Page background

Ocean Pollution
Research Program

Dr. Peter Ross is the Vancouver Aquarium's new Ocean Pollution Science Program director and senior scientist.

Ocean Pollution 

The Northeast Pacific Ocean conjures images of tidal pools, migrating salmon, pods of killer whales and awe-inspiring grizzly bears. It also provides food, jobs and security to the people of the region, through fishing, trade and ecotourism. However, the diverse ecosystems of the Northeast Pacific face tremendous pressures, as both local and global stressors threaten their health. Threats include urban and industrial effluents, runoff from forestry and agriculture, oil and gas shipping and exploration, plastics and debris, and climate change. Understanding the nature and extent of these threats is a basis for policies and practices to protect ocean health for future generations.

tide pool
Dr. Peter Ross is the Vancouver Aquarium's new Ocean Pollution Science Program director and senior scientist. Dr. Peter Ross is the Vancouver Aquarium's new Ocean Pollution Research Program director and senior scientist.

New Program

The Ocean Pollution Research Program is a major new Vancouver Aquarium research initiative that will conduct international-caliber scientific research on ocean pollution. Its focus will be on the sources and consequences of ocean pollution, and on identifying practical solutions. Dr. Peter S. Ross, an internationally recognized scientist with over 25 years of experience in marine pollution research in government and academia, will serve as the Program’s founding director and senior scientist. Dr. Ross will have the support of technicians, graduate students and university, government and private sector collaborators. A new laboratory with state-of-the-art equipment for measuring the impacts of ocean pollutants will be built and housed at the Vancouver Aquarium.

Key Program Components

  • Marine mammals as sentinels of ocean pollution
  • Clean Seafood for Coastal Aboriginal Communities
  • Marine Debris and Micro-plastics
  • Emerging Pollutant Concerns
  • Impacts of hydrocarbons in the costal environment

The Ocean Pollution Research Program will build on established knowledge, provide critical research capacity to Western Canada, and establish British Columbia as a leader in this vitally-important field.

Dr. Peter Ross with seal Dr. Peter Ross with a ringed seal in Labrador. Photo credit Tanya Brown.

The Ocean Pollution Research Program Will:

  • Measure the health of fish, marine mammals and their habitat in a newly-established Ocean Pollution Research Laboratory using instruments that quantify hormones, enzymes, proteins, antibodies, gene expression and immune endpoints;

  • Measure the levels of contaminants including pesticides, industrial chemicals, flame retardants, pharmaceuticals, hydrocarbons and metals in fish, marine mammals and their habitat;

  • Design and conduct research projects that broaden our concepts of ocean health, conservation science, and understanding of human impacts;

  • Establish a network of collaborators to leverage capacity through existing ocean science research platforms in Canada and internationally (e.g. ships, field stations and specialized laboratories);

  • Facilitate solutions through creative research, stakeholder engagement programs, and expert working groups; and

  • Provide science content to educators, conservation managers and policy makers.

The Ocean Pollution Research Program will work actively with other programs within the Vancouver Aquarium family. For example, it will collaborate with the Marine Mammal Research Program on studies of the health of killer whales, with the Howe Sound Research Group on applied, local studies in a ‘living laboratory’, and with the Aquarium’s veterinary department and Marine Mammal Rescue Centre on factors affecting marine mammal health.

Contact Information

For questions or comments about the Ocean Pollution Research Program please email


Share Your Thoughts

How was your visit? Fill in our comment card and let us know.
Find it here

The Big Reveal

The Big Reveal

Come celebrate the biggest expansion in our history!
Learn more

Did You Know?

Did You Know?

Chinook salmon travel over 16,000 kilometres to spawn.
Read more