Ed Ricketts Memorial Lecture
Dr. David Epel
Professor, Marine Sciences, Hopkins Marine Station of Stanford University
Lessons Learned: How Worldwide Pollution Happened in the Past, How it's Happeneing Again and a Solution For the Future
How is it possible to contaminate the entire globe with man-made chemicals? We saw this happen in the 1960's with DDT and the PCBs, and many of us were certain that the lessons learned then would prevent a similar occurrence ever happening again.
Well, we were wrong. One surprise was that new man-made chemicals called perfluorocarbons, were turning up in albatross and polar bears. We see these every day as stain repellants such as Scotchguards or non-stick cookware such as Teflons. Others, such as the synthetic fragrances put into detergents, have been found in fish and mussels. Somehow these chemicals got out of their bottles and into the world I will describe the detective work that led to these findings and the new insights that begin to explain how the seemingly solid stuff from frying pans and carpet coatings can escape into the environment and contaminate the globe.
This news sounds grim, but there are solutions. One comes from our research that shows how these chemicals accumulate in organisms. This research suggests ways to modify these chemicals so that they can still have their good side but without the untoward consequences. But what if we are wrong, and we learn too late that other chemicals are contaminating the globe? Global monitoring can dtect such chemicals before they become problems. I will present ideas about such a worldwide surveillance system, how they are being better understood and followed as we progress into the 21st.
About David Epel
David Epel is the Jane and Marshall Steel Jr. Professor of Marine Sciences at Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station. He received his PhD from UC Berkeley, and did post-doctoral work at the University of Pennsylvania. His past research used the embryos of marine organisms to study fertilization and early development. His recent work focuses on how these embryos protect themselves and this new path led to his interest on how pollutants can become global contaminants that affect oceanic as well as human health.
Epel has been a Guggenheim Fellow and Overseas Fellow of Cambridge, is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the California Academy of Sciences and the 2004 Distinguished Fellow in Science and Technology of California State University, Monterey Bay. He also was awarded the Allan A. Cox Medal for Fostering Excellence in Undergraduate Research at Stanford University.
He and his wife Lois have been residents of the Monterey Peninsula since 1965 except for seven years when he was a professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Locally, Epel has served on the Board of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and recently the Executive Committee of the Sierra Club. He is one of the founders of the Coastal and Ocean Round Table, a venue where leaders in government, business and academe discuss issues of the marine environment.