Ongoing projects

FWO sabbatical 2021-2022 (Prof. G. De Boeck). 01/08/2021 - 31/07/2022

Abstract

This sabbatical will be an excellent opportunity to explore old and new ideas, bounce these ideas off international peers, look for new collaborations and develop a research strategy for the next decade. Therefore, the focus of my sabbatical leave will revolve around three main action points: 1. Resolve the mystery around the mechanistic basis leading to the unusually high toxicity and bioaccumulation of silver in elasmobranchs and conduct a survey over different species. 2. Explore and familiarise myself with minimally-invasive and in vitro techniques that will not only become a powerful tool in my future research but also fit within the general effort to improve animal welfare following the 3R principle (replacement, reduction, refinement). These techniques are not limited to their use in elasmobranch research, but can be extended to teleosts and other aquatic organisms. 3. On the go, collect elasmobranch tissue samples and data, and explore new collaborations for a future research line which will be developed in the next years on chronic stress indicators in elasmobranchs and teleosts. With continuously ongoing climate change and habitat degradation, understanding the effects and consequences of chronic stress and evaluating stress responsiveness and environmental tolerances relative to environmental change is rapidly gaining importance. It is at the core of conservation physiology which aims to integrate physiological knowledge into ecosystem management and into tools to solve complex conservation problems. In addition, it is essential for assessing animal welfare in fast growing activities such as aquaculture.

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BOF Sabbatical 2021-2022 - Gudrun De Boeck. 01/08/2021 - 31/07/2022

Abstract

My sabbatical will focus on elasmobranch research. Firstly, I want to resolve the mystery around the mechanistic basis leading to the unusually high toxicity and bioaccumulation of silver (Ag) that has been observed in elasmobranchs (sharks and rays) and conduct a survey on baseline Ag bioaccumulation over different life stages and species. Doing so will also shed more light on the existence and involvement of putative urea back-transporters, and their characteristics and location in epithelial gill cells of elasmobranchs. Secondly, I want to explore and familiarise myself with minimally-invasive and in vitro techniques that will not only become a powerful tool in my present and future research but also fit within the general effort to improve animal welfare according to the 3R principle (replacement, reduction, refinement). These techniques are not limited to their use in elasmobranch research, but can be extended to teleosts and other aquatic organisms. And lastly, conduct some preliminary experiments and explore new collaborations for a future research line which will be developed in the next years on chronic stress indicators in elasmobranchs.

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Enviromics - Integrated Technologies in EcoSystems 01/01/2021 - 31/12/2026

Abstract

Enviromics is a multidisciplinary consortium of UAntwerpen researchers across the board of environmental sciences and technologies. Through impactful fundamental advances and interdisciplinary approaches across biology, (bio)chemistry and (bio)engineering, the consortium offers bio based solutions to ecosystem challenges by a strong interaction between three pillars (i) Environmental applications and nature based solutions, (ii) Sensing and analysis of chemicals and environments and (iii) Microbial technology and biomaterials, supported by sustainable product development and technology assessment. Through a renewed and tighter focus the ENVIROMICS consortium now signs for a leaner and more dynamic shape. Through intensified collaborations with different stakeholders, both national and international, the leverage for creating enhanced business and societal impact is reinforced. The consortium is strongly managed by a team of two highly profiled researchers partnered by an IOF manager and a project manager with clearly defined tasks and in close contact with the consortium members and the central Valorisation Unit of the university. The consortium has a strong and growing IP position, mainly on environmental/electrochemical sensing and microbial probiotics, two key points of the research and applications program. One spinoff was created in 2017 and two more will be setup in the coming three years. The direct interaction with product developers ensures delivering high TRL products. Next to a growing portfolio of industrial contracts, we create tangible societal impact, when relevant including citizen science approaches. Through the stronger leverage created by the new structure and partnerships we will develop both intertwined branches significantly.

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The role of chromosomal inversions in the rapid evolution of biodiversity. 01/01/2021 - 31/12/2024

Abstract

Understanding how biodiversity evolves is a defining question in evolutionary biology and instrumental in conservation and mitigation in the face of global change. Recent work, including ours, suggests that new combinations of old genetic variants are a driving force in rapid adaptive diversification. There is a large body of theory predicting that inversions – chromosomal rearrangements in which a segment of a chromosome is reversed end to end – play a decisive role in this process, for example, by linking together adapted alleles. There is strong evidence for the role of inversions in adaptation of natural species, but we are lacking a quantitative assessment of the role of inversions in diversification of a large group of related species. We will fill this gap by characterising the occurrence, evolution, and role of inversions across the fishes of the extraordinarily diverse Lake Malawi cichlid adaptive radiation. For this, we will combine innovative molecular and computational approaches with a unique set of hybrid crosses between species up to two million years divergent.

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The biodiversity, biogeography and evolutionary history of the northern basins of the Great African Lakes : the enigmatic fish faunas of Lakes Kivu, Edward and Albert revisited (KEAFish). 15/12/2020 - 15/03/2025

Abstract

The area of the northern East African rift-valley lakes, Kivu, Edward and Albert (KEA) is one of the most enigmatic regions in terms of its biogeography. The region is situated at the intersection of three major ichthyo-geographic provinces (Nilo-Sudan, East Coast and Congo), features a turbulent tectonic history and likely acted as a species reservoir during recent climatic changes such as the major drought some 15.000 y BP, which resulted in a complete desiccation of Lake Victoria. We suggest to combine classical taxonomy with state-of-the-art genomic methods to provide a comprehensive characterisation of the heavily understudied fish fauna of this region. This work will provide key insights into the regions' bio-geographic history, evaluate its role as a species refuge, and test its previously suggested role as the origin of the about 600 species of the Lake Victoria haplochomine cichlid radiation. Our research hypothesis is that an out-of-Kivu origin for cichlids and non-cichlids and the role of refuges of the KEA lakes shaped to a large extent the ichthyo-diversity of the region. While well-studied in temperate regions, the role of refuges in tropical freshwater fishes remained largely overlooked, which makes this study challenging and innovative. We will perform a region-wide COI-scan of the non-haplochromines of the region and complement with additional nuclear markers when necessary. We will then solve the taxonomic issues revealed, to create the necessary solid base to forward evolutionary and biogeographic scenarios. Two genera are already earmarked for morphometric revisions, the small cyprinids of the genus Enteromius and the catfish genus Amphilius. Because of the uninformative nature of the results of standard sequencing techniques in haplochromines, we will concentrate on RAD-sequencing for this group. We will complement samples from the region to an ongoing small-scale project that is concentrated on Lake Edward, to the mutual benefit of both projects. For this, the samples need to be properly identified. Major obstacle here is the lack of knowledge of the Lake Albert assemblage. Hence, a morphometric revision is included. We will also use RAD-sequencing for selected non-haplochromines in order to acquire the necessary detail to finetune the evolutionary and ichthyo-geographic scenarios. These include the species-rich genus Enteromius and the widespread cichlid, Oreochromis niloticus, and catfish Clarias gariepinus. For the latter, unpublished data indicate also an out-of-Kivu scenario. All analyses can be executed based on material collected during the HIPE-project, but one expedition to the Kivu area is planned to collect complement the samples for genetic studies. If necessary, DNA will be extracted from preserved collection specimens. As outputs, we envisage a database of genetic barcodes and RAD sequences for the fishes of the region, revisions of key fish groups (haplochromines and others), phylogeographics and evolutionary history reconstruction for several important fish groups, and formulation of a scenario for the ichthyo-geography of the KEA region.

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From exposure to effects of pollutants: a dynamic mechanistic basis. 01/12/2020 - 30/11/2023

Abstract

Since we will be able to re-apply for a MSCA-ITN with the same scope as the unsuccessful application (QTOX: Quantitative extrapolation in ecotoxicology), the SEP funds will be used to obtain results that will strengthen the basis for our proposal. The particular strengths of the SPHERE group in this regard are measurement and modelling of chemical speciation dynamics in the exposure medium, development of novel active passive sampling devices, characterisation of biouptake rates and subcellular compartmentalisation of pollutants. Several ongoing PhD projects in SPHERE are dealing with aspects of these issues. Within the MSCA-ITN we have the ambition to go beyond current empirical ecotoxicological models to establish mechanistic knowledge of the underlying processes in the chain from exposure to effects of pollutants. Recent work in SPHERE has highlighted the physicochemically erroneous nature of widely used equilibrium-based chemical speciation codes, e.g. WHAM, NICA-Donnan, that are used as input to bioavailability and ecotoxicity models, e.g. BLM, Bio-met, PNEC-PRO. Despite the poor physicochemical basis of such models, they are being increasingly incorporated into environmental policy, e.g. water quality guidelines. The SEP will allow us to critically evaluate the results of ongoing SPHERE projects in the context of widely used bioavailability and ecotoxicity models, and thereby take steps towards development of a robust mechanistic foundation for describing the relationships between exposure and effects of pollutants. Beyond the research tasks, we will promote scientific activity in the subject area by chairing sessions on related topics at the SETAC Europe annual conference (ca. 2,000 participants), and will provide training for early stage researchers by running an intensive postgraduate course on Speciation and Bioavailability in 2021 and 2023 (pending possible SARS-CoV-2 restrictions). The course is part of SPHERE's contribution to the MSCA-ITN training programme. The SEP funds will be used to partly support a temporary academic staff member to be involved in supervision of ongoing PhD students in related topics, to perform modelling tasks, and to lead the preparation of the revised MSCA-ITN proposal; technical staff to support experimental tasks and to maintain and run instrumentation; as well as consumables and travel expenses that may arise in executing the research.

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Versatility by processing: proprotein convertases and their role in expanding neuropeptidergic diversity. 01/11/2020 - 31/10/2023

Abstract

Neuropeptides are signaling molecules used by all Metazoan nervous systems to control physiology and behavior. They are produced by extensive processing from larger protein precursors. In mammals, examples are known where this processing can lead to distinct sets of neuropeptides in different tissues, due to differential expression of the proprotein convertases; a family of proteases responsible for cleavage of the protein precursors. However, apart from these few examples, little is known on how extensive differential processing is, and how proprotein convertases might be responsible for expanding signaling diversity in the nervous system. Via this project proposal, I am to address ignorance regarding this level of control, and provide detailed information on the prevalence and functional impact of differential processing. To unveil fundamental principles of differential neuropeptide processing, I intend to use peptidomics on the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans, an organism for which I can also map the differentially processed neuropeptides and their proprotein convertases precisely to the individual cells or tissues where these are produced. This information will guide functional studies, where I aim to unveil the physiological impact of differential neuropeptide processing. Overall, this work aims to provide insight into how differential processing can functionally diversify the neuropeptide arsenal, as generated from a fixed set of precursors.

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Unravelling the effects of individual coping style and long-term glucocorticoid up-regulation on cardiac remodelling in Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). 01/11/2020 - 31/10/2022

Abstract

Chronic stress in fish due to the intensification in aquaculture can lead to reduced performance (metabolism, growth, reproduction) and a compromised immune system, resulting in a decline in fish production yield and fish welfare. In this framework, quantification and subsequent mitigation of chronic stress was shown to be pivotal in a more sustainable aquaculture. Non-specific mortality of salmonids in the seawater-rearing phase is one of the major recurring problems in the aquaculture industry and especially the sudden stress-related mortality of fish ready for slaughter and subsequent economic losses. However, knowledge on the underlying factors causing this mortality are lacking, though it is attributed in large part to cardiac disease which could be linked to chronic stress. Indeed, it was demonstrated that cortisol responsiveness in salmonids is associated with pathological remodelling of the heart and that this stress hormone directly induces such remodelling. The main objective of this study is to unravel the effects of individual coping style and long-term cortisol up-regulation on cardiac remodelling in one of the most important aquaculture species, the Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar, look at the consequences for fish performance and test a potential mitigation strategy.

