,5 % PANACUR® (Hoechst Roussel Vet GmbH), active ingredient fenbendazole (a benzimidazole) (25 mg/ml). The drug is effective against various intestinal parasites in birds e.g., nematodes, lungworms and cestodes, (Norton et al. 1991, Yazwinski et al. 1992, Yazwinski et al. 1993) and may also be effective against acantocephala as another benzimidazole (albendazole) has been reported to cure acanthocephala infections in monkeys (Weber & Junge 2000). Additionally, no negative side effects of fenbendazole have been shown in domestic ducks (Short et al. 1988, Pedersoli et al. 1989). The control group was placebo treated with sterile water. This method has previously been conducted in one of the eider populations (Grindøya) and was not found to have any negative side-effects (Hanssen et al. 2003a) Immunocompetence All females in the experimental study wil be captured and a blood sample will be collected. From this we will prepare a blood smear for differential leucocyte/erythrocyte counts. The level of white blood cells in common eiders have previously been found to correlate with reproductive costs and immunosuppression (Hanssen et al. 2003c, 2005). We wil also freeze a small amount of blood plasma from which we will be determining individual levels of immunoglobulins. Total levels of immunoglobulin G and immunoglobulin M are found to be negatively affected with pol ution levels (Sagerup et al. 2005). Hormones Thyroid hormones (thyroxin and triiodothyronine) in birds regulate growth, body weight, development of central nervous system, cell differentiation and maturation, hatching, molt and reproduction (McNabb, 2000). Furthermore, they are considered the key controllers of that part of the metabolic heat production (i.e. thermoregulation) that is necessary for the maintenance of high and constant body temperature (Merryman & Buckles 1998). Triiodothyronine (T-3) has been implicated in the control of the metabolic rate and is decreased during fasting in most bird species. Factors that influence thyroid functions include dietary iodine (I-) availability, activity, ambient temperature, photoperiod, body condition, seasonality, age and exposure to PCBs and several OC pesticides (McNabb 2000, Verreault et al. 2003). It has been shown that the T-3 levels are important in regulating heat production during fasting in common eiders (Criscuolo et al. 2003). Ecotoxicology The potential for POPs to adversely affect eiders have not been critically considered. In a recent analysis it was found that in incubating females levels of common POPs (PCBs, DDE and HCB) on average increased 3-4 times; max 7 times, during a two week period (Bustnes & Hanssen, unpublished data). This increase depends on the lipid metabolism during which lipophilic POPs are released into the blood. During late incubation, when eider female are weakened (e.g. Hanssen 2003a, 2005), such rapid build up of circulating POPs may affect the reproductive effort and survival probability. The ecotoxicological part of proposed project will include both field work and a complex of experimental and laboratory studies with application of a wide broad of chemical, biochemical, cytological, immunological and molecular methods. It will be conducted in close cooperation with other proposed to IPY projects (COPOL, MariClim etc.). To study changes in POP and HM dynamics in relation to seasonal lipid changes and levels of infectious organisms, parallel samples of Common Eider blood will be taken for POP, HM and biomarker analyses in three study areas seasonally. Blood samples collected from 3 populations of Common eiders will be analyzed for a wide range of legacy and new POPs, as wel as for HM levels and parasite/contaminant load responses (list of analytes and biomarkers is given in the Appendix). In the White Sea area, eider’s tissue samples will be available for parasitological, contaminant and biomarker analyses. We suggest to carry out the screening study (a wide set of contaminants) during the first year on ca. 10 individuals per site in order to select appropriate target analytes and to identify compounds of concern for each area for the following year’s studies. Some of contaminant and biomarker analyses are planned in frame of the COPOL project, we will coordinate efforts to ensure that analyses are not duplicated for the same samples, but rather that the results are open to both projects. Complex of chemical and biomarker analyses will allow us to: (i) Assess exposure before nesting period and after – a period when accumulated contaminants are released (ii) Evaluate potential biological combined effects of total contaminant mixtures present in Common Eider tissues and levels of infectious organisms. Parasitology Gastrointestinal parasites are excellent pathogens with which to investigate the possible relationships between infectious disease, immune-function and fitness as they occur world-wide and can be detrimental to fitness in wild populations (Clayton & Moore 1997). In birds, gastrointestinal parasites are found in every species that has been investigated (Janovy 1997). Few studies have addressed the effects of these parasites on fitness in wild populations (Hudson 1986, Piersma et al. 2001, Hanssen et al. 2003a, Holmstad et al. 2005). Previously, the identification of intestinal parasites has been difficult without sacrificing the individual (Doster & Goater 1997). However, recently developed PCR-methods allows for identification of parasitic strains from fecal samples (Doster & Goater 1997, Gasser 1999). These methods in addition to counts of parasitic eggs from fecal samples will allow for identification of parasite levels as wel as identification of the parasite species. Fecal samples and cloacal swabs will be collected from all available ringed breeding females in the two field seasons. The distribution of blood parasites in wild arctic waterbirds have, to our knowledge, not been investigated before. We will therefore use molecular genetic methods to map the presence of and species strain of the blood parasites leucocytozoon, plasmodium and Haemoproteus (Hel gren et al. 2004, Waldenstrom et al. 2004). The parasite Toxoplasma gondii is recently recognized as a widespread organism in wildlife of Svalbard. Barnacle goose in Svalbard showed a prevalence rate of around 7-8% (Prestrud et al., unpublished). There is another IPY project application , IPY #363; Epidemiology of Toxoplasma and Trichinella in wildlife of Svalbard, dealing specifically with Toxoplasma on Svalbard. The common eider is potentially important as a species for transmission of Toxoplasma. Common eider, at least of the Svalbard, White Sea and Troms populations, have not been studied with respect to Toxoplasma, and we are not aware of any published report on T. gondii in eider of any other population. T. gondii might show up as a key parasite for studies in relation to impacts of pollutants and health parameters aimed at being studied in the present project. Findings related to T. gondii in eider will obviously also be important as part of the companion project (IPY #363). The combined results from the projects will have the potential to give synergy effects in the form of new knowledge/publications which could not have been achieved from each project alone. Blood samples (serum) from eider (all three populations) will be assayed for antibody against T. gondii by established method (modified agglutination method, MAT). Coccidia fauna of arctic birds and in particular of the common eider has hardly been studied up to now, apart from some reports of lethal renal coccidiosis caused by Eimeria somateriae or other unidentified Eimeria spp. (e.g. Skirnisson 1997). Cloacal swabs and feces samples will be taken to analyze for coccidial infections. We will distinguish the coccidia species infecting the birds, determine prevalence and estimate the intensity of infection with each coccidia species in birds because this may vary considerably e.g. Dolnik 1998). Different coccidia species as well as mixed infections may have different pathogenicity for their hosts, therefore it is important to distinguish the parasites up to species level. Molecular methods are still insensitive to determining mixed infections of blood haemosporidian (Apicomplexa) parasites (Valkiūnas 2006) which also may also be a case with intestinal coccidia species. Therefore traditional methods of microscope analysis will be used (in addition to molecular methods) Avian influenza Currently (March 2006) the highly pathogenic avian Influenza Virus (IV) subtype H5N1 are infecting populations of wild birds and poultry. It is probably being introduced into Western Europe by migratory birds. Although some fear regarding this strain is justified it should be borne to mind that also less virulent IV
subtypes constitute a potential health risk to humans. Dr Ron A M Fouchier at the Dept of Virology,
University of Rotterdam, Netherlands will screen (i) serum samples for avian flu antibodies (a measure of
previous infection) and (ii) cloacal swabs for present infections of avian influenza virus strains. The previous
and present avian flu infections are primarily investigated to map geographical variation to evaluate infection
routes, but will also give an indication on the birds’ health.
Time frame
The project wil have a time frame of 3 years, starting in January 2007 with the start of field work in the
summer of 2007.
Relevance for the Norwegian IPY contribution
-The proposal will generate new knowledge of high scientific quality regarding the fundamental processes
regulating population numbers and disease spread in light of climate change and its possible effect on
distribution of parasites, their hosts and the movement (migration) of these.
-The proposal leans upon international collaborators from Sweden, Netherlands and with a large
contribution from Russian collaborators. The projects’ Norwegian and foreign scientists will also use
Norwegian infrastructure in Ny Ålesund, Svalbard.
- A large part of the project will be devoted to recruitment of scientists through the postdoctoral position
applied for.
- The project will generate large public interest because of its focus on spread of possible zoonoses like the
avian influenza strains. Additionally, the focus on the strenuous breeding of arctic animals and their
dependence on good wintering areas in Europe and vulnerability to pollution, will increase public awareness
of the fact that the polar areas are not a distant and isolated area but actually a vulnerable neighbor which is
affected by the actions of everyone living in the northern hemisphere.

