PNNL's Marine Sciences Laboratory focuses on the response of natural populations to perturbations caused by toxic chemicals introduced into the environment and applies modern biosciences to emerging questions in the environmental sciences.
Research in ecotoxicology ranges from highly controlled laboratory studies for characterizing response to chemical exposure to the analysis of populations whose natural habitats may be altered by anthropogenic activities. The Marine Sciences Laboratory has a unique high-capacity, flow-through exposure facility with regulated temperature, salinity and cleanup of contaminated exposure media. This facility is ideal for the study of chronic, low-level effects normally encountered by organisms in contaminated habitats and for regulatory testing. Because of our expertise and experience, PNNL's scientists are highly sought after to investigate the potential impacts of chemical releases to the natural environment. We have studied the effects of contamination in diverse environments such as the Gulf of Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico, the eastern seaboard of the United States, the Arabian Sea, the Puget Sound and the Columbia River estuary.
Biotechnology, which applies the tools of modern molecular biology and biochemical engineering to both scientific and societal questions, is an emerging capability at the Marine Sciences Laboratory. The laboratory's current strength in molecular and computational toxicology complements expertise in ecotoxicology, and provides a mechanistic base for observational phenomena and development of new animal models. Biotechnology's application in the development of biomarkers, biosensors, and biosentinels is extending the concept of biomonitoring from the traditional environmental health base to an application in detecting agents and substances of concern to national security. Additionally, the principles of biotechnology are being applied in the quest for renewable energy resources and in the development of biologically inspired technological innovation. The production of biohydrogen from aquatic species and potential nanotechnological application of marine biomaterials are examples of these activities.