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The use of alternative genomic markers to reconstruct the complex evolutionary histroy of neotropical small felids. 01/11/2020 - 31/10/2022

Abstract

Tracing the evolutionary origin of species can be a challenging task, especially when these species cross-breed and thereby cloud the genetic record of their evolution. Fast-developing techniques in acquiring genetic information have improved to the point where complete genomes can be routinely sequenced. One of the upcoming questions is how to make optimal use of this massive amount of data. This research project combines the above challenges, by using complete genomes of a group of cross-breeding cat species from Latin America. The objective is to optimize the use of vast genomic data to elucidate evolutionary history in a complex context of hybridization and other confounding processes. Various international partners are involved, and I will set up a close collaboration between the University of Antwerp and PUCRS, a Brazilian university with expertise in Neotropical carnivores. Part of the data required for this project is already available at PUCRS, where I contributed to the preliminary results that guide the two objectives of this project: (1) use complete genomes, including from museum specimens, to clarify the evolutionary relationships between the different species of small spotted cats in Latin America, and (2) complement the first objective with novel methods based on alternative genomic markers and partitions to maximize the amount of information that can be gained from these genomic sequences.

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Characterising genetic and phenotypic signatures of fisheries-induced life history evolution in commercially important Malawi cichlid fish. 01/11/2020 - 31/10/2022

Abstract

We currently lack a detailed understanding of how organisms rapidly adapt to environmental changes, which is key in evaluating and predicting human impact on nature, uncovering the genetic basis of adaptive traits, and gaining insight into fundamental evolutionary processes. Evolutionary response to a direct form of human impact, fishing,has often been discussed but evidence from natural systems is scarce. To address this, I will investigate genetic and phenotypic changes in Malawi cichlid fish following ~40 years of intense fishing. In particular, I will address life-history trait changes. Genome sequencing of museum specimens collected before and during fishing will give unprecedented insight into genes under selection. Extensive genomic resources available for Lake Malawi cichlids will allow me to investigate the evolutionary history of genes used in recent adaptation. I will leverage the ease of breeding cichlids in the lab to experimentally quantify genetic and environmental differences in traits implicated in fisheries-induced evolution. Furthermore, I will use state of the art (ancient) DNA and RNA sequencing technologies and bioinformatic methods to identify the genomic signature & molecular pathways involved in rapid life history adaptation. The combination of genome sequencing and controlled breeding experiments will greatly advance our understanding of how genomes can rapidly adapt to fishing and the link between selective pressures, phenotypes and genotypes.

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The molecular basis of human-induced life history adaptation. 01/10/2020 - 30/09/2024

Abstract

We currently lack a detailed understanding of how organisms rapidly adapt to environmental changes. However, gaining such an understanding is key in evaluating and predicting human impact on nature, can uncover the genetic basis of adaptive traits, and give insight into fundamental evolutionary processes. The most direct form of human impact on animal populations is hunting or fishing. Evolutionary responses to fishing have been often discussed, but direct evidence from natural systems is scarce. To address this, we will investigate genetic and phenotypic changes in Malawi cichlid fish following ~40 years of extremely intense fishing. We have recently produced genome sequencing data of 510 individuals of weakly and intensely fished populations from present day and from 18 years ago that will be analysed in this project. Combining this with innovative genome sequencing of museum specimens collected before and during fishing will give unprecedented insight into genes under selection. Furthermore, we will leverage the ease and relative speed of breeding cichlids in the lab to experimentally quantify genetic and environmental differences in traits life history traits implicated in fisheries-induced evolution. Integrating phenotypic measurement with the genomic differentiation measures into a quantitative genetics framework will allow us to directly test whether selection has acted on life history traits. Finally, we will characterise gene expression levels through transcriptome sequencing of tissues important in growth and maturation in weakly and intensely fished populations at different life stages. This will provide insight into adaptation at an important intermediate layer between genotypes and phenotypes. In summary, the combination of genome sequencing of recent and historic natural populations with controlled breeding experiments and transcriptome sequencing will greatly advance our understanding of the link between selective pressures, phenotypes and genotypes and has the potential to uncover how genomes can rapidly adapt to fishing.

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Freshwater ecosystems with a burn-out: extra stress caused by heatwaves? 01/10/2020 - 30/09/2024

Abstract

In this project, our specific focus will be directed towards understanding the interaction between climate warming and two prominent stressors in freshwater habitats: eutrophication (as nitrate pollution) and low dissolved oxygen (hypoxia). Freshwater habitats often receive excessive inputs of nitrates from urban and agricultural sources, and nitrogen is considered the main limiting nutrient for primary production. Nitrate pollution is closely linked to a second stressor - hypoxia. Because of the nitrate pollution, rapid, uncontrolled growth of algal blooms is often triggered, and the unnatural density of algal blooms causes light reduction for macrophytes during the day and nightly hypoxia when photosynthesis is not occurring. In the past it has been postulated that many small fish deplete the zooplanktonic grazers such as daphnids under warm and eutrophic conditions, inducing the turbid waters with algal blooms. However, climate change does not only induce steady increases in temperature but is also causing more frequent and severe heatwaves. In this project we postulate that these heatwaves will seriously negatively affect performance and survival of the fish, which in turn will affect shifts in the aquatic food web towards more zooplankton and hence potential less severe algal blooms.

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Influence of soil properties on the sorption of per- and polyfluoroalkylated substances to soil and the bioavailability and bioaccumulation to terrestrial biota. 01/10/2020 - 30/09/2023

Abstract

Per- and polyfluoralkylated substances or PFAS, which have been used in large quantities since the 1940s because of their applications such as food packaging, are receiving increasing attention since the early 2000s. The production and use of PFAS have led to the global detection in the environment. Despite regulatory measures for perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoate (PFOA), the most frequently detected PFAS, there are concerns on many other PFAS that are similar in structure and properties and that are not regulated. Soils form the basis of the terrestrial food chain and PFAS uptake from contaminated soils is known to cause human exposure to PFAS. However, there are many uncertainties on the behaviour of PFAS in soils and the following bioavailability to and bioaccumulation in biota. The general objective of my project is to investigate the role of soil properties and temperature on the uptake and distribution of PFAS in the terrestrial food chain. Descriptive studies, close to a fluorochemical plant, will provide us with an overview of the concentrations of legacy, novel and unknown PFAS in the terrestrial food chain and how these concentrations are influenced by soil properties. In addition, experimental studies will be performed to disentangle causal links from confounding effects, but also to study the uptake and effects in terrestrial invertebrates and plants. This study will help policy makers to set new, or alter existing, PFAS criteria for soil.

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SPHERE LAB: An accredited body for ecotoxicological risk assessment. 01/09/2020 - 31/08/2021

Abstract

The project will bring part of the SPHERE research group to ISO 17025 "General requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories" accreditation. The main activities of the project are all focused on different points of the ISO standard: validation of methods, training of personnel, establishing a quality management system, etc. Additionally we foresee a limited investment in equipment which needs to be compliant to the standard in terms of validation possibilities and the prevention of use by SPHERE members not trained in the quality system. As to valorization, we will operate as a service lab with an open eye for spinoff creation in the future.

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Project website

Ecotoxicity of industrial effluents in chemical industry 01/06/2020 - 31/05/2022

Abstract

The primary objective of the project is to develop a method for ecotoxicological evaluation of effluents in (industrial) water purification plants. A method that makes it possible to trace the origin of the ecotoxicological risk up to the level that remediation is possible. The underlying objective is to deliver a method manual that can be used on the floor by companies and other stakeholders. At the end of the project, the focus will be on about 30 committed companies, 20 of which are in implementation. This will expand rapidly upon acceptance of the method by VMM

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Project website

Toward a risk-based assessment of microplastic pollution in marine ecosystems (RESPONSE). 01/04/2020 - 31/03/2023

Abstract

RESPONSE integrates expertise on oceanography, environmental chemistry, ecotoxicology, experimental ecology and modelling to answer key research questions on fate and biological effects of microplastics (MPs) and nanoplastics (NPs) in marine ecosystems. Hydrological transport dynamics will identify possible accumulation zones in European coastal ecosystems, while characterization of vertical distribution of MPs and NPs in the water column and sediments will optimise practical monitoring and sampling efforts. Links between oceanographic conditions, environmental distribution of MPs and NPs, trophic transfer and impact on pelagic food webs and benthic communities will be addressed by analysing their abundance and typologies in representative marine species, as well as relevant ecosystem functions and services. Innovative mesocosm and laboratory studies will validate weighting factors and toxicological thresholds for MPs and NPs. The approach will assess the role of size, shape and other polymer characteristics in modulating biological effects of particles, both alone and in combination with other environmental stressors. A technological Smart Hub, combining complementary instrumental facilities and expertise of some partners and external companies, will support analytical needs of the consortium and further methodological developments. The overall aim of RESPONSE is to develop a quantitative Weight Of Evidence (WOE) model for MPs and NPs in the marine environment. The model will be designed to integrate and differentially weight data from a suite of lines of evidence, including (1) the presence of MPs and NPs in water column and sediments, (2) their bioavailability and bioaccumulation in key indicator species from benthic and planktonic communities (3) sublethal effects measured via biomarkers, (3) the onset of chronic adverse effects at the organism level, and (4) ecological functioning. The results will provide support for development of MSFD monitoring strategies.

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Project website

Towards ecological risk assessment of nanoplastics: dynamic considerations. 01/01/2020 - 31/12/2023

Abstract

Plastic particles are everywhere in the environment and there is concern about the adverse effects they may have on organisms, and subsequently on ecosystems. Much global attention has been directed towards so-called microplastics, i.e. plastic particles with dimensions in the millimeter to micrometer range. Microplastics slowly degrade in the environment, by physical and chemical processes, into smaller and smaller entities, eventually reaching the nano-size domain. Due to difficulties in sampling and characterisation, almost nothing is known about the amounts and behaviour of extremely small plastic particles with dimensions on the order of nanometers, i.e. nanoplastics. Our project addresses this knowledge gap. We will measure and model the chemical reactivity, biouptake, and bioaccumulation of nanoplastics and their adverse effects on aquatic organisms. The results will provide fundamental information which enable robust risk assessment strategies to be developed that inform environmental policies.

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Dumpsites of munitions: integrated science approach to risk and management (DISARM). 01/01/2020 - 31/12/2023

Abstract

The Paardenmarkt is one of the many munition dumpsites in our oceans. A few m below the seafloor, ca. 35.000 tons of WW1 chemical munition are buried. The present scientific knowledge is insufficient to make any reliable judgement on the state of the site. The DISARM project aims to address the knowledge gaps, but will go an important step further to develop an integrated scientific approach to support risk assessment and management of marine chemical munition dumpsites worldwide, using the Paardenmarkt munition dumpsite as a challenging case study. A thorough characterisation of the present state of the dumpsite is the project start. Novel technologies will be used to determine the burial depth, take sediment samples close to the munition, and assess the freshwater flux at the site. Chemical warfare agents (CWA), explosives and their degradation products will be analysed with new methodologies, advancing detection limits. The physical state of the shells will be evaluated through an innovative ombination of experimental analyses and integrated modelling of different corrosion processes. Novel in-situ passive sampling devices will analyse a time-integrated spatial distribution of the waterexchangeable fraction of munition-related chemical compounds. This will be related to bioaccumulation and ecotoxicity of these compounds in laboratory bio-assays including passive dosing. Dynamic modelling of chemical fate and effects on humans and the environment (including mixture toxicity) will result in a chemical risk assessment. Dedicated experiments and models will evaluate the explosion risk of the aged compounds. Collaborating microbial communities will be constructed to break down key hazardous chemicals through smart inoculation. New technologies for monitoring and management will be evaluated together with key players in the field. Finally we will develop a scientific workflow for dumpsite research and provide a policy informing document.

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CALI-capture the light. 01/01/2020 - 31/12/2021

Abstract

The equipment applied for in this application is the Tecan SPARK®, a multimode microplate reader. The instrument reads microtiter plates up to 384 wells in various modes. Equipped with several monochromators, it measures optical density, several fluorescence modes and luminescence. It has an incubator-shaker ranging from 18° to 42°C. Unlike many other readers on the market, it is capable of measuring the quality and quantity of nucleic acids and proteins in volumes down to 2 microliters on 16 samples in parallel. It is a modular system which allows future extension with flash injectors, plate stacker, automatic lid removal etc… Prof. L. Bervoets (promotor), prof. G. De Boeck, and prof. H. Svardal (co-promotors) work in the SPHERE group on the effects of environmental stressors, both natural and anthropogenic, on the performance of aquatic and terrestrial organisms, in vivo and in vitro with an emphasis on mechanisms and ecological relevance. Prof. E. Prinsen (co-promotor) and the IMPRES group study plant stress and energy metabolism, acclimation mechanisms and the modelling of Leaf growth and tip growth and the role of plant hormones therein. All team members have an increasing need of in vitro assays to determine enzymatic activity and several other biomarkers such as hormones and cellular metabolites. The advanced possibilities of the SPARK® instrument offer several advantages, e.g. fluorescence modes, luminescence, scanning mode, etc., compared to the groups' current instruments (>10 years old). Notably, the cooling capacity of the incubator is unique on the market today. The facility for cooling is very important for the groups' research: SPHERE mainly focusses on the aquatic environment, and IMPRES on plants in a temperate climate, hence it is necessary to run assays at temperatures lower than typical room.