Other relevant IPY Proposals
-IPY #172 BIRDHEALTH Health of arctic and Antarctic bird populations.
Coordinating project, Maarten
Loonen, Netherlands (Sveinn Are Hanssen is second contact for the international project)
-Geographical and temporal variation in health issues in Arctic breeding birds (BirdHealth).
M. Loonen, Arctic Center, University of Groningen, Netherlands: post doc position (3y) and
technical assistent (2y)
-Contrasting breeding investments in a small arctic shorebird: trade-off between breeding
effort and fighting disease? (BirdHealth)
T. Piersma, Animal Ecology, University of Groningen:
post-doc position
-Arctic breeding waterfowl as vectors for avian influenza viruses (BirdHealth) M. Klaassen,
NIOO, Nieuwersluis: PhD student
-Combining behaviour-based and epidemiological models to identify the role of Arctic
breeding migratory waterfowl in the ecology of infectious diseases, notably Avian Influenza
J. A. P. Heesterbeek, Veterinary Department, University of Utrecht: post-doc position
-The international COPOL initiative IPY#175 consists of two research pillars: 1) transport and fate of
contaminants to and in Polar Regions, 2) food web transfer and contaminant status of higher organisms.
The Norwegian contribution to COPOL focuses on the dynamic range of contaminants in polar marine
ecosystems (Pillar 2), Coordinator Norwegian project Geir Wing Gabrielsen.
-Epidemiology of Toxoplasma and Trichinella in wildlife of Svalbard (IPY #363, sharing endorsement
with IPY #186; Engaging communities in the monitoring of zoonoses, country food safety and
wildlife health).
K. Åsbakk, Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, Section of Arctic Veterinary Medicine,
Tromsø, Norway: PhD student.
Organization and partners
The project is a col aboration between the ongoing eider studies at NINA dept. of Arctic Ecology, The
Norwegian Polar Institute, Akvaplan-NIVA, the White Sea Biological Station (Zoological Institute, Russian
Academy of Sciences), department of zoology/ecology at University of Tromsø and the Molecular Ecology &
Immunoecology Group at Department of Animal Ecology, University of Lund, Sweden. NINA and dept. of
Ecology/Zoology at University of Tromsø have been active in the eider studies in Norway for the last 16
years and eight MSci candidates and two PhDs have completed their education as part of these studies. In
addition, the research manager (Hanssen) has completed his PhD thesis on immunoecology and
reproductive biology of common eiders, and has recently been holding a post-doctoral position financed by
the Norwegian Research Council (157904/V40) at dept. of Ecology/Zoology, Tromsø and Animal Ecology,
Lund. He is currently (from July 2006) employed as a researcher at Norwegian Institute for Nature Research
(NINA). He is also co-leader for the international coordinating IPY BirdHealth project, project leader Maarten
Loonen, Netherlands.
The scientific team is partly composed of scientists from Norway and Russia who have been co-operating
for several years, additionally the project will involve new partners from Sweden and the Netherlands.
Scientists involved in this proposal have an experience in immunoecology, evolutionary biology,
parasitology, virology and ecotoxicology fields.
Norwegian partners:
The Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA, established in 1988. NINA is
Norway’s leading institution for applied ecological research. NINA is responsible for long-term strategic
research and commissioned applied research to facilitate the implementation of international conventions,
decision-support systems and management tools, as well as to enhance public awareness and promote
conflict resolution. The institute employs a staff of 152 and directs wel -equipped laboratories and facilities at
seven locations in Norway. NINA offers broad-based ecological expertise covering the genetic, population,
species, ecosystem and landscape level, in terrestrial, freshwater, and coastal marine environments. NINA
has long-term cooperation in parasitological studies with Russian colleagues.

