Ecotoxicological investigation into the causality of an alopecia syndrome in Australian fur seals


Ecotoxicological investigation into the causality of an alopecia syndrome in Australian fur seals.


Dr Rachael Beverly Gray

Research Location

Sydney School of Veterinary Science

Program Type



The Australian fur seal colony at Lady Julia Percy Island, Victoria comprises approximately 25% of this species' population and is being impacted by an emerging, recently identified alopecia (hair loss) syndrome. The syndrome afflicts up to 50% of juvenile females, reducing body condition thereby increasing juvenile mortality risk; given the prevalence of this syndrome, it could potentially result in population decline. A population census in the summer of 2013/14 showed a 50% decrease in pup production at the colony since the previous census in 2007; the role of the alopecia syndrome in contributing to this decline is unknown. This ecotoxicological study will compare heavy metal, dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs and PBDE concentrations in the Lady Julia Percy population with other colony sites. This will establish the spatial variation of toxicants across the species range and enable comparison with seal species elsewhere and inform the interpretation of the likely significance of toxicant concentrations found in the Lady Julia Percy colony in relation to the alopecia syndrome.
Demonstration of an anthropogenic impact associated with environmental contaminants will inform mitigation strategies, thereby aiding species and ecosystem conservation.

Additional Information

This project is a collaboration between The University of Sydney, Dr Michael Lynch (Zoos Victoria), Dr Roger Kirkwood (IMARES - Wageningen University Research, The Netherlands), and Dr Julie Mondon (Deakin University, Victoria). Funding for sample analysis has been secured; funding will be sought to support field work for additional sample collection for the project.
This project would suit either a Masters by Research or PhD candidature. The successful applicant will have an Honours 1 degree or equivalent. A degree in Veterinary Science or Animal and Veterinary Bioscience is preferred due to the nature of the project. 
A student scholarship is not available for this project. The successful applicant must apply for, and be awarded a scholarship (Australian Postgraduate Award/ University Postgraduate Award, or Faculty scholarship).For more information on this project, please contact Dr Rachael Gray via email.

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fur seals, seals

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 1887