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Remobilisation of pollutants from sediments 19/12/2019 - 19/12/2021

Abstract

On several locations in Flanders sediments are seriously contaminated. Within the framework of European regulation (Water Framework Directive) it is important to assess the impact of this pollution on the aquatic ecosystem. Within this project, the possible influence of sediment contamination on the water quality and ecological goals of the ecosystem will be investigated. The project consists of a literature study, field measurements and experiments and the elaboration of a policy framework for Flanders.

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Patterns of phenotypic similarity in the haplochromine cichlids of the Lake Victoria Region Superflock: an eco-morphological and genomic approach. 01/11/2019 - 31/10/2023

Abstract

Species that look very similar are not always closely related. Numerous examples of so-called convergent evolution have been reported: the flippers of penguins and dolphins, the wings of bats, birds, and insects, and the striking similarity between the eyes of humans and squids. Although structures look similar, the mechanisms of how they developed can be different. The Lake Victoria region (lakes Edward, Kivu, Albert, Victoria), is inhabited by 700 species of cichlids, a family of perch-like fishes that evolved very rapidly. Each of these species inhabits a single lake, and many species look very similar, both within a lake and between lakes. How they are related to each other has, however, remains unknown. Their young age and many similarities make these cichlids a perfect system to investigate how similar forms arise. Are they more closely related to each other or did they evolve independently from each other, and if so, which mechanisms underlie their similarity? For this, we will collect morphological and genomic data from 100 species from four distinct lakes. Similarities between species will be quantified, how similar species are related to each other will be genetically determined, and the regions of their DNA that contribute to their similarity will be determined. This will allow us to determine how these young species are related to each other and how similarities emerge within distinct species of cichlids from the Lake Victoria region.

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Development of a biomonitoring tool to estimate risks of perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) through consumption of self-cultivated food products. 01/11/2019 - 31/10/2023

Abstract

Perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) are a diverse family of anthropogenic chemicals with unique physicochemical properties that have resulted in numerous industrial and commercial applications. Their broad application and bioaccumulation potential has led to their worldwide presence in the environment and detection in biota including humans. Over the last decade, consuming food products by humans from self-cultivation has become a remarkable trend in rural, urban and even industrial areas. Nevertheless, PFAAs can enter the food chain due to their widespread use and food intake has been identified as a major pathway for human exposure to PFAAs. Despite the ubiquitous presence and known bio accumulation potential of PFAAs, there is no overview of their spatial distribution pattern or degree of exposure via dietary intake. Nevertheless, it is crucial to solve these two major knowledge gaps to reveal the health risks associated with PFAA exposure. Therefore, the objectives of this proposal are (I) investigate the accumulation of PFAAs in important food items (chicken eggs and vegetables) from private gardens and the influence of soil characteristics, (II) develop a biomonitoring tool that estimates the risks associated with PFAA contamination in food, (III) deliver novel insights in the toxic properties and effects of PFAAs in chickens and (IV) investigate if PFAA concentrations in the food items exceed safety threshold values for human consumption.

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Charting the genomic landscape of hybridisation and genetic introgression across the Lake Malawi cichlid adaptive radiation. 01/11/2019 - 31/10/2023

Abstract

Recent genome studies suggest that hybridisation and genetic exchange among closely related species is more common than previously thought. Consequently, a central question in the study of biodiversity is the effect of genetic exchange on the formation and maintenance of species diversity. With more than 800 closely related species, the Lake Malawi cichlid fish adaptive radiation provides an intriguing model to study the frequency and evolutionary role of interspecific genetic exchange. Malinsky et al. (2018) found strong evidence for extensive gene flow early on in the Malawi radiation and made some links to adaptation. However, due to limitations in sampling and statistical inference methods, we are still lacking a comprehensive picture of the abundance and evolutionary role of genetic exchange in Malawi cichlids and in most other organisms. In this project I will establish a genomic framework for the joint inference of species relationships and genetic exchange, applying it to a unique dataset of more than 2000 genomes from 276 Malawi cichlid species to gain unprecedented insight into the abundance of genetic exchange between different populations, species and genera. Furthermore, I will refine a statistical method I developed during my Master's to test whether selection has acted on exchanged genetic material. In summary, this project will yield widely applicable genomic tools and insight into the role of gene flow in one of the most intriguing vertebrate radiations.

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ClicFloats Solar panel systems 02/09/2019 - 01/01/2022

Abstract

Clicfloats wants to produce a light connection system ClicFloats and floats for light solar panels for use in specific locations, such as: 1. water basins and ponds Until now, only heavy, classic solar panels are used. The self-cleaning, light panels allow a safe and comfortable installation of solar panels on water basins of farmers and gardeners and on ponds, thanks to the easy-to-install float system for these light panels. 2. roofs and structures that have insufficient load-bearing capacity and stability for traditional solar panels, such as at a number of factories, agricultural sheds, government buildings, schools, ...). 3. bicycle o-strades, where the canopy made of recycled waste with integrated light solar panels protects cyclists against wind and rain. In this way, on a bicycle path illuminated at night, cyclists can safely experience their healthy cycling journey as a pleasure and thus take car journeys out of traffic again.

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Sampling and analysis of micropolluatnts in Biota from aquatic systems in Flanders 13/08/2019 - 12/08/2022

Abstract

Aquatic ecosystems and waterbodies are under persistent stress of chemical pollutants, mainly of anthropogenic origin. High concentrations can harm entire ecosystems and be potentially toxic to humans. The European Water Framework Directive (WFD) obliges member states to monitor chemical compounds in surface waters and to set quality standards that protect against detrimental effects of toxic compounds. Generally, most of the target chemical compounds are able to be measured in water or sediment samples. However, the low water solubility of highly hydrophobic compounds precludes direct measurement in water. Accordingly, the WFD has formulated biota quality standards (BQS), for 11 priority compounds and their derivatives, which refer to concentrations of compounds that have to be monitored in fish and bivalves (biota). In the present study, bioaccumulation of hexachlorobenzene (HCBz), hexachlorobutadiene (HCBd), mercury (Hg), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE), hexabromo-cyclododecane (HBCD), perfluoro-octaansulphonate (PFOS) and its derivatives, dicofol, heptachlor and heptachlor epoxide, and dioxins and dioxin-like compounds were measured in muscle tissue of perch (Perca fluviatilis) and European eel (Anguilla anguilla) originating from different Flemish water bodies. Fluoranthene and benzo(a)pyrene were measured in zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha) and quagga mussel (Dreissena bugensis), using active biomonitoring. In every sampling point at least one of both selected fish species could be collected. For fluoranthene an exceedance of the standard was observed in some sampling locations in zebra mussel, for benzo(a)pyrene there were some exceedances for both zebra and quagga mussel. Dioxin concentrations exceeded the standard in 4 sampling locations in eel muscle tissue. For PFOS, an exceedance of the standard was detected at almost every location for both fish species. The biota quality standard for Hg and PBDE was exceeded in every sampling location and for both fish species. One sample had PBDE concentrations below the quantification limit, which is more than 10 times higher than the BQS. Concentrations of HCBd and dicofol were below the quantification limit. Furthermore no exceedances of the standard were found for HCBz and HBCD. For heptachlor all measurements where below the quantification limits (40 times higher than the standard), cis-heptachlor epoxide exceeded the quantification limit in all except one location in eel muscle tissue and in 3 locations in perch muscle tissue. An overall trend of higher concentrations per wet weight in eel than in perch was detected. Nonetheless, after correction for lipid content, this trend was no longer present or even reversed with higher concentrations in perch muscle tissue, indicating the lipophilic properties of these compounds. This was true for all compounds – except for PFOS: in fact, this compound showed the exact opposite trend. Concentrations of PAHs were always higher in zebra mussel than in quagga mussel. This is possibly caused by the higher trophic position of the first. For both fish species, however, we could not find clear differences in trophic level. Finally, calculated concentrations using the passive samplers, compared to existing literature, show promising applicability and incites further development of this tool. Based on the results of the present study and – where possible – a comparison to data present in literature, it is evident that the existing biota quality standards for Hg, PBDE and PFOS are exceeded in all fish species from Flemish and European water bodies.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Understanding the role of old genomic variation in rapid adaptation. 01/04/2019 - 31/03/2023

Abstract

The 100s of closely related but ecologically diverse species of Lake Malawi cichlid fishes provide an exceptional model to study the genomic mechanisms involved rapid adaptation and diversification. We have recently found that Lake Malawi cichlids harbour genomic regions of exceptionally high genetic diversity. In this project the student will analyse recently produced whole-genome sequencing data of 100s of Lake Malawi cichlid fish species to infer the evolutionary origin of genomic regions of high genetic diversity. For example, the student will test whether these genetic variants were brought into the ancestor of Lake Malawi cichlids by hybridisation with a divergent lineage of cichlid fish and whether this variation has been maintained by balancing selection. In a second step, the student will use population genetic methods to test for the role of these genetic variants in ecological adaptation and speciation of cichlid fish species. A specific application of this will be recent adaptation of populations to heavy fishing. Preliminary evidence suggests that genetic variation in regions of high ancestral diversity is under differential selection between weakly and heavily fished populations. The student will use statistical genomic techniques to test this systematically.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Negative emissions through enhanced mineral weathering in the coastal zone. 01/01/2019 - 31/12/2022

Abstract

Negative emission technologies target the removal of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, and are being actively investigated as a strategy to limit global warming to within a 2°C increase. Enhanced silicate weathering (ESW) is an approach that uses the natural process of silicate weathering for the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere. The geochemical basis is firmly established: during dissolution of silicate minerals in seawater, CO2 is consumed and sequestered into the ocean. Hence, by deliberately introducing fast-weathering silicate minerals into the coastal zone, one could create a coastal CO2 sink. A principal advantage of ESW over other negative emission technologies is that it also counteracts ocean acidification and that it can be directly integrated into existing coastal management programs with existing technology. Although model studies show its feasibility, there has been no rigorous assessment of its CO2-sequestration efficiency and environmental impacts, which are bottlenecks to its commercial implementation. In this project, we will conduct a set of large-scale experiments to investigate the rate of ESW and associated CO2 uptake under realistic natural settings (bioturbation, waves, currents) as well as potentially important influences on the biogeochemical cycling in coastal ecosystems (release of trace metals, alkalinity and dissolved silicate). The key scientific objective of this SBO project is to perform basic research into the economic viability and environmental safety of coastal ESW, to examine if and how it can be developed into a sustainable and cost-effective approach for creating negative emissions. To this end, three important research challenges will be tackled: [1] to determine the CO2 sequestration efficiency of coastal ESW in realistic coastal conditions [2] to determine the dissolution time scale of coastal ESW in realistic coastal conditions [3] to assess the impact of trace metal release (in particular Nickel and Chromium) by coastal ESW on marine biota To achieve these objectives, we will realize: • A large-scale pilot set-up that simulates olivine weathering under in situ conditions (first largescale demo set-up of coastal ESW worldwide), and • A numerical biogeochemical model ("virtual seafloor") that simulates the dissolution of olivine in the seafloor

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Are internal concentrations of micro pollutants in aquatic organisms predictive of the ecological quality of water courses? 01/01/2019 - 31/12/2022

Abstract

For the monitoring of pollutants in the aquatic environment and the prediction of their ecological effects on aquatic organisms, most of the time only water, sediment or suspended matter is measured. However, with this approach the results only reflect the situation at the moment of sampling while concentrations might fluctuate with time. Moreover, this approach does not take into account the bio-availability, which is influenced by factors such as acidity, water hardness and temperature and that may differ substantially among sites. Therefore it makes more sense to measure toxic compounds in organisms that are resistant to pollution and that easily accumulate them. In this way fluctuations in time and differences in accumulation are integrated in the measurement. The aim of this study is to look for species (invertebrates and fish) that can be collected from natural waters (rivers, lakes, canals) or introduced in cages and in which accumulation of micro pollutants is assessed. The accumulated levels of pollutants and internal distribution will be related to the invertebrate and fish community structure. In order to confirm field results, also laboratory and mesocosm (artificial ponds) experiments will be performed in which invertebrates are exposed to the pollutants and effects on physiology, reproduction and behavior will be assessed. In this way we will investigate if this approach is suitable to derive biota quality standards that are protective of ecological damage. -

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Citizen science for monitoring macroplastics in Kenya using mobile technology (C-Smart). 01/01/2019 - 31/12/2021

Abstract

Plastic pollution is arguably one of the most important and pervasive environmental problems today. Kenya wildlife, biodiversity and fish stocks are impacted by this plastic pollution with ecological and human conse-quences. From September 2017 Kenya implemented the world's toughest plastic bag ban whereas producing, selling and using plastic bags is prohibited. This is a strong commitment and a big step in the right direction. However, we believe that there are opportunities to increase the impact of the ban in order to further reduce plastic pollution in Kenya, and also in surrounding countries. By monitoring macroplastic pollution in Kenya with Citizen Science using a new developed phone application we believe we can (1) increase awareness, (2) advice policy makers and (3) inform and persuade surrounding countries to implement source mitigation efforts. This project will exert an influence on both, political decisions and individual behaviour related to the reduction of plastic pollution.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Evolutionary, ecological and environmental omics. 01/10/2018 - 30/09/2023

Abstract

This funding will be used to initiate research projects as proposed in my tenure track ZAPBOF application and is intended to bridge the time between project start and acquisition of external research funding.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Development of an active-passive sampling device for monitoring bioavailable pollutants in water. 01/10/2018 - 30/09/2021

Abstract

Water monitoring programs are largely used to assess the quality of aquatic ecosystems and verify compliance with environmental quality standards. However, the use of inadequate tools for the assessment of the impact of pollutants to aquatic organisms often results in inaccurate evaluations of ecological risk. Current approaches either rely on the total concentration of a pollutant, which has shown to be a poor predictor of ecological risk, or make large use of organisms for biological testing. This proposal aims to create and test a new generation of monitoring devices capable of measuring the fraction of pollutants present in the water that is relevant for ecological risk assessment, that is, the fraction of pollutants effectively available for assimilation in the organism and thus most likely to cause toxicity. An interdisciplinary approach combining biological testing and chemical speciation measurements will be used to investigate mechanistic links between the uptake of organisms and devices and test the performance of the envisaged technology. The automated device will be practical to transport and use on site, and will be equipped with chemical sensors suitable for measuring a wide range of pollutants (e.g. metals and organic compounds). This will significantly reduce costs related to field work operations and laboratory analyses and contribute to more robust and reliable water quality assessments.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Past projects

LIFE NARMENA - C1: monitoring sediment: passive samplers. 25/08/2020 - 31/12/2020

Abstract

The EU Life project NARMANA investigates whether the impact of historical metal contamination can be reduced by using plants (phytoremediation). In metal-contaminated aquatic ecosystems, banks and newly created floodplains will be planted with certain plant species in order to reduce the possible toxicological effects of the metals. It is important to measure changes in the bioavailability of the metals in soil and water. In this project, the bioavailability of metals is measured with passive samplers in sediment and soil before and after the creation of floodplains.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Plastic pellets: detection, quantification and evolution of plastic pellet flow in Antwerp Harbour (Port of the Future) 01/02/2020 - 30/06/2021

Abstract

In this project, the University of Antwerp, want to make a thorough analysis together with the Port Authority of the various steps of the handling and transport process that lead to the loss and distribution of the plastic pellets in the port. In this way we arrive at a dynamic heat map of pellet loss in function of time and place. These insights ensure that not only the places of loss and risks are mapped, but also insights into potential intervention points and solutions. This must be achieved by bringing together the available expertise and knowledge within the companies, the port and the university. In a first phase, the existing situation is analyzed and mapped out, and in a second phase, targeted solutions are formulated, with the ultimate aim being to reduce losses to zero and limit the existing and future impact on the environment as much as possible.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project website

Expert advice on environmental risk assessment of contaminated sediments 23/12/2019 - 22/04/2020

Abstract

In the context of the further elaboration of the policy related to risk assessment of contaminated sediments in Flanders, OVAM has set up different actions. Initiatives from Flanders and abroad provide insight into how the risks of sediment contamination can be estimated and tackled. This results in a large amount of knowledge and information. However, it is a complex matter. That is why researchers from SPHERE, with relevant expertise, will assist OVAM. The information related to environmental risk assessment from the various projects will be used to develop its policy in Flanders.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Active passive water pollution sampling device (WATERSIDE). 01/05/2019 - 31/08/2020

Abstract

Previously an active passive sampler for accumulation of pollutants from water was developed into a laboratory prototype. Its n°1 feature is controlled flow through the device, such that sampling is independent of hydrodynamic flow in the water body. This project will establish a field-deployable prototype. Its valorization value lies in standardization and the replacement of biota sampling.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Predicting Organismal responses To Eutrophication and Climate warming in Tandem (PROTECT). 01/05/2019 - 31/05/2019

Abstract

Worldwide habitat degradation has created a matrix of environmental stressors for species to navigate; but, understanding interactions among stressors is one of the largest knowledge deficiencies in ecological conservation. Anthropogenic eutrophication (hereafter, eutrophication) and climate warming are two of the most pervasive global stressors. The environmental and economic burdens of eutrophication and climate warming in isolation are well documented, with frequent reports of species range shifts and extinctions, fisheries collapses and contamination of drinking water. Eutrophication events are predicted to increase in frequency, duration and intensity under forecasted climate warming. However, it is unknown how climate warming and eutrophication will interact to affect the functional performance of fish. Stressor interactions can reveal 'ecological surprises', where exposure to one stressor may heighten or reduce resilience to another stressor. PROTECT aims to explores how simultaneous exposure to eutrophication and climate warming impacts the physiology, behaviour and fitness of a range of fish species. A mechanistic, experimental approach will be implemented to assess the efficacy of physiological compensation in buffering the negative impacts of these stressors, which unless combated, may lead to cardio-respiratory compromise, impaired swimming and reduced fitness. Comparative studies will aim to reveal mechanisms underlying inter-species differences in susceptibility to eutrophication in a warmer world. This project will unveil crucial data required to incorporate climate warming scenarios into eutrophication control guidelines, ultimately aiding conservation efforts in novel environments.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Sequencing DNA of museum specimens to uncover the genetic basis of rapid adaptation to heavy fishing. 01/04/2019 - 30/03/2020

Abstract

We currently lack a detailed understanding of how organisms rapidly adapt genetically to environmental changes. However, gaining such an understanding is key in evaluating and predicting human impact on nature, can uncover the genetic basis of adaptive traits, and give insight into fundamental evolutionary processes. To address this, we will dissect the genetic factors contributing to rapid adaptation in Lake Malawi cichlid fish populations following ~40 years of extremely heavy fishing. We have already collected and whole-genome sequenced 96 samples from present day weakly and heavily fished populations. Analysis of these samples suggested overall very close relatedness between populations, but identified the presence of candidate genomic regions of high genetic divergence between weakly and heavily fished populations. Here we suggest to sequence the genomes of museum specimens (an innovative technique sometimes referred to as "museomics") from the same populations before the onset of heavy fishing and during fishing. Samples are available through established collaborations with the British Museum of Natural History, the Monkey Bay Fisheries Research Station in Malawi, and Prof. Erik Verheyen (University of Antwerp and Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences). Comparing the genetic composition of historic populations with the present-day genetic composition (after 40 years of heavy fishing) will enable us to identify candidate genes conferring adaptation to fishing. We have performed a pilot study, which suggests that the museum specimens used in this study yield sufficient DNA for genome sequencing. We also have recently established breeding colonies of the same fish populations at the University of Antwerp, which will allow us in future projects to follow up phenotypic changes related to the genetic adaptations identified here. This project will yield important data and results to support an ERC starting grant application by the applicant on this study system that aims to dissect the links between genotypes, phenotypes and selective pressures in rapid human-induced evolution.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Development of an active-passive sampling device for monitoring bioavailable pollutants in water. 01/04/2019 - 30/03/2020

Abstract

Concentrations of metals (e.g. Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Ni, Pb Zn) and organic compounds (e.g. pesticides, flame retardants, pharmaceuticals, POP) in aquatic ecosystems have been increasing in the last several decades as a result of urban spread, farming and industrial activities. Water monitoring programs are used to assess the quality of aquatic ecosystems and verify compliance with environmental quality standards. However, the use of inadequate tools for assessing pollutant concentrations in water often result in inaccurate evaluations of ecological risk. Current approaches used for water quality monitoring either measure the total dissolved concentration of a pollutant, which has shown to be a poor predictor of ecological risk, or make large use of organisms for biological testing. This proposal aims to create and test the technology required to develop a new generation of monitoring devices capable of measuring the fraction of pollutants present in the water that is relevant for ecological risk assessment, that is, the fraction of pollutants available for assimilation in the organism and that could potentially cause toxicity. This device will be practical to transport and use on site, and will be capable of autonomously measure a wide range of pollutants in water over long periods (from days to weeks). This will significantly reduce costs related to field work operations and laboratory analyses. The new technology will contribute to more robust and reliable water quality assessments.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Insight into the combined effects of eutrophication and climate warming on fish. 01/04/2019 - 31/05/2019

Abstract

Worldwide habitat degradation has created a matrix of stressors for species to navigate but understanding interactions among stressors is one of the largest knowledge deficiencies in ecological conservation. Anthropogenic eutrophication (hereafter, eutrophication) and climate warming are two of the most pervasive global stressors. The environmental and economic burdens of eutrophication and climate warming by themselves are well documented, with frequent reports of species range shifts and mortalities, fisheries collapses and contamination of drinking water. The consequences of eutrophication are predicted to surge under forecasted climate change as heat waves lead to more intense and frequent eutrophication events. However, it is unknown how climate warming and eutrophication will interact to impact the physiological performance of fish. Stressor interactions can reveal 'ecological surprises', where exposure to one stressor may heighten or reduce resilience to another stressor. This project will explore how simultaneous exposure to eutrophication and climate warming impacts the physiology, behaviour and fitness of a valuable fish species- the European grayling (Thymallus thymallus). A mechanistic, experimental approach will be implemented to assess the efficacy of physiological compensation in coping with the negative impacts of these stressors, which unless combated, may lead to cardio-respiratory compromise, impaired swimming, altered behaviour and reduced fitness. This project will unveil crucial data required to advance our understanding of stressor interactions and may ultimately aid conservation efforts in novel and changing environments.