Akvaplan-niva (Apn, a private R&D institute specializing in the fields of marine
biology, ecotoxicology and environmental monitoring. The Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA) is
main shareholder in Akvaplan-niva. Akvaplan-niva has it's headquarters in Tromsø, Norway and
offices/representatives in France, Iceland, Spain, Russia, Scotland, Canada, Malaysia and Qatar.
Akvaplan-niva has many years experience working with uptake and transport of persistent organic
contaminants in marine and freshwater food chains, ending with marine birds, marine mammals and
humans. Akvaplan-niva has an extensive network of collaborators in Northwest-Russia. Since the beginning
of 90th Apn has started co-operation with Murmansk Marine Biological Institute (MMBI, Murmansk),
Zoological Institute (ZIN, St.Petersburg), Institute of Biology (IB, Petrozavodsk) of the Russian Academy of
Science. In co-operation with Russian institutes Apn has so far carried out 10 joint scientific cruises in
Russian and Norwegian waters. These cruises were mainly focused on studying the contamination levels in
different (abiotic and biotic) components of the ecosystems of the Barents, Pechora, White and Kara Seas.
Norwegian Polar Institute (NP, is the central governmental institute for research, mapping,
management and logistics in the Norwegian polar areas. NP is located at present in Tromsø, and Svalbard
(research station in Ny-Ålesund). NP has conducted studies on the bioaccumulation and biomagnification of
POPs in arctic pelagic food chains; several ecotoxicological studies with marine birds at Jan Mayen, Bear
Island and Svalbard.

Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU, The institute was established in 1969 and is
now an independent foundation. It has an experienced staff of scientists who are specialized in issues of
pollution research on a national as well international level. The branch in Tromsø focuses in particular on
pollution in the Arctic and Barents regions.
NILU has advanced measuring techniques and analytical methods for organic and inorganic chemicals of
air, water and biological samples. In September 1993 the laboratories were accredited according to the EN
45001 standard.
University of Tromsø, Institute for biology. The dept for zoology/ecology has been involved in eider
studies at Grindøya for the last 15 years. Professor Ivar Folstad is a highly cited evolutionary
ecologist/parasitologist and will be aiding the evolutionary aspect of the experiment and interpretation of
results from this project. Professor N Yoccoz ( is a biostatistician. He has recently
(2002-2006) been involved in a long term capture-mark-recapture study on common eiders financed by NFR
(148071/V10). We will draw upon his expertise when estimating the eiders recapture and survival rates, an
important response variable in relation to the experiment, pollution levels, immune function and infectious
Swedish partners:
Department of Animal Ecology, University of Lund, Sweden
The laboratory of the Molecular Ecology & Immunoecology Group in Lund, Sweden is modern and the
researchers are highly competent. We plan to perform the ELISA assays and blood parasite analyses at
these facilities. The Molecular Ecology and Immunoecology Group in Lund, where Hasselquist and Bensch
are associate professors, has produced leading research using molecular genetic techniques to investigate
diverse ecological problems. Moreover, the group’s lab also has modern equipment for analyzing humoral
immunocompetence using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA). Hasselquist and Bensch are
currently involved in studies of Campylobacter in wild birds (screening, epidemiology, effects of infection on
wild birds, and in screening of influenza in wild birds in Sweden (both prohects in cooperation with Bjorn
Olsen and Jonas Waldenstrom).

