Kathi Lefebvre, MS, PhD

Affiliate Associate Professor, Env. and Occ. Health Sciences (Primary department)
Kathi received a B.A. in Biology from Whitworth College in 1989, an M.S. in Marine Science from Moss Landing Marine Laboratories in 1995, and a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of California at Santa Cruz in 2001. She began working at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center as a National Academy of Sciences NRC Post-doctoral Fellow in 2001. In 2005 she was awarded the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) for her research on harmful algal bloom toxins and health effects. She is currently a Supervisory Research Biologist in the Biomedical Diagnostics Group at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center and a Co-PI on a National Institutes of Health (NIH)/ National Science Foundation (NSF) joint RO1 for developing a novel antibody-based biomarker for toxicity of chronic exposure to a common seafood toxin. Collaborators for the project include Co-PI Dr. Dave Marcinek, University of Washington and Dr. Don Smith, University of California, Santa Cruz.

Research Interests

  • My research focuses primarily on the effects of naturally occurring marine seafood toxins on wildlife and human health.  My studies encompass four main topics: 1) pathways of trophic transfer of algal toxins through marine foodwebs, 2) assessment of acute and chronic exposure risks, 3) identification of physiological health impacts related to low level chronic exposure, and 4) development of biomarkers of chronic exposure and disease.

Teaching interests

My teaching goals are to share my knowledge obtained from studying harmful algal bloom toxins and the movement of these toxins through the foodweb, toxin exposure risks to humans and wildlife, and the toxicological impacts of acute and chronic exposure using naturally exposed animals and laboratory animal models. I am also interested in teaching how these impacts are influenced by climate change and what we need to do as a society to address our current global warming crisis.


BA, Biology, Whitworth College, 1989
MS, Marine Science, Moss Landing Marine Labs, 1995
PhD, <unknown>, University of California (Santa Cruz), 2001


The overall goals of my current NIEHS R01 are to develop a biomarker for chronic low-level exposure to a common environmental neurotoxin (domoic acid), link this biomarker to quantifiable sub-acute neurotoxicological endpoints, and quantify the effects of chronic exposure on overall whole animal toxin susceptibility (i.e., increased sensitivity or resistance) and cognition (learning and memory) in a mammalian model system. In a second NIH RO1, I am collaborating with Dr. Tom Burbacher (DEOHS) to look for biomarkers of exposure in primates with chronic oral (mothers) or fetal exposure to domoic acid to compliment his study on maternal transfer and developmental effects of in utero exposure.
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