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: Rodgers Essie

Research team(s)

Expert advice on risk assessment of contaminated sediments 15/03/2019 - 15/04/2019

Abstract

Flanders public waste agency (OVAM) is currently working on new legislation concerning a sediment risk assessment framework for Flanders. Within this project researchers of SPHERE (UAntwerp) will contribute to different aspects of this framework.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Development of a biomonitoring tool to estimate health risks of perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) through consumption of seld-cultivated and commercial food products. 01/01/2019 - 31/10/2019

Abstract

Perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) are a diverse family of anthropogenic chemicals with unique physicochemical properties that have resulted in numerous industrial and commercial applications. Their broad application and bioaccumulation potential has led to their worldwide presence in the environment and detection in biota including humans. Over the last decade, humans consuming food products from self-cultivation and local companies has become a remarkable trend in rural, urban and even industrial areas. Nevertheless, PFAAs can enter the food chain due to their widespread use and food intake has been identified as a major pathway for human exposure to PFAAs. Despite the ubiquitous presence and known toxic effects of PFAAs, there is no overview of their spatial distribution pattern or degree of exposure via dietary intake. Nevertheless, it is crucial to solve these two major knowledge gaps to reveal the health risks associated with PFAA exposure. Therefore, I will (i) develop a biomonitoring tool that estimates the risks associated with PFAA contamination in food, (ii) clarify the spatial distribution pattern of PFAAs and (iii) deliver novel insights in the toxic properties and effects of PFAAs. My research outcome will significantly improve the monitoring capabilities of regulatory agencies while the outcome of the studied PFAA effects will be of great relevance for the poultry industry, especially companies located within proximity of PFAA producing and processing industry.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Support in the development of risk assessment procedures for river sediments 06/02/2018 - 31/12/2018

Abstract

As part of the further development of its sediment policy, OVAM has set up various actions. Work is continuing on a standard procedure and a code of good practice for sediment research, a system for risk assessment for water beds and shores, a study 'Validation hotspots' has started, and a number of descriptive sediment studies for surface waters are being carried out. Sphere offers the expertise that can support OVAM and the appointed soil remediation experts and more specifically for the development of a system for risk assessments

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Ecotoxicological effects of sulphates to aquatic organisms 01/10/2017 - 30/09/2019

Abstract

In order to derive scientifically based environmental quality standard (EQS) for sulphates in fresh water ecosystems sufficient data should be available. The 'European Union Technical Guidance Document for Deriving Environmental Quality Standards (EU-TGD, 2011)' provides different methods to derive EQS. Preferentially chronic ecotoxicological data should be used (NOEC, No Observed Effect Concentrations) in combination with species sensitivity distributions (SSD). Based on these data a HC5 (Hazard Concentration 5%) can be derived, which is a concentration that is considered to be protective for 95% of all the species included in the SSD. According to t e guidelines minimal 15 species belonging to at least 8 different taxonomic groups should be included. Based on a first screening of all available data it has been noted that not all taxonomic groups are represented so far (especially insects are lacking). In this study the existing literature on sulphate toxicity on fresh water organisms will screened in detail and in addition chronic toxicity tests on insect larvae will be performed in order to gain more information that can be used for the derivation of a safe EQS.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Dendritic remodeling as fuel for axonal regeneration. 01/10/2017 - 30/09/2019

Abstract

In this project we aim at shedding light on how dendritic remodeling processes contribute to neuronal survival and axonal regeneration in the injured teleost fish CNS and at investigating whether modulation of underlying molecules or pathways can lead to increased neuroprotection or regeneration in the mammalian CNS. Thereto, a combination of state-of-the-art molecular, biochemical, morphological, functional and behavioral tools will be used in two vertebrates with different strengths: zebrafish and mice.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Development of an active-passive sampling device for monitoring bioavailable pollutants in water. 01/10/2017 - 30/09/2018

Abstract

Concentrations of metals (e.g. Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Ni, Pb Zn) and organic compounds (e.g. pesticides, flame retardants, pharmaceuticals) in aquatic ecosystems have been increasing in the last several decades as a result of urban spread, farming and industrial activities. Water monitoring programs are used to assess the quality of aquatic ecosystems and verify compliance with environmental quality standards. However, the use of inadequate tools for assessing pollutant concentrations in water often result in inaccurate evaluations of ecological risk. Current approaches used for water quality monitoring either measure the total concentration of a pollutant, which has shown to be a poor predictor of ecological risk, or make large use of organisms for biological testing. This proposal aims to create and test the technology required to develop a new generation of monitoring devices capable of measuring the fraction of pollutants present in the water that is relevant for ecological risk assessment, that is, the fraction of pollutants available for assimilation in the organism and that could potentially cause toxicity. This device will be practical to transport and use on site, and will be capable of autonomously measure a wide range of pollutants in water over long periods (from days to weeks). This will significantly reduce costs related to field work operations and laboratory analyses. The new technology will contribute to more robust and reliable water quality assessments.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Sullied Sediment: Sediment characterisation and clean up pilots in inland waterways in the North Sea Region. 01/08/2017 - 30/06/2020

Abstract

This project delivers better assessment, better treatment and better prevention of contamination in pilot NSR waterways by the new EU 'Watch List' (WL) chemicals, emerging drugs, and nutrients, which are not subject to EU monitoring laws until 2020, but are building up in sediments in these waterways. Regulatory authorities do not know their levels, locations or impacts. Nor do they have the tools to assess sediments and make management decisions with regard to such chemicals. Through Work Package (WP) 3 - Sediment Assessment, this project will provide the tools for sediment assessment in order to enable better risk assessment and reduce economic costs. In WP4 - Clean-Up, this project will pilot innovative spore technology to remove selected WL chemicals at waste-water treatment plants (WWTPs) in order to bring about a reduction in their levels. Including an end-of-waste assessment approach, using WP3 and WP4-delivered data, will also promote future sediment re-use. One way that WL chemicals enter our waterways is through consumer use of everyday products. Through WP5 - Changing Behaviour, this project will target citizen behaviour to reduce the levels of specific WL chemicals arriving at WWTPs in pilot catchments. This project will therefore provide and validate new tools to assess, treat and prevent WL chemical contamination of the NSR waterways by bringing together scientific experts and regulators in a transnational partnership to address what is a transnational problem.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Sampling and analysis of micropolluatnts in Biota from aquatic systems in Flanders 28/07/2017 - 31/12/2019

Abstract

Aquatic ecosystems and waterbodies are under persistent stress of chemical pollutants, mainly of anthropogenic origin. High concentrations can harm entire ecosystems and be potentially toxic to humans. The European Water Framework Directive (WFD) obliges member states to monitor chemical compounds in surface waters and to set quality standards that protect against detrimental effects of toxic compounds. Generally, most of the target chemical compounds are able to be measured in water or sediment samples. However, the low water solubility of highly hydrophobic compounds precludes direct measurement in water. Accordingly, the WFD has formulated biota quality standards (BQS), for 11 priority compounds and their derivatives, which refer to concentrations of compounds that have to be monitored in fish and bivalves (biota). In the present study, bioaccumulation of hexachlorobenzene (HCBz), hexachlorobutadiene (HCBd), mercury (Hg), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE), hexabromo-cyclododecane (HBCD), perfluoro-octaansulphonate (PFOS) and its derivatives, dicofol, heptachlor and heptachlor epoxide, and dioxins and dioxin-like compounds were measured in muscle tissue of perch (Perca fluviatilis) and European eel (Anguilla anguilla) originating from different Flemish water bodies. Fluoranthene and benzo(a)pyrene were measured in zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha) and quagga mussel (Dreissena bugensis), using active biomonitoring. In every sampling point at least one of both selected fish species could be collected. For fluoranthene an exceedance of the standard was observed in some sampling locations in zebra mussel, for benzo(a)pyrene there were some exceedances for both zebra and quagga mussel. Dioxin concentrations exceeded the standard in 4 sampling locations in eel muscle tissue. For PFOS, an exceedance of the standard was detected at almost every location for both fish species. The biota quality standard for Hg and PBDE was exceeded in every sampling location and for both fish species. One sample had PBDE concentrations below the quantification limit, which is more than 10 times higher than the BQS. Concentrations of HCBd and dicofol were below the quantification limit. Furthermore no exceedances of the standard were found for HCBz and HBCD. For heptachlor all measurements where below the quantification limits (40 times higher than the standard), cis-heptachlor epoxide exceeded the quantification limit in all except one location in eel muscle tissue and in 3 locations in perch muscle tissue. An overall trend of higher concentrations per wet weight in eel than in perch was detected. Nonetheless, after correction for lipid content, this trend was no longer present or even reversed with higher concentrations in perch muscle tissue, indicating the lipophilic properties of these compounds. This was true for all compounds – except for PFOS: in fact, this compound showed the exact opposite trend. Concentrations of PAHs were always higher in zebra mussel than in quagga mussel. This is possibly caused by the higher trophic position of the first. For both fish species, however, we could not find clear differences in trophic level. Finally, calculated concentrations using the passive samplers, compared to existing literature, show promising applicability and incites further development of this tool. Based on the results of the present study and – where possible – a comparison to data present in literature, it is evident that the existing biota quality standards for Hg, PBDE and PFOS are exceeded in all fish species from Flemish and European water bodies.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

In situ biodegradation of TBT in sediment by enhanced oxygenation. 01/07/2017 - 30/06/2020

Abstract

The project evaluates whether the biodegradation of tributyltin (TBT) in aquatic soil can be stimulated by in situ administration of oxygen; with the aim of obtaining a sustainable remediation technique for TBT contaminants in watercourse.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Unravelling the non-specific mechanisms underlying non-polar narcotic toxicity: mitochondrial effects. 01/01/2017 - 31/12/2020

Abstract

At least 60% of all industrial chemicals cause environmental toxicity through a mechanism called narcosis. In a toxicological context, the term narcosis refers to lipophilic chemicals accumulating in cellular membranes. There is an urgent need for a better understanding of sublethal narcosis effects to improve environmental risk assessment of this vast body of chemicals. Based on direct and indirect evidence from both our own preliminary results and literature, we hypothesize that narcotics impair mitochondrial membrane-bound processes. The central objective of this project is to develop a detailed description of the molecular, cellular and organismal cascade of events resulting from accumulation of narcotics in mitochondrial membranes. We will use cell lines and zebrafish embryos. First, we will study the impact of narcotics on mitochondrial structure and essential functions. Secondly, we will characterize organismal effects which are of direct ecological relevance for risk assessment. Thirdly, we will use specific mitochondrial inhibitors to validate whether they produce the same cascade of events, from the molecular (RNA-seq, whole transcriptome Next Generation Sequencing) to the organismal level. In the final and most challenging work package we will use state-of-the-art imaging technology to visualize the dynamics of accumulation of narcotics in live zebrafish embryos, and subcellular accumulation behaviour.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Microplastics in the marine environment: putting biodegradability in the picture. 01/01/2017 - 31/12/2020

Abstract

Plastic pollution of the aquatic environment is one of the major environmental issues of our times: the World's plastic consumption is ever increasing, and, due to poor waste management, most of this endless stream of plastic enters the waterways, ultimately reaching the seas and oceans. Marine litter is a very visible issue, but there is more than meets the eye: in fact, plastic items in the aquatic environment undergo a process of degradation, due to biotic and abiotic agents, originating millions of tiny fragments – microplastics. These microplastics have been shown to accumulate inside biota, and to adsorb persistent pollutants present in the water, potentially transferring them to the organisms ingesting the microplastics. Substituting traditional with biodegradable plastics (particularly in single-use applications) has been proposed as a solution to the plastic pollution problem. But is this a good idea for the marine environment? This study proposes an experimental plan aiming to answer this question, by comparing the performance in three main areas of two biodegradable polymers, polylactic acid (PLA) and polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA), to the oil-based polyethylene (PE). The comparison focuses on: degradation in the marine environment and microplastic formation; persistent pollutant adsorption on microplastics; and toxicity on two important marine species (the mussel, M. edulis, and sea bass, D. labrax) of both microplastics and microplastics contaminated with pollutants.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Adaptive responses of an aquatic vertebrate to chemical pollution. 01/01/2017 - 31/12/2020

Abstract

Human-induced pollution features among the greatest challenges that organisms face for survival and adaptation. Aquatic ecosystems have been exposed worldwide to varying degrees of pollution, and the fitness of their communities and populations has been affected to such extent that biodiversity is compromised. We evaluate the potential adaptive response of three-spined stickleback, a model fish, to pollution after multigenerational exposure to mercury and PCB. Both chemicals feature among the most toxic pollutants that bio-accumulate in the food chain. Our first aim will be to test if exposure to metal or PCB pollution in situ has led to divergent phenotypes and genetic backgrounds. The second aim will be to test in the lab and in near-field conditions if pollutant adapted populations exposed to the original or other stressors are more resistant than naive populations. This is of importance considering the future challenges populations are facing. Our approach is unique, because it involves a real scenario of field adapted individuals and because the effects resulting from exposure to pollutants are tested over multiple generations across the full genome and at multiple levels of biological organisation from cell to population. Our findings provide novel interdisciplinary fundamental knowledge on ecotoxicology, physiology and genetics, and benefit the assessment, monitoring and follow-up of a Good Ecological Status of the European aquatic environment.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Sampling and analysis of metals in biota for the evaluation of sanitation of the Winterbee. Phase I: situation before the sanitation 10/11/2016 - 31/12/2017

Abstract

This project is part of a bigger project in which the effectiveness of the sanitation of the Winterbeek will be evaluated. The WInterbeek is small trubutary of the Scheldt basin and has been contaminated for several decades with metals. The Flemish Government decided to dredge the contaminated sediment in four different stages, starting in spring 2017. In order to assess the effectiveness of the sanitation metal levels will be assessed before, during and after the sanitation. In addition community structure of macro-invertebrates and fish will be assessed. This project is phase 1 in which the situation before the sanitation will be avaluated. Metals are measured in resident invertebrates and fish and in caged mussels. In addition the fish index and biological water quality is assessed.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Effects of combined exposure to metal mixtures and natural stressors on aquatic invertebrates: relating changes in metal uptake to altered behavior and ecological effects. 01/10/2016 - 30/09/2018