Dutch partners
Department of Virology, Erasmus medical centre (EMC)
The dept. Virology at EMC houses the Dutch WHO national influenza centre. EMC is coordinator of the EU
framework 5 programme “NovaFlu”, where novel vaccine candidates for pandemic IVs are designed and
tested. One of Dr. Fouchier’s activities in this programme is the generation of an avian IV database. In this
programme, avian samples are collected through a large international network of ornithologists. After 2005,
the database FP5 project will be continued in the NWO/WOTRO programme “Nivarec”. As a fellow of the
Royal Dutch Academy of Arts and Sciences from 2000-2005, Dr. Fouchier developed new methods to study
determinants of IV zoonosis and pathogenesis, which will be invaluable for the current proposal. Fouchier is
also one of 19 partners in the framework 6 programme coordinated action RiViGene (Risk Virus Gene
database). The genetic data from IV isolates in the current proposal will be compared with available
datasets, and correlated with biological properties of the IVs.
Russian partners: the principal collaborators are the White Sea Biological Station,( which will coordinate
work with other Russian scientific institutes: MMBI and IB and Kandalaksha State Nature Reserve) and
analytical Center of Environmental Chemistry SPA “Typhoon”. The long-term monitoring data on Common
Eiders, bentic communities and parasites accumulated in Kandalaksha Reserve, Zoological Institute and
MMBI will be available for this study.

White Sea Biological Station (Zoological Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, WSBS ZIN
, is one of the oldest (founded in 1832) research institutes and leading institute in the field of
zoology. Institute has two biological stations, one of them, the White Sea Biological Station was founded in
1949 and since then is conducting research on ecology and life cycles of marine invertebrates and fish,
parasithology of invertebrates, fish and marine birds, adaptations of marine organisms to environmental
Center of Environmental Chemistry SPA “Typhoon”, Russian Federal Service on Hidrometheorology
and Environmental Monitoring (CEC
, Obninsk,
The CEC of “Typhoon” has been conducting scientific investigations on persistent organic pollutant (POPs)
levels in the arctic ecosystems and participating in many international projects. The CEC has extensive
experience in scientific collaboration with Akvaplan-niva on contaminant studies in marine birds and
mammals from the Barents, White and Kara seas areas. The CEC has national accreditation and
participating on regular basis in international intercalibration studies including QUASIMEME Program for
sediments and biota, AMAP Ring Test for human blood etc.

Institute of Biology, Karelian Scientific Centre, Russian Academy of Sciences (IB
http:\\, founded in 1953 is a leading research institute in the field of genetics,
biochemistry of marine and freshwater organisms.

Murmansk Marine Biological Institute
, Kola Scientific Centre of the Russian Academy of Sciences
(MMBI, ) The main field of research: ecology of Arctic seas; evolution of marine
ecosystems of the Arctic; environmental monitoring of the Barents, White, Pechora and Kara Seas; marine
biology; ecology and parasithology of marine birds and mammals of the Barents-Kara Region; chemical
pollution of Arctic ecosystems. MMBI have been conducting ecotoxicological studies since 1976.
Contamination levels of heavy metals, oil and chlorinated hydrocarbons have been studied in bottom
sediments and in different trophic level of marine organisms from the Arctic regions. Parasitological studies
on effects of invasion on immunological and biochemical parameters in marine birds were conducted in the
Barents Sea area. All studies will be coordinated with Kandalaksha State Nature Reserve, Russian Ministry
of Nature Researches.
Dept of Protozoology, Russian Academy of Science (RAS) Olga Dolnik is a free partner of Dep. of
Protozoology ,St Petersburg. Dep. of Protozoology was found in by an outstanding parasitolgist Prof. V. A.
Dogiel who established the school of ecological parasitology in Russia. Ecological parasitology, host-
parasite interactions between parasitic protozoa and their hosts as wel as studies on morpho-functional
organization of protozoa and their fauna fundamental research are the main directions of the research at the


