[MARMAM] ONR Call for Pre-Proposals on the Effects of Stress in Marine Mammals

Weise, Michael CIV ONR 322 michael.j.weise at navy.mil
Tue Oct 26 09:15:22 PDT 2010

Office of Naval Research Marine Mammal Program:
Call for Pre-proposals on the Effects of Stress on Marine Mammals

Marine mammals are exposed to a variety of potentially stressful anthropogenic and natural environmental inputs in both the wild and captive environments.  Potential stressors include noise, pollutants, threatening stimuli such as fishing gear, habitat disruption, ecosystem changes in free-ranging animals, and transport/restraint, novel environments, and social interactions for animals maintained under human care.  The stress response in captive marine mammals under controlled conditions has been shown to conform to the classical definition of the generalized stress response, which is defined by activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis resulting in elevated levels of glucocorticoid (GC) hormones (i.e. cortisol and corticosterone). The involvement of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) in the stress response is immediate and acute in terrestrial and marine mammals and is characterized by the release of the neurohormones norepinephrine and epinephrine (i.e., the catecholamines). To effectively characterize the hormonal stress response, it is important to understand the natural rhythms of GC and catecholamines that support an animal's normal biological functions, i.e. natural variability must be understood so that the impact of additional stressors can be quantified. 

Little is known about long-term effects of stress on individuals and populations in marine mammals. Prolonged exposure to stress may result in immune system suppression, reproductive failure, accelerated aging, and slowed growth. If GCs are not the primary mechanism, they and other biomarkers may well be indicators of the cascade of effects leading from behavioral changes to alterations in reproduction and survival.

The Office of Naval Research Marine Mammal and Biology Program (MMB) sponsored a workshop entitled 'Effects of Stress on Marine Mammals Exposed to Sound' that was held in Arlington, Virginia, 4-5 November 2009. The purpose of this workshop was to assemble a cross-section of researchers in the field of stress physiology and behavioral research to identify the state-of-the-art science in stress physiology as it may apply to marine mammals, identify research needs for marine mammal stress-related research, and evaluate available or developing technologies for measuring indicators of stress ultimately in free-ranging marine mammals. The workshop report can be downloaded at:


Topic Description
The ONR MMB is soliciting 1-3 year pre-proposals investigating the stress response in marine mammals. MMB will invest in this topic for the next three to five years, dependent upon available funding. The workshop in November 2009 assisted program officers in defining the scope of stress-related research and specific research and technological needs. Based on the workshop recommendations and available funding in this first year, the MMB program is interested in pre-proposals for FY11 addressing the following needs:

1) Stress-Related Research

.	Promote an understanding of the natural variation in hormones and/or biomarkers of the stress response in free-ranging marine mammals as it relates to the life history state (e.g. sex, reproductive state, age) and physiological state (e.g. migrating vs. not migrating, fasting vs. non-fasting) of the individual and investigate whether these hormones and/or biomarkers have predictable annual cycles or diurnal cycles. 
.	Better understand and characterize the relationships among hormones (e.g. cortisol, corticosterone, aldosterone, catecholamines, reproductive hormones, thyroid hormones, etc.) or other biomarkers (e.g. immune function, cortisol receptors, etc.) in different matrices (e.g. blood, saliva, blubber, feces, urine, blow etc.).  
.	Define and compare the quantitative and temporal relationships of hormones across the different matrices in captive and free-ranging marine mammals (e.g. how is circulating cortisol reflected in measurements made in the blubber or feces). 
.	Develop a conceptual framework to discuss and consider stress-related research in marine mammals.
.	Evaluate and determine the viability of grouping marine mammal species to assess/predict stress in free-ranging marine mammals based on taxonomy, ecological niche and/or habitat, diving physiology, social response to predation, or functional hearing groups. 
.	Evaluate and characterize the relationship between the physiological stress response in marine mammals and disturbance (i.e. noise exposure and other anthropogenic sources). Specific attention should go toward differentiating between short-term and longer-term responses, the latter of which may induce immune system suppression, reproductive failure, accelerated aging, and slowed growth.

2) Technological Needs
.	Partner with existing endocrine labs to develop diagnostic laboratory facilities to support stress-related research on marine mammals.
.	Develop and validate existing stress-assessment technologies that have not been used for marine mammal species; e.g. test existing hormone assay kits that have not previously been used for marine mammals.

Procedures for Submitting Pre-Proposals: 

Persons with an interest in obtaining support for their stress-related are invited to submit a brief pre-proposal (2-3 pages of text), also referred to sometimes as a planning letter or white paper.  The pre-proposal is intended to be an informal document submitted to the program that briefly describes the rationale and nature of the work to be proposed, the approach to addressing questions posed, and estimates the costs of the research. Feel free to contact program officer to discuss the potential overlap between program goals and areas of interest, and your own research as it relates to stress in marine mammals. Pre-proposals should: 
.	Clearly and concisely describe the nature and objectives of the work proposed. 
.	Indicate the amount of time needed to conduct the research. 
.	Provide an estimate of funds required by federal fiscal year (Oct. 1 - Sept. 30) - if  applicable, days of ship time and class of ship required should be clearly noted  but not included in your budget estimates). 
.	Include a short 1-2 page CV for each principal investigator (PI). 
.	Include complete contact information for each PI, including phone number and e- mail address. 

Animal use requirements should be taken into consideration when submitting pre-proposals. Proposals can NOT be funded until all animal use documentation, permits, and protocols are received by program officer and approved. Some of this documentation can take months to acquire, so investigators need to plan ONR proposal submissions accordingly. 

Please submit pre-proposals via email by Wednesday 24 November 2010. Please contact MMB program officer with questions. Please submit pre-proposals to: 

Michael J. Weise
Marine Mammals & Biological Oceanography Program       
Office of Naval Research - Code 32                              
703.696.4533 office
michael.j.weise at navy.mil


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