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Invited researcher Yngvar Thomassen
Contract number
Time span of the project

As of 15.02.2021

Number of staff members
scientific publications
Objects of intellectual property
General information

Name of the project: Developing a methodology for monitoring, assessment, forecasting, and preventing risks related to transport via biological paths of highly toxic contaminating substances that can accumulate in food chains of Arctic ecosystems.

Strategy for Scientific and Technological Development Priority Level: в, д

Goals and objectives

Research directions: Public health, chemical and toxicological research of biological samples (including samples drawn from humans), environment protection, biology, ornithology, ichthyology

Project objective: Development of a national and regional systems of biological monitoring, forecasting and management of risks related to uncontrolled propagation of dangerous contaminating substances with migrating species of commercial fish, birds, and wild animals (i. e. via biological paths) into the Arctic, increasing chemical security of the population.

The practical value of the study

During the research of migrating fish species consumed by indigenous peoples of the Arctic, we have determined a relatively low content of inorganic contaminants, including mercury (Hg). It has been confirmed that fish with high lipid content accumulate higher concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Micro-plastic has been found in Arctic fish.

In regions with high high consumption of marine fish, an increase in mean arsenic content in human blood is observed. Cadmium (Cd) accumulates in high concentrations in the blood of smokers, while lead (Pb) is found in the blood of hunters. The concentrations of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) listed in the Stockholm Convention in human blood are decreased, which indicates the efficiency of the measures applied by the international community. Apart from toxicants, human health (including mental health) in the Arctic is significantly influenced by the deficit of the main elements (I, Fe, and others).

A modern model has been developed for the predictive assessment of risks related to the harmful impact of persistent toxicants on the human reproductive system. For this purpose, an experiment has been conducted on a model organism. During the experiment, the authors determined the effects of a persistent organic pollutant (PCB No 52) on the reproductive health of a first-, second- and third-generation model organism.

Implemented results of research:

Our employees' successful experience of participation in the scientific and educational project «Arctic Floating University» (2017 – 2019) created the prerequisites for the creation of a project of a mobile Arctic bio-monitoring laboratory to conduct research during marine expeditions. The functioning of such laboratories on board of research vessels ensures fast sample preparation, their primary analysis. All of this secures the development of scientific research in regions that are hard to access, including islands. In 2020, the mobile Arctic bio-monitoring laboratory was tested in the Krasnoyarsk region during the Ethnological Expertise to determine the extent of the impact of the oil spill from the Combined Heat and Power Station No. 3 in Norilsk on the way of life and traditional land use by native peoples residing in this part of the Taymyr peninsula. Since 2021, the developed model of the laboratory and the methodology of its operation has been permanently implemented in the procedures of inter-disciplinary research teams within the implementation of the science and education project «Arctic Floating University» by the Northern (Arctic) Federal University.

During the implementation of the project, we obtained two invention patents related to the food industry, more specifically to the processing of hydrobionts. The inventions can be used to remove harmful admixtures, such as metals, arsenic, persistent organic pollutants, and others, from raw fish products.. Due to the worsening environmental situation, problems of the refinement of food products, in particular, of raw fish products, from admixtures gains vast importance. The goal of the creation of methods of raw fish product detoxification is the most complete extraction of harmful admixtures while preserving the marketable appearance of products. Currently we are implementing the mentioned detoxification methods in the processing of fish and fish products.

Education and career development:

The leading scientist conducts training for undergraduate and postgraduate students in the form of open lectures and practical classes, lectures within international events (for example, the International Arctic Forum «Arctic: Territory of Dialogue 2019»), lectures and practical classes within the additional training programme «Modern analytical methods in quantitative chemical analysis». The leading scientist also provides individual consulting for undergraduate and postgraduate students in the topic of the project. The leading scientist and academic staff members supervise the research work of undergraduate and postgraduate students. Three students have successfully graduated from master's degree programmes, defending theses in the domain of the project. Two of them have enrolled in postgraduate schools. In 2021, one postgraduate student defended a dissertation, obtaining the Candidate of Science title in the topic of the project.