We will attend various conferences presenting results from this project. We plan to publish at least 4 articles
in peer reviewed international scientific journals. E.g. (1) Effects of pop and heavy metals on the
immunocompetence of eider females. (2) Patterns of migration and its consequence for distribution of
infectious organisms in the arctic (3) Avian influenza; its distribution in arctic seaducks (4) the arctic
breeding strategy; its vulnerability for human induced stressors. Additionally, with the cuurent and porabable
future public interest in the Avian Influenza the results from our study should gain a great deal of public

The capture of and experimentation on wild eider ducks will be performed under permits from the relevant
Norwegian and Russian governmental authorities (Directorate for Nature Management/County Governor of
Troms and the Norwegian Animal Research Authority in Norway)

White Sea, Russia
Kongsfjorden, Svalbard
Tromsø, Norway
Population status
Common Eider has a special role in the White Sea ecosystem - The total number of breeding pairs in Kongsford in 1981- in some publications the White Sea is named as “Sea of Eiders”) 1987 was fluctuated between 1,000 and 3,400 depending individuals, Grindøya largest colony, ca (Bianki et al. 1993). These birds constitute a separate population on the sea-ice conditions in the fjord (Mehlum 1991). The which spends the entire year on the White Sea and winters in population status of Common Eider in Svalbard is thought et al. 2003). The total population number polynias. The main nesting sites are on the islands in to have declined dramatically since the beginning of this Kandalaksha Bay and Onega Bay. The population in the protected areas is relatively stable. In the Onega Bay estimated eiders are resident in the breeding area that there were 5,000 pairs in more than 3,000 colonies (Anker- The Common Eider is a typical benthophagous bird – 66% of the In Svalbard, the autumn diet consisted of bivalves and the Mussels and crustaceans e.g. Littorina diet consists of blue mussels Mytilus edulis, but gastropods, amphipod Gammarellus homari (Lydersen et al. 1989, sp., Mytilus, Nucella sp., Gammaridea echinoderms and crustaceans are also important and in the winter time it may use fish for feeding (Bianki et al. 1979). Parasites
Abundance and high diversity in food composition (59 species of coastal invertebrates) lead to heavy infection, especially of young birds with parasites. Dead neastlings, heavily infected with helminths are recorded every year at the coast of the Kandalaksha Bay. The large mass death was recorded in 1976-1977, when 90% of all nestlings were assumed to perish from helminthosis (Karpovich 1987). This corresponded to the years in which the maximum number of Common Eiders nesting in the Kandalaksha Bay was reported (Karpovich 1987). Following this a drastic decrease in the number of birds nesting in the Kandalaksha Bay took place. In 1993 an unusual mortality of common eider ducklings was observed in West-Iceland, the cause was assumed to be renal coccidiosis (Skirnisson 1997) Contaminant sources
The main contaminant sources in this region are discharges and No known local POP sources, main source –long-range emissions from the mining, pulp and paper, metallurgy and oil atmospheric transport. However, there are elevated industries, as well as from military activities (NEFCO-AMAP natural levels of petroleum hydrocarbons (Dahle et al. 2006) and metals (coal mining) in marine environment. Contaminants
Several surveys, conducted recently shown high levels of some Existing information on legacy POPs in eiders from 90th legacy and new POPs in invertebrates, fish and seals from the (Daelemans 1994, Savinova et al. 1995) shown low- White Sea (Muir et al. 2003, Savinova et al. 2005). No moderate levels, while high Cd and Hg levels were information exists on legacy and new POP levels and effects in detected (Savinov et al. 2003). No data exist on “new contaminants” levels and effects in birds. REFERENCES
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Even among older athletes, rumors of druguse aboundMary Harada, one speedy septuagenarian, would like to think the best about her fellowmasters trac k and field competitors. She would like to believe the wisdom of their years wouldkeep them from using anything stronger than, say, Metamucil or Ensure to boost theirperformance. But the 76-year-old age-group world rec ord holder in the mile has h

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