Research Colloquium: Gary Cherr

The Bren School of Environmental Science & Management
at the University of California, Santa Barbara



Gary N. Cherr
Professor, Environmental Toxicology

Director, Bodega Marine Laboratory
University of California, Davis

Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010
11:30 - 12:30
Bren Hall 1414

"Oil and Embryos Do Not Mix:
Effects of Petroleum Constituents on Developing Marine Organisms"

Hosted by:

Bren Professor Patricia Holden

as part of her ecotoxicology seminar



The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound changed the way we view the toxicity of oil in aquatic environments. From this environmental tragedy we learned that water-soluble components of oil in the very low parts-per-billion range can cause adverse developm-associated polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) during very early development (embryonic cleavage stages) can result in the abnormal formation of the proper embryonic axis. We have found that this effect is through disruption of the Wnt/b-catenin signaling pathway, which is highly conserved during embryo development across phyla. Later exposures during fish development (when the heart is forming) to oil and its constituents result in cardiac edema and an arrhythmic heartbeat.  Our laboratory has shown that in San Francisco Bay, Pacific herring embryos exposed to pier piling tar creosote (another petroleum product) or its component PAHs, show abnormal cardiac function as well as overall embryo development.  Following the 2007 Cisco Busan bunker fuel spill in San Francisco Bay, herring embryos were impacted in a more severe manner (cytotoxicity and mortalities) and this may have been due to the phenomenon of phototoxicity (increased toxicity due to ultraviolet light activation of chemicals in cells).


Gary Cherr is a professr at UC Davis (Departments of Environmental Toxicology and Nutrition) and director of the Bodega Marine Laboratory. His areas of specialization include reproductive physiology, reproductive and developmental biology and toxicology, sperm-cell physiology, embryo defense mechanisms, biochemistry and cell biology of environmental stress, endocrine disruption, and environmental nanotoxicology. Professor Cherr’s laboratory has focused on reproductive and developmental effects of oil and petroleum-associated hydrocarbons in the marine environment. He serves on the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council's Science Panel and recently led a University of California Davis team, in collaboration with NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service scientists, investigating the impacts of the Cosco Busan oil spill in San Francisco Bay. Professor Cherr is now serving as a co-leader of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) Gulf Oil Spill Ecotoxicology Working Group.


NOTE: Research colloquia are hosted by Bren faculty members and are generally high-level talks about research in a particular area of environmental science and management.


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