Abstract

Metals are posing a worldwide threat to aquatic ecosystems. In the natural environment trace metals most often occur in different mixtures, in which metals can strongly interfere with each other, producing antagonistic, synergistic or additional toxic effects. Besides the presence of pollutants also natural stressors such as fluctuating temperature, food shortages and predators are present that might negatively affect organisms and alter metal bioavailability. Current environmental quality standards (EQS) however are mainly based on laboratory tests under strictly controlled conditions in which test organisms are exposed to single compounds for a limited period of time. Moreover, in the setting of environmental standards more sensitive endpoints such as behavior have never been used. As a result the current EQS for metals might result in under- or in overprotecting the environment. The aim of this study is to investigate the combined effects of metal mixtures and the natural stressors temperature, food and predation pressure on the behavior of three aquatic invertebrates. This behavior will be compared to classical endpoints, e.g. reproduction and growth. In addition effects on a whole aquatic community will be assessed in artificial streams and ponds. Combining metal mixtures with predator stress and assessing the effects of this combination on different levels of biological organization is highly innovative and will contribute to the development of ecological relevant EQS.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Predicting immunotherapy response in elderly non-small cell lung cancer patients by zooming into protein/peptide expression patterns at the tumor cell - immune cell interaction border. 01/01/2016 - 31/12/2019

Abstract

Lung cancer still remains one of the most deadliest cancers worldwide, with over 14 million new diagnoses and 8.2 million cancer-related deaths in 2012. Since only a minority of the patients respond to chemotherapy and targeted therapies, immunotherapy might be a valid alternative. The major goal of these therapies is to activate the tumor-deleting characteristics of the immune system. It is known however, that the immune system activity diminishes with age. Therefore, an important question remains whether elderly lung cancer patients would benefit from these immunotherapies. In this project, we will characterize which immune-related proteins and peptides are expressed within the lung tumor microenvironment of elderly patients, at places where immune cells and tumor cells co-reside. This will provide us insights to which factors are important for the maintenance of the immune-suppresive microenvironment. Further comparison of protein/peptide expression patterns of different elderly lung cancer patients might deliver a protein/peptide panel, able to predict which subgroup of patients might benefit from the immunotherapy, thereby optimizing therapy response, minimizing therapy-related toxicity and improving quality of life.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Mixed metal and temperature stress in aquatic environments establishing functional links across different levels of organisation. 01/01/2016 - 31/12/2019

Abstract

The aquatic environment is continuously challenged by anthropogenic stressors of which exposure to mixtures of chemicals is one of the most important. In most cases the resulting environmental impact is caused by a combination of natural and anthropogenic stressors with very different modes of action. In this project we explore the importance and nature of these interactions on three model species and a mesocosm scale simulated ecosystem.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Correlation of behavioral classifiers with molecular changes upon exposure of zebrafish with pharmaceutical pollutants by using 3D video tracking and differential proteomics. 01/01/2016 - 31/01/2018

Abstract

Pharmaceuticals are widely used by humans, for food production or for veterinary purposes, but they may also enter and persist in the environment. Pharmaceutical pollutants comprise one of the few classes of chemical pollutants that were specifically designed to act on living cells. Not only effects on human health should be considered, but also effects on the environment in general, with special attention to aquatic organisms. However, few studies on the responses of fish to residues of pharmaceuticals have been performed and very few on variables that are plausibly linked to any (therapeutic) mode-of-action. Therefore, we aim to set up a 3D video tracking platform that employs two synchronized cameras to study zebrafish behavior after exposure to defined pharmaceuticals. 3D swimming tracks will be reconstructed and behavioral parameters will be extracted. After statistical analysis and clustering of the parameters, proposed "behavioral classifiers" will be correlated with molecular changes obtained from differential peptidomics and proteomics datasets as to obtain mechanistic and functional insights underlying aversive effects. As the zebrafish is an important vertebrate model in neuroscience and in ecotoxicological research, our results will be of toxicological and biomedical relevance. In addition, physiological, behavioral and molecular changes (fingerprints) may be attributed as early warning systems of disturbance at higher levels of organization.

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: Husson Steven

Research team(s)

Ecotoxicological effects of microplastics in marine ecosystems (EPHEMARE). 15/12/2015 - 15/03/2019

Abstract

The EPHEMARE multidisciplinary consortium will allow identification of operational biomarkers with potential for MP detection in the environment, as well as omics approaches to elucidate molecular pathways causing biological effects. The composition and capacities of the partnership allow in-depth studies on fundamental mechanisms underlying these effects across the main phyla of marine organisms from bacteria to fish covering most of the trophic levels. In addition to experimental exposures, field validation studies will be performed in four areas representative of coastal ecosystems submitted to different degrees of anthropogenic pressure, thus linking the ecotoxicological findings from laboratory studies to the environmental scale. The communication and connection with private and public stakeholders, which involves 67 person-months from 14 partners, is one of the priorities of EPHEMARE in order to facilitate public awareness, prenormative research, and implementation of European Directives.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Mechanisms of ammonia transport in marine fish with a different nitrogen metabolism. 01/10/2015 - 30/09/2019

Abstract

Ammonia toxicity is a frequent problem in aquatic environments (aquaculture, eutrophication, …) which adversely affects fish performance and welfare. Fish also produce endogenous ammonia in their nitrogen metabolism, and it is their most important nitrogen waste product. Mechanistic strategies in fish gills to cope with ammonia toxicity and transport have fascinated biologists for many decades. The recent discovery of the ammonia transport function of Rhesus (Rh) glycoprotein has added a new major mechanism associated with ammonia handling at piscine gills. It was established that mammalian Rh glycoproteins, linked to antibody production in humans, are members of a protein family that mediates ammonia transport in broad group of organisms, suggesting a long evolutionary history. Also, the Rh family might have undergone some evolutionary changes among piscine phylogeny likely in association with the functional significance of ammonia handling. Among freshwater teleosts, Rh proteins are emerging as vital ammonia conduits, as was also evident from our studies in salmonids and cyprinids. Despite these recent advancements, very limited mechanistic information is available in marine teleosts and in more primitive marine cartilaginous fish such as sharks, rays and chimaeras, who show very different strategies for ionoregulation. Moreover, there is no consensus about the possible linkage of ammonia excretion with ion fluxes (in freshwater or marine fish) and the role the skin in ammonia excretion. Therefore, there is an urgent need to explore the evolution of mechanisms allied with ammonia handling in these different marine fish which possess very diverse ion-regulatory strategies. This project aims at characterizing and localizing Rh protein among the above-mentioned piscine groups, and at unravelling their involvement in ammonia transport. Additionally, it wants to establish possible links between ammonia and ion fluxes as well as the role of the skin in ammonia transport.

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: De Boeck Gudrun
  • Co-promotor: Sinha Amit Kumar
  • Fellow: Shrivastava Jyotsna

Research team(s)

WATERSIDE: Active Passive Water Pollution Sampling Device. 01/10/2015 - 30/09/2017

Abstract

The project aims to develop an active passive water sampler for inorganic and organic pollutants. The apparatus allows the time integrated monitoring of surface waters and waste streams. A controlled water flux is directed across an array of sorbents which accumulate different classes of pollutants. The operational and kinetic characteristics of the sampler will be determined experimentally and the results compared with biota in lab and field conditions.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Dendritic remodeling as fuel for axonal regeneration. 01/10/2015 - 30/09/2017

Abstract

As adult mammals lack the capacity to regenerate damaged neurons, dysfunction of the central nervous system (CNS) after brain injury or in neurodegenerative diseases increasingly impairs life quality in our aging society. Despite intensive research efforts, induction of regeneration and subsequent functional recovery of the injured mammalian CNS remains a challenge, which makes the search for new regeneration-inducing molecules essential. In this project we aim to shed light on how dendritic shrinkage/remodeling contributes to neuronal survival and axonal regeneration and to identify and further characterize molecules and pathways that contribute to neuroprotection and regeneration. Hereto, we will use state-of-theart molecular, biochemical, morphological, functional and behavioral tools in the visual system of two vertebrates with different strengths, zebrafish and mice. As zebrafish have a very high regenerative potential, they provide a unique model for the analysis and identification of crucial molecules and signaling pathways contributing to a successful axonal regeneration after CNS injury. Subsequent validation of our findings in mice allows the identification of key regulatory molecules for improved regeneration in mammals. This study proposes to advance our knowledge on the molecules and mechanisms underlying axonal outgrowth, which is highly needed to establish successful and novel regenerative therapies promoting neural repair.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Field study biota standards. 01/09/2015 - 04/09/2017

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the VMM. UA provides the VMM research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Risk modelling of water and water bed pollution in the Antwerp harbor docks and the Scheldt river. 01/02/2015 - 30/04/2016

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the client. UA provides the client research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

ENVIROMICS, environment toxicology and technology for a durable world. Development and application of diagnostic instruments for industry and policy. 01/01/2015 - 31/12/2020

Abstract

Environmental toxicology (named ecotoxicology further on) is by name a multidisciplinary field involving a wide span of scientifical domains These domains cover areas as biology (and several sub-disciplines thereof), ecology, biochemistry, toxicology, molecular genetics, industrial and process chemistry etc On top of that it touches the sociological field in terms of human and environmental hazard and risk, and even economy by setting environmental standards, thereby directly influencing industrial processes Water treatment technology and risk assessment are both important answers and tools offered to problems put forward by ecotoxicology Both offer and raise questions and problems to be answered It is my believe that ecotoxicology, in its broadest sense, holds the mother key in the solution but has yet to fully gain it.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

ENVIROSTRESS - Environmental Stress in a Rapidly Changing World. 01/01/2015 - 31/12/2019

Abstract

This project represents a research contract awarded by the University of Antwerp. The supervisor provides the Antwerp University research mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions stipulated by the university.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Toxicity of Perfluoralkyl Substances (PFAAs) to terrestrial invertebrates and songbirds. Effects at different levels of biological organization including behaviour and reproduction. 01/01/2015 - 31/12/2018

Abstract

A group of environmental chemicals that has received increasing attention the last two decades are the Perfluoralkyl Substances or PFAAs. Since the 1950s, PFAAs have been used in high quantities because of their excellent surfactant behaviour in applications such as carpet coatings and food packaging. Their broad application and bioaccumulation potential has led to their worldwide detection in biota. Few studies, however, have investigated the effects of PFAAs on terrestrial wild organisms at environmentally realistic concentrations. The general objective of this proposal is to investigate the accumulation and effects of the most prevalent PFAAs in terrestrial organisms, including soil invertebrates and songbirds. Sampling sites will be established along a pollution gradient in the neighbourhood of a fluorochemical plant. Levels of PFAAs will be measured in soil, rain water, soil invertebrates and in songbirds. Besides accumulation, effects will also be assessed on the biota in an integrated way. We will look at physiological, reproductive and behavioural responses. This will be combined with laboratory experiments enabling us to disentangle causal links from confounding effects between PFAAs exposure and effects. In the laboratory invertebrates and songbirds will be exposed to a selection of PFAAs based on the results of the field study. The same endpoints as in the field will be assessed. This study will help policy makers to set environmental quality standards (EQS).

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Investigating the mechanisms of toxicity of current flame retardants: towards new monitoring assays and better registration. 01/01/2015 - 31/12/2018

Abstract

This project represents a research agreement between the UA and on the onther hand IWT. UA provides IWT research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Biochemical analysis of freshwater crayfish. 01/12/2014 - 30/11/2015

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the client. UA provides the client research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Modulatory toxicity effects of metal mixtures on chemosensation and behavior. 01/10/2014 - 31/03/2018

Abstract

Accumulation of metals in the environment creates serious health hazards for diverse animals including humans, hereby remaining a persistent (eco)toxicological concern. While toxic effects of single metals have been documented under laboratory conditions, very little is known about their interactions and putative additive effects, which occur in the environment. One of the major challenges in ecotoxicology is thus to obtain insights in mixture toxicology to set realistic environmental quality criteria. Furthermore, identification and characterization of underlying molecular mechanisms allows studying their mode-of-actions (MOAs) and might provide molecular biomarkers. Especially as different metals appear to interact with each other to create severely increased toxicity (as we found for the zebrafish), it is extremely important to know the exact mechanisms. Furthermore, as molecular changes are likely to precede toxic outcomes on the cellular or organismal level, changes in molecular patterns (fingerprints) can serve as early warning systems of toxicity, similar to biomarker discovery for pathogenic processes in medical applications. Furthermore, it is well-recognized that metals can alter neuronal excitability, that they are implicated in neurodegenerative diseases and that they can impair chemosensation. We therefore aim to investigate whether and how metal toxicities modulate (chemo)sensory capacities and how this is translated to the behavioural/organismal level. To do so, we will fully exploit the benefits of C. elegans as a unique model for both fundamental neuroscience and (eco)toxicology, by combining multidisciplinary expertise in proteomics and behavioral analysis.