Laboratory staff members additionally participate in educational activities in the domain of the project. For instance, the topic of the research has been implemented into lectures and practical training in the following disciplines: «Legal regulation in environmental protection enforcement in the Arctic», «Marine law», «Environmental law», «Wood chemistry (and micro-structure/chemical technology)», «Industrial bio-technology», «Modelling of processes in bio-technology», «Bio-conversion of natural resources», «Food bio-technology», «Chemical foundations of biological processes», «Chemistry of natural compounds», «Bio-chemistry», «Micro-biology», «General biology and micro-biology», «Intellectual property protection and assessment».

Employees of the Laboratory have developed and launched the additional training programme «Modern analytical methods in quantitative chemical analysis» (56 hours). In 2019, 36 students completed the programme, including employees of other divisions of the university and employees of other organisations. As part of the project, a draft of the master's degree programme «Arctic healthcare» has been developed.

Employees of the Laboratory regularly complete additional training programmes and internships. Employees of the Laboratory have completed a total of over 20 additional training programmes.

Other results:

  • The Laboratory has successfully passed the accreditation prescribed by the Russian Accreditation Authority (methods of detecting heavy metals in food products).
  • A draft of a collaboration agreement with the Russian Registry of the Personnel within the implementation of the project in 2018 in the light of the specific nature of the first Arctic biomonitoring laboratory in Russia and the absence of such kind of activity in the Russian Registry of the Personnel Certification System.
  • Our researchers have obtained first results of research that have been presented at conferences at the Russian and international levels.
  • We have completed expedition works along the routes of the «Arctic Floating University - 2017, 2018»: Arkhangelsk – White sea – Novaya Zemlya archipelago – Franz Joseph Land archipelago – Vaygach island – Kolguyev island – Solovetsky islands – Arkhangelsk. We have drawn samples of migrating species of fish and birds. During the expedition we have refined the methodology for early detection of health risks for the population related to transboundary transfer of contaminating substances by migrating species of birds and fish.
  • We have prepared projects of documents aimed at modernization of legal regulatory provisions in ensuring chemical security of the population of the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation.


  1. STAMI – The National Institute of Occupational Health (Norway): joint research, experience exchange, internships, collaborative scientific events. Six scientific articles have been published in highly ranked international journals indexed by the «Web of Science» system. Two international conferences «Bio-monitoring in the Arctic» have been staged as well as several scientific events within major international forums such as «Arctic: Territory of Dialogue», «Arctic Circle» and others. Employees of the laboratory have completed internships at laboratories of STAMI.
  2. McMaster University (Canada): joint research. Five scientific articles have been published in highly ranked international journals indexed by the «Web of Science» system.
  3. UiT The Arctic University (Norway): internships. Two employees of the Laboratory have completed short-term internships at the university’s laboratories.
  4. University of Aberdeen (Scotland): joint research, experience exchange, collaborative scientific events. Three joint scientific events have been conducted (round tables). One scientific article has been prepared for publication in a highly ranked journal indexed by the «Web of Science» system (Q1).
  5. Northwestern Research Centre of Hygiene and Public Health (Russia): joint research, experience exchange, internships, collaborative scientific events. A project of documents aimed at the modernisation of the legal and regulatory framework in the field of chemical security of the population living in the Arctic zone of Russia. An expert assessment of the cause-effect relationship between diseases that are most widespread in the indigenous population and the impact of persistent exotoxicants on their organisms. Methods of predictive assessment of the risks of deterioration of the reproductive health of the population of the Arctic zone of Russia. An analysis of Russian legislative acts in the domain of the enforcement of chemical safety of the population of the Arctic zone of Russia has been conducted to extend the list of monitored compounds to minimise the health risks for the population of the Arctic zone of Russia.
  6. North-Western State Medical University named after I. I. Mechnikov (Russia): development of joint education programmes. A project of the «Arctic healthcare» education programme has been developed.
  7. Institute of Ecology of the Higher School of Economics (Russia): joint research. Two scientific articles have been published in highly ranked journals indexed by the «Web of Science» system (Q1).
  8. Northern State Medical University (Arkhangelsk) of the Ministry of Health of Russia: joint research. Three collaborative scientific articles h ave been published in highly ranked journals indexed by the «Web of Science» system (Q1).

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Moiseenko T.I., Morgunov B.A., Gashkina N.A., Megorskiy V.V., Pesiakova A.A.

Ecosystem and human health assessment in relation to aquatic environment pollution by heavy metals: case study of the Murmansk region, northwest of the Kola Peninsula, Russia. Environ. Res. Lett. 13 (2018). Available at: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/aab5d2/pdf

Sorokina T. Yu.

A national system of biological monitoring in the Russian Arctic as a tool for the implementation of the Stockholm Convention. International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics volume 19, pages341–355(2019). DOI: 10.1007/s10784-019-09436-9. Available at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10784-019-09436-9

Sobolev, N.; Aksenov, A.; Sorokina, T.; Chashchin, V.; Ellingsen, D.G.; Nieboer, E.; Varakina, Y.; Veselkina, E.; Kotsur, D.; Thomassen, Y.

Essential and non-essential trace elements in fish consumed by indigenous peoples of the European Russian Arctic. Environ. Pollut. 2019, 253, 966–973. DOI: 10.1016/j.envpol.2019.07.072. Available at: https://reader.elsevier.com/reader/sd/pii/S0269749119315921?token=D3149D6D5E17F9AB0717C50313FD530EB5...

Chukmasov P., Aksenov A., Sorokina T., Varakina Yu., Sobolev N., Nieboer E.

North Pacific Baleen Whales as a Potential Source of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in the Diet of the Indigenous Peoples of the Eastern Arctic Coasts. Toxics. 2019,7, 65. DOI:10.3390/toxics7040065. Available at: https://www.mdpi.com/2305-6304/7/4/65

Chashchin V.P., Kovshov A.A., Thomassen Y., Sorokina T., Gorbanev S.A., Morgunov B., Gudkov A.B., Chashchin M., Sturlis N.V., Trofimova A., Odland J.Ø., Nieboer E.

Health Risk Modifiers of Exposure to Persistent Pollutants among Indigenous Peoples of Chukotka. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health. 2020,17, 128; DOI:10.3390/ijerph17010128. Available at: https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/17/1/128

Lakhmanov D., Varakina Yu., Aksenov A., Sorokina T., Sobolev N., Kotsur D., Plakhina E., Chashchin V, Thomassen Y.

Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in Fish Consumed by the Indigenous Peoples from Nenets Autonomous Okrug. Environments. 2020, 7. ISSN 2076-3298. Available at: https://www.mdpi.com/2076-3298/7/1/3

Sobolev, N., Aksenov, A., Sorokina, T., Chashchin, V., Ellingsen, D.G, Nieboer, E., Varakina, Yu., Plakhina, E., Onuchina, A., Thomassen, M.S., Thomassen, Y.

Iodine and bromine in fish consumed by indigenous peoples of the Russian Arctic. Sci Rep 10, 5451 (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-62242-1. Available at: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-62242-1#citeas

Korobitsyna R., Aksenov A., Sorokina T., Trofimova A., Sobolev N., Grjibovski A. M., Chashchin V., Thomassen Y.

Iodine Status of Women and Infants in Russia: A Systematic Review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2020, 17(22), 8346; DOI: 10.3390/ijerph17228346. Available at: https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/17/22/8346/htm

Varakina Yu., Lakhmanov D., Aksenov A., Trofimova A., Korobitsyna R., Belova N., Sobolev N., Kotsur D., Sorokina T., Grjibovski A., Chashchin V., Thomassen Y.

Concentrations of persistent organic pollutants in women’s serum in the European Arctic Russia. Toxics. 2021, 9, 6; DOI: 10.3390/toxics9010006. Available at: https://www.mdpi.com/2305-6304/9/1/6/htm

Sobolev N., Ellingsen D. G., Belova N., Aksenov A., Sorokina T., Trofimova A., Varakina Yu., Kotsur D., Grjibovski A., Chashchin V., Bogolitsyn K., Thomassen Y.

Essential and non-essential elements in biological samples of inhabitants residing in Nenets Autonomous Okrug of the Russian Arctic. Environment International. Volume 152, July 2021, 106510. DOI: 10.1016/j.envint.2021.106510. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412021001355.

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