PAOC Spotlights

Tracking an Elusive Chemical - Estrogens

Fri December 2nd, 2011
David Griffith, MIT-WHOI Joint Program

In the lab at WHOI, David Griffith analyzes samples of seawater he collected in Massachusetts Bay to detect minute quantities of estrogens in the ocean. (Photo by Ken Kostel, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)Estrogens are a family of hormones that are essential for growth and development, and, notably, for determining whether you are a female or a male. Exposure to even small amounts of “extra” estrogen can have profoundly negative health effects, giving rise to male fish with female sex organs, for example. With newfound abilities to detect extremely low levels of estrogens, including chemical forms that previously have escaped notice, David Griffith has been investigating how these toxic compounds enter the ocean and what happens to them there. David's advisors are Philip Gschwend at MIT and Timothy Eglinton at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. Read more in David's recent Oceanus article.