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: Blust Ronny
  • Promotor: Husson Steven
  • Fellow: Moyson Sofie

Research team(s)

Combined effects of metal mixtures and natural stressors on aquatic invertebrates: Relating changes in metal uptake to altered behavior and ecological effects. 01/10/2014 - 30/09/2016

Abstract

Metals are posing a worldwide threat to aquatic ecosystems. In the natural environment trace metals most often occur in different mixtures, in which metals can strongly interfere with each other, producing antagonistic, synergistic or additional toxic effects. Besides the presence of pollutants also natural stressors such as fluctuating temperature, food shortages and predators are present that might negatively affect organisms and alter metal bioavailability. Current environmental quality standards (EQS) however are mainly based on laboratory tests under strictly controlled conditions in which test organisms are exposed to single compounds for a limited period of time. Moreover, in the setting of environmental standards more sensitive endpoints such as behavior have never been used. As a result the current EQS for metals might result in under- or in overprotecting the environment. The aim of this study is to investigate the combined effects of metal mixtures and the natural stressors temperature, food and predation pressure on the behavior of three aquatic invertebrates. This behavior will be compared to classical endpoints, e.g. reproduction and growth. In addition effects on a whole aquatic community will be assessed in artificial streams and ponds. Combining metal mixtures with predator stress and assessing the effects of this combination on different levels of biological organization is highly innovative and will contribute to the development of ecological relevant EQS

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: Bervoets Lieven
  • Co-promotor: De Jonge Maarten
  • Fellow: Van Ginneken Marjolein

Research team(s)

La pollution par les métaux et les polluants organiques persistants au Pool Malebo, Kinshasa, RD Congo. 01/08/2014 - 31/07/2016

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand VLIR. UA provides VLIR research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Global transcriptome profiling of marine fish in response to environmental change: salinity and ammonia interactions. 01/02/2014 - 31/12/2014

Abstract

Eutrophication and salinity put a continuous pressure on estuarine ecosystems and fish performance. Hitherto, the regulation of adaptive responses at transcription level during single stress factors (high ammonia or salinity challenge) as well as their interactions is barely addressed. By profiling of genome-wide transcriptional responses using Next Generation RNA-sequencing we aim to identify candidate genes of adaptive significance.

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: Sinha Amit Kumar

Research team(s)

Micropeptides as a new class of bio-active peptides in higher eukaryotes. 01/01/2014 - 31/12/2017

Abstract

The objective of this project is to discover new micropeptides in Drosophila melanogaster and Mus musculus. This project combines both wet-lab and theoretical (in silico) experiments. Ribosome profiling experiments will elucidate the translated mRNA of both model organisms. Furthermore different MS-based peptidomics strategies will be performed attempting to confirm the discovery of the micropeptides from the aforementioned NGS experiment. In parallel, a peptide prediction algorithm will be devised based on known and new micropeptide sequence characteristics and their conservation. Finally, the discovered micropeptides will be tested for activity on a panel of different cell lines.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Drafting a triad method for classification of marshes and sediments in salt and brackish environment. 01/01/2014 - 31/12/2015

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand VMM. UA provides VMM research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Effects of sediment-bound metal mixtures on metal uptake and sublethal toxicity in benthic invertebrates and its impact on ecosystem functioning. 01/01/2014 - 31/12/2014

Abstract

The aim of the present project is to study effects of sediment-bound metal mixtures on benthic invertebrates, both in terms of metal uptake kinetics and bioaccumulation, aerobic respiration and bioturbation and its influence on key ecosystem processes.

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: De Jonge Maarten

Research team(s)

Research on Ocean Acidification. 09/11/2013 - 08/11/2017

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the Government of India. UA provides the Government of India research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Establish cooperation on the development and deepening of research with a focus on risk modeling of water contamination, particularly in the context of the port of Antwerp. 11/10/2013 - 30/04/2017

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand Gemeentelijk Havenbedrijf Antwerpen. UA provides Gemeentelijk Havenbedrijf Antwerpen research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

In search for molecular players underlying altered physiology and behavior caused by (neuro)endocrine disrupting compounds in zebrafish by differential peptidomics and proteomics. 01/10/2013 - 30/09/2017

Abstract

The increasing impact of human activities on the environment has world-wide consequences, especially when chemical pollutions are concerned. Endocrine disruptors are considered as Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC) because they interfere with endocrine systems or lead to adverse developmental, reproductive or neurological effects in both wildlife and humans. These endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) can be found in many products including toys, detergents, flame retardants, cosmetics and pesticides and have a widespread presence in aquatic environments. Though effects on organismal physiology and behavior have been studied for some EDCs, it remains a major challenge to understand underlying molecular or cellular mechanisms which are often required to determine guidelines for hazard and risk assessment. A second major challenge in ecotoxicology is to find valid biomarkers (at molecular, physiological or behavioral level) to assess the environmental status and to develop bio-assays that are predictive for aversive effects at higher levels of organization in an early stage. Peptidergic signaling molecules can be found in all metazoans, where they regulate diverse physiological processes and behaviors. Therefore, disturbances in peptide homeostasis (e.g. as a consequence of pollutions) are often reflected on the level of overall physiology and behavior (growth, fitness, feeding, reproduction,...). Therefore, (bioactive) peptides might be attributed as valid biomarkers. We will use LC-MS-based differential peptidomics approaches to identify, characterize and quantify peptides in zebrafish that were challenged with selected (neuro)EDC. In addition, changes on the protein level will be assessed by differential proteomics techniques while swimming behavior, critical swimming speed, instant fuel use and aerobic scope will be determined to monitor physiological and behavioral effects. By adopting these interdisciplinary approaches, we aim at identifying and characterizing (physiological and molecular) biomarkers, as early warning systems of disturbance due to EDC exposure. Because the zebrafish Danio rerio is an important vertebrate model system, our mechanistic results are likely to provide important insights of toxicological or biomedical relevance as well.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Ammonia transport in marine piscine groups: physiological and evolutionary role of Rhesus (Rh) glycoproteins. 01/10/2013 - 30/09/2016

Abstract

The project focuses on organismal physiology but extends to molecular physiology. Aim is to unravel the mechanisms associated with ammonia excretion in marine teleosts and primitive marine cartilaginous fish by determining the potential role of Rhesus (Rh) glycoproteins and possible linkage with ion transport.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Development of a (Q) SAR web tool (ASOPUS). 01/10/2013 - 30/11/2015

Abstract

This project represents a research agreement between the UA and on the onther hand IWT. UA provides IWT research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Scaling ecotoxicological effects across levels of organization: towards an ecologically relevant evaluation of mixed toxicity. 01/10/2013 - 30/09/2014

Abstract

The innovative aspect of our study is that we will perform environmentally relevant exposures under similar conditions (°T, test organisms, duration, mixture of pollutants) at three scales of exposure: in the laboratory, in semi-controlled mesocosms, and in in-situ exposures in the field. This will allow us to compare and connect the data obtained, despite the increasing complexity of confounding factors, and lead to a set of trustworthy biomarkers with ecological relevance.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Field study biota standards. 31/07/2013 - 31/03/2014

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the VMM. UA provides the VMM research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

The monitoring of three substances in biota in the surface waters of the Brussels Capital Region. 11/02/2013 - 11/08/2013

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest. UA provides Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

"Integrated omics" vision to provide molecular insights in reproduction, developmental physiology, ecology and evolution of nematodes. 01/02/2013 - 31/01/2018

Abstract

This project represents a research contract awarded by the University of Antwerp. The supervisor provides the Antwerp University research mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions stipulated by the university.

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: Husson Steven
  • Fellow: Husson Steven

Research team(s)

Uptake kinetics, internal distribution and toxicity of metal mixtures in aquatic invertebrates after waterborne and dietary sediment exposure 01/02/2013 - 31/12/2013

Abstract

Metal pollution in aquatic ecosystems is still an important environmental issue worldwide, posing a threat to living organisms, including humans. During the past decades interesting models have been developed in order to adequately predict and manage metal toxicity in both freshwater and marine ecosystems. Although these models have all gained increasing interest among scientific and regulatory communities around the world, they have been originally developed for single metals, while in the natural environment exposure most likely occurs through mixtures of multiple metals. The latter can drastically alter the uptake and toxicity of trace metals, and thus the applicability of single metal models under natural conditions. Besides, current toxicity models do not consider exposure through sediment ingestion, although this can be a significant metal exposure route for some aquatic invertebrates.Therefore, the present study tries to overcome these shortcomings by studying influences of metal mixtures and differences in exposure route on the uptake, internal distribution and toxicity in the freshwater isopod Asellus aquaticus. This information, which is lacking at the moment, is crucial in introducing both the effects of trace metal mixtures and contribution of dietary sediment exposure in existing toxicity models, which will improve current risk assessment of metal pollution in the aquatic environment and refine present water quality criteria.

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: De Jonge Maarten

Research team(s)

Effect of climate on the fate and trophic transfer of POPs and mercury. A comparison of accumulation between organisms of the same trophic level in a temperate, subtropical and tropical region. 01/01/2013 - 31/12/2015

Abstract

The overall objectives of this study are (1) to assess the effect of climate on the fate of POPs and Hg in aquatic ecosystems, (2) to investigate food web magnification of Hg and POPs in a temperate, subtropical and tropical freshwater aquatic system and (3) to compare accumulation levels of Hg and POPs in organisms of the same trophic level from 3 distinct climatic regions.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Removal of endocrine disrupting compounds from industrial wastewater. 01/01/2013 - 31/12/2014

Abstract

There is a growing concern about the presence of endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) in surface waters, caused by discharges from wastewater treatment plants. The current project aims at the optimisation of both conventional and advanced treatment technologies to remove EDCs from industrial wastewater. Treatment efficiencies will be determined by effect directed analysis using bioassays that actually measure the endocrine disrupting effects in the samples.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Aquatic systems under multiple stress: a new paradigm for integration aquaculture and ecotoxicology research. 01/10/2012 - 31/12/2017

Abstract

The primary scientific objective of the current project is to investigate multiple stress in aquatic systems across multiple levels of biological organization and to verify to what extent multiple stress effects occurring at higher levels of organization can be predicted/explained based on observations of effects occurring at lower levels.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Uptake kinetics, internal distribution and toxicity of metal mixtures in Asellus aquaticus after waterborne and dietary sediment exposure. 01/10/2012 - 31/12/2014

Abstract

Metal pollution in aquatic ecosystems still poses a worldwide threat to living organisms, including humans. Classic ecotoxicological research mainly focuses on the effect of single metals, however in the aquatic environment metals most often will occur in mixtures of various concentrations. Since metals can have similar uptake mechanisms (e.g. Cd and Pb through Ca channels in epithelium cells), the presence of metals in different mixtures can result in altered uptake and toxicity than is the case under laboratory conditions. To which extent metal mixtures will be taken up and cause toxicity in aquatic invertebrates remains poorly understood. This study aims to investigate uptake mechanisms, internal distribution and toxicity of Cu, Cd and Pb mixtures in aquatic invertebrates. The Isopod Asellus aquaticus will be exposed to mixtures of 106Cd, 65Cu en 204Pb isotopes for 28 days. Metal uptake will be quantified in time using HR-ICP-MS. Internal metal distribution will be studied using both laser ablation and micro-X-ray fluorescence spectrometry (micro-XRF) techniques. The induction of various metallothionein isoforms will be analyzed in cooperation with the Molecular Physiology and environmental Toxicology group of the University of Innsbruck, in Austria. Various physiological conditions in the organisms, including the energy budget, total biomass, mortality and ion status will be followed in time.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Radiation and radionuclides in a multi-contaminant context : effects induced in Lemna minor. 15/05/2012 - 31/12/2012

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand SCK. UA provides SCK research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Mesodrome. 26/04/2012 - 31/12/2017

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the Flemish Public Service. UA provides the Flemish Public Service research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Feasability study biota standards for hazardous substances - Measurement strategy for assessing biota standards. 01/04/2012 - 30/09/2012

