U.S. Geological Survey - Environmental Health
Exposure of wildlife, fish, and humans to environmental contaminants is known to cause changes in immune function, which can affect fitness, reproduction and disease resistance. This process, known as immunomodulation, is a major research topic by public health, veterinary, and other medical professionals outside the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). However it is outside the mission of those professionals to answer questions about the possible link between contaminants in the environment and immunomodulation in fish and wildlife. With numerous chemicals being released into the environment every day, improved understandings of the interactions between chemical contaminants, pathogens, and infectious diseases is increasing in importance. In collaboration with multiple Federal, State and local government agencies, universities and international governments, scientists in the Immunomodulation Science Team of the USGS' Environmental Health Mission Area design and conduct field-based assessments and controlled exposures of birds, fish, and other wildlife to gain insights into immune responses that may affect critical terrestrial and aquatic populations. The project is addressing key questions related to the role of contaminants in modulating susceptibility to pathogens, vulnerability to disease, and infectious disease outbreaks in wildlife. Eventually, the results of these studies will identify and prioritize the most important risk factors to fish and wildlife health and could be used by other researchers to understand relevance for public health.