The primary goal of Anderson's fellowship was to promote the use of genetic biomarkers to determine whether pollutants are causing distinct changes that affect the integrity of ecosystems, leading to the decline of certain species over multiple generations. To promote a merging of the disciplines of ecotoxicology and population genetics, she organized the 1993 Napa Conference on Genetic and Molecular Ecotoxicology which brought together various disciplines to discuss the effects of environmental pollution on genetic diversity.
Anderson also conducted interdisciplinary research showing that increased ultraviolet-B (UV-B) light can cause distinguishable effects and genetic damage in aquatic and marine populations. At stations in Alaska and Antarctica, she studied sea urchin embryos and the effects of UV-B exposure on their development. She also supervised a study examining patterns of genetic variation in river otters in the San Francisco Bay/Delta region.
Finally, Anderson promoted this new paradigm for genetic ecotoxicology through magazine and journal articles and presentations around the world. One significant indicator of her success in reaching a broad audience is the invitation she received from the Canadian government to aid them in using genetic biomarkers to manage the polluted St. Lawrence River system and to address effects from mining activities in that country. Anderson was also tapped by the U.S. EPA to oversee a study on UV contamination to coral reefs in the Caribbean.
For more information, please visit the USDA UVB Monitoring and Research Program website.
Susan Anderson is one of the few researchers studying the effects of genotoxic substances on ecosystems and she is a champion of the use of biomarkers to provide precise measurements of genetic damage caused by contamination, including radiation and pollution from pesticides, herbicides, oil spills, pulp mill discharges and mining activities. Anderson utilizes an interdisciplinary approach in her research based on a unique blending of cytogenic (biochemical) methods and molecular techniques taken from the fields of medical and conservation genetics. She couples her research with problem-solving projects, policy development and communications activities. Her work has ranged from examining chromosomal damage in Antarctic zooplankton exposed to increasing ultraviolet light (UV-B) as a consequence of ozone depletion, to relating aquatic toxicology to habitat impairment in the San Francisco Bay, to assessing whether coral bleaching may be a result of genetic changes caused by global warming.
Her postdoctoral research on ocean disposal of low-level radioactive wastes resulted in proposed revisions to the Marine Protection Resources and Sanctuary Act and Anderson has developed a nationally-recognized program to assess the toxicity of effluents discharged into San Francisco Bay. She initially launched a research program at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory to assess genotoxic effects of environmental contamination. The program has now moved to the Bodega Marine Laboratory at the University of California at Davis.
In addition to overseeing the program, Anderson consults internationally on the use of genotoxic biomarkers to determine environmental damage and develop appropriate science-based management practices. She also leads several large-scale research initiatives to test advanced genetic biomarker techniques and to reveal linkages between toxicology and marine conservation biology.
Ph.D., University of California
1983: Ecology, Davis, California, USA
Bachelor of Arts, Occidental College
1976: Marine Biology, California, USA
KEY LEADERSHIP POSITIONS
USEPA, Superfund Ecological Assessment Group
EPA San Francisco Estuary Project, Technical Advisory Committee
KEY AWARDS & HONORS
1992: Pew Fellows Program in Marine Conservation
Environmental Mutagen Society
Genetic and Environmental Toxicology Association
Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry