The understudied global experiment of pollution's impacts on wildlife and human health: The ethical imperative for interdisciplinary research

Alix M. de Jersey, Jennifer L. Lavers, Graeme R. Zosky, Jack Rivers-Auty

ABSTRACT: The global impact of pollution on human and wildlife health is a growing concern. The health impacts of pollution are significant and far-reaching yet poorly understood as no one field of research has the practices and methodologies required to encapsulate the diversity of these consequences. This paper advocates that interdisciplinary research is essential to comprehend the full extent of the impact of pollution. Medical and ecological research play a key role in investigating the health consequences of the pollution crisis, yet the wildlife experience is often neglected. This paper outlines how applying advanced techniques and expertise adapted in medical research to wildlife exposed to pollutants offers a unique perspective to understanding the full diversity of impacts to health. The challenges that impede the progress of this research include the lack of support for interdisciplinary research among funding streams, limitations in field-specific techniques, and a lack of communication between researchers from different disciplines. Of awarded funding from major national research councils across Australia, Europe, and the United States of America, only 0.5% is dedicated to pollution focused research. This is inclusive of laboratory equipment, mitigation strategies, quantification of environmental samples and health consequences research. Of that, 0.03% of funding is awarded to explaining the wildlife experience and documenting the health consequences observed despite being model organisms to environmentally and biologically relevant models for pollution exposure. This calls for a coordinated effort to overcome these hurdles and to promote interdisciplinary research in order to fully comprehend the consequences of pollution exposure and protect the health of humans, wildlife, and the environment. An interdisciplinary approach to this problem is timely given the magnitude of negative health consequences associated with exposure, the number of pollutants already present within the environment and the continual development of new compounds