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the VMM. UA provides the VMM research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Uptake and toxicity of metals from metal mixtures in aquatic and terrestrial systems: rationalization based on metal bioavailability models. 01/01/2012 - 31/12/2015

Abstract

The general objective is to analyze the interactions among toxic trace metals for uptake and toxicity in aquatic and terrestrial systems in terms of the mechanisms that affect metal bioavailability. More in particular, experiments will be designed to test the proof of concept for a model that can predict mixture effects starting from the water and soil composition, including total dissolved metals in water or total metal in soil.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Preparation of a Biotic Ligand Model (BLM) for the metals cupper and cadmium in marine and estuarine environments by the target species: the European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax). 01/01/2012 - 31/12/2012

Abstract

This study attempt to prepare a BLM for marine and estuarine environments. the aim of this BLM is to provide a model which includes the strong influence of site-specific environmental factors, such as hardness, chemical speciation, pH, temperature and salinity, as well as the strong influence of the physiological characteristics of the organism so that the bioavailability of the metals can be evaluated. Consequently, a possibility may arise of establishing appropriate site-specific water quality standards in the future.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Behaviour, speciation and toxicity of metal oxide nano particles in aquatic toxicity testing 01/01/2012 - 31/12/2012

Abstract

The use and production of nano particles is increasing steadily, but the knowledge of their environmental behaviour and toxicity is still very scarce. A major drawback in studies that investigate the toxicity of nano particles is the difficulty in determination of actual exposure concentrations, which is caused by e.g. the dynamics of aggregation and dissociation in solutions. The project aims on the investigation of the dynamics and uptake kinetics of different forms of zinc oxide nano particles with the help of ultracentrifugation, ultrafiltration, advanced ICP-MS measurements and Absence of gradients and Nernstian equilibrium stripping methodology (AGNES).

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: Schmitt Claudia

Research team(s)

Stress responses induced in Lemna minor by different radiation types: characterisation and comparison by a multi-endpoint molecular approach. 01/10/2011 - 30/09/2015

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand a private institution. UA provides the private institution research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

The changing world as a stressful environment: combined effects of temperature, hypoxia, carbon dioxide and ammonia on ionoregulation in fish - influence of energy budget and hormonal regulation. 01/10/2011 - 30/09/2013

Abstract

Fish are especially suitable to study hypoxic effects, very few studies have focussed on ion transport during hypoxia. Little is known on how hypoxia affects the uptake of ions and essential metals at the gill. Regulation and homeostasis of ions and essential metals is highly dependent on energy metabolism and protein metabolism, processes that are severely down regulated during hypometabolism. The aim of the presented research is to study the interacting effects of hypoxia, hypercapnia and ammonia on ionoregulation and uptake, homeostasis and excretion of essential metals with a special focus on the influence of stress and/or ion regulatory related hormones.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Physiologically based pharmacokinetic models for the accumulation and effects of microcontaminants in harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) and harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena). 01/10/2011 - 30/09/2013

Abstract

Aims: Development of a physiologically based pharmacokinetic model for long-term uptake and accumulation of microcontaminants by seals. Model evaluation by comparison of predicted values with observed results of microcontaminants in blood and biopsy (living animals) and other tissues (dead animals). Determination of the condition of seals by use of general condition-indices and more specific indications for homeostasis and stress by analysis of bloodsamples with special attention for endocrine effects and immunity. Making connections between exposure, accumulation and effects. By comparison with results from analysis of animals from different areas and by use of multivariate statistical methods we will check whether it is possible to find the cause of the effects.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Integrated performance trade off in cichlid heads: feeding versus mouth brooding. 01/10/2011 - 30/09/2012

Abstract

This project tries to unravel some of the involved trade-offs, and will analyse the structural, functional and physiological trade-offs that exist in the buccal system of two closely related haplochromine species of Lake Victoria, both maternal mouthbrooders but representing two distinct trophic niches: a biter morph and a suction feeding morph. Trade-offs related to both sexual and trophic dimorphism will be studied in relation to mouthbrooding, with performance analyses to estimate the impact on survival and fitness.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Stress responses induced in Lemna minor by different radiation types: characterisation and comparison by a multi-endpoint molecular approach. 01/01/2011 - 31/12/2014

Abstract

The project aims to gain mechanistic insight in the mode of action of radiation induced stress responses in Lemna minor to different radiation types at the molecular level. The responses will be studied in a time and dose resolved manner and compared to more classic development and growth related endpoints.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Development of an in vitro screening system for detection of obesogenic substances in the environment. 01/01/2011 - 31/12/2014

Abstract

Overweight and obesity are defined as a disease in which abnormal excessive body fat accumulation causes adverse effects on health, leading to a higher morbidity and mortality. The environmental obesogen hypothesis proposes that exposure to chemicals (more specifically endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs)) is superimposed on an excessive caloric intake and a sedentary lifestyle, to induce the development and progression of obesity and its associated health consequences. In vivo or in vitro studies using 3T3-L1 mouse fibroblasts, a well established model for adipogenesis, have already indicated the potential impact of EDCs such as bisphenol A, mono-ethylhexylphthalate (MEHP) and tributyltin (TBT) on adipocyte differentiation. These findings urge the need for a mechanistic study on the effects of EDCs on adipocytes. This project aims to investigate the role of EDCs in the pandemic of obesity and the mechanisms through which they influence the adipose tissue and can be divided in 2 parts: i) in vitro exposure using the 3T3-L1 cell line. The influence of exposure to EDC on differentiation, proliferation, adipokine production and lipid metabolism of (pre-)adipocytes will be studied. The combination of the these differentiation experiments with the other endpoints (proliferation, adipokine production, lipid metabolism) will give us important information for the selection of potentially obesogenic EDCs for further mode of action research using microarray techniques. ii) Human visceral and subcutaneous fat samples are obtained from a collaboration with UZA and will enable us to find correlations between concentrations of endocrine disruptors and the gene expression of obesity-related biomarkers.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Ecotoxicity removal from industrial wastewater: optimization of the PACT process. 01/01/2011 - 31/12/2012

Abstract

The PACT process is an advanced waste water treatment technology where powdered activated carbon is added to the activated sludge (1) to protect the treatment process, and (2) to obtain an effluent with an improved chemical quality. In view of the more stringent industrial discharge limits that also include ecological criteria, the current project aims at optimizing the PACT process to obtain effluents with a good biological quality.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project website

Characterization of toxicity and grouping of chemicals based on toxinogenomics in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii and in Daphnia magna. 01/01/2011 - 31/12/2012

Abstract

This project represents a research agreement between the UA and on the onther hand IWT. UA provides IWT research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Effects of sediment-bound metals in the aquatic environment. Relationships between exposure, accumulation, internal distribution and the effects on macro-invertebrate community life. 01/01/2011 - 30/09/2012

Abstract

The main objective of the project is to investigate the effect of sediment-bound metals to the macroinvertebrate community composition, this in relation to metal exposure and accumulation. With this special attention is given to the presence of different metal binding sediment characteristics (o.a. Acid Volatile Sulfides, organic matter, iron- and manganese oxides,...), metal speciation and differences in species sensitivity and general ecology. Finally the obtained information will be used to find certain invertebrate species, which on the one hand can be used as a measurement for metal bioavailability in the aquatic ecosystem and on the other hand can serve as a predictor for the effects of metals on other, more sensitive organisms.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Evaluation l'incidence d'une antenne sur un site Natura 2000 en région Bruxelloise. 01/10/2010 - 31/03/2011

Abstract

L'objectif global de l'etude concernée par le présent cahier des charges est de définir les circonstances selon lesquelles il peut raisonnablement être considéré qu'une antenne n'est pas susceptible d'affecter de manière significative un site Natura 2000 en région bruxelloise.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Perfluor measurements. 01/09/2010 - 31/10/2010

Abstract

This project represents a formal service agreement between UA and on the other hand UGent. UA provides UGent research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Nutritional and microbiological studies in Larvale aquaculture. 01/01/2010 - 31/12/2019

Abstract

This is a fundamental research project financed by the Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO). The project was subsidized after selection by the FWO-expert panel. This Scientific Research Community was initiated from the Laboratory for Aquaculture & Artemia Reference Center (ARC, UGent). The research within the ARC has evolved from fundamental and applied research on the cultivation of the brineshrimp Artemia to a multidisciplinary study of larval fish, shellfish cultivation in collaboration with various research groups. The emphasis is currently on host microbial interactions. Given the complexity of the mechanisms involved, it has been found necessary to bundle the expertise in a research community.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Development and validation of micro array derived biomarkers in ecological relevant exposure conditions for the common carp. 01/01/2010 - 31/12/2013

Abstract

The central aim of the proposed research project is the development of microarray derived molecular biomarkers for micro pollutants in the common carp (Cyprinus carpio) and validation of the selected set of biomarker genes under complex environmental relevant conditions. In order to be valuable in environmental risk evaluation the biomarker gene set has to meet several criteria.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

A functional genomics study in zebrafish to elucidate the role of thyroid hormones and deiodinases in early emryonic development. 01/01/2010 - 31/12/2013

Abstract

The overall aim of the study is to determine the role of THs in embryonic development in zebrafish, and vertebrates in general, prior to the onset of embryonic thyroid gland activity. More specifically we want to show how changes in intracellular T3 availability as a result of knockdown of both activating Ds influences major developmental processes such as gastrulation, neurulation and organogenesis.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Process control of batch and continious flow wastewater treatment processes for nutrient and carbon removal by the use of respirometry and fuzzy logic control strategies. 01/01/2010 - 31/12/2011

Abstract

In this project a process control strategy for batch and continuous flow active sludge wastewater treatment systems will be developed. The control strategy, based on fuzzy logic and characterisation by a newly developed respirometry based device, will allow significant economical as well as ecological advantages. The project also contains an important valorisation part, which will result in an applicable process control strategy.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Consequences on health, bio-accumulation and detoxificatie of metal at large grazers. 01/01/2010 - 31/12/2011

Abstract

During this study, the effects of metals on horses and cows will be determined together with their metal accumulation and detoxification capacity. The relation between internal metal concentrations in liver, kidney, muscle and lung and non-destructive tissues (blood, hair and feces) will be measured. Different biomarkers in blood and organs will also be measured.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Risk evaluation of chemical substances with intelligent Testing: do toxicogenomics ensure the missing link? 01/01/2010 - 30/09/2011

Abstract

This project represents a research agreement between the UA and on the onther hand IWT. UA provides IWT research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: De Coen Wim
  • Fellow: Dom Nathalie

Research team(s)

Determination PFOS and PFOA in PFNA eel - 60 samples. 23/11/2009 - 31/12/2009

Abstract

This project represents a formal service agreement between the parties Universiteit Antwerpen and INBO. UAntwerpen provides INBO research results on "Bepaling PFOS, PFOA en PFNA in paling - 60 stalen" under the conditions as stipulated in the present contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Exposure and metabolism of new brominated flame retardants. 01/10/2009 - 31/01/2012

Abstract

Brominated flame retardants (BFRs) have been used in commercial and household products, with a number of new BFRs (nBFRs) being recently introduced on the market. At this moment, very little is known regarding the environmental fate, food chain transfer, metabolism and toxicological profile of these nBFRs and this warrants additional and systematic research. The present proposal builds on the extensive experience and collaboration network related to BFRs accumulated in my first research mandate. A first objective is the validation of suitable analytical methods for the detection of nBFRs at trace levels in environmental and biological matrices. It further aims at a systematic investigation of the exposure routes, fate and biomagnification potential of nBFRs in representative aquatic and terrestrial food chains. This research will also aim at evaluating the degree and pathways of human exposure to nBFRs. Furthermore, the metabolic pathways of nBFRs in representative species, including humans, will also be investigated. Finally, the project will investigate the metabolic rates for the most important nBFRs. The completion of the proposed project will ensure a better understanding of the accumulation, fate and metabolism of nBFRs in biota.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

The changing world as a stressfull environment: combined effects of temperature, hypoxia, carbon dioxide and ammonia on ionoregulation in fish - influence of energy budget and hormonal regulation. 01/10/2009 - 30/09/2011

Abstract

Fish are especially suitable to study hypoxic effects, very few studies have focussed on ion transport during hypoxia. Little is known on how hypoxia affects the uptake of ions and essential metals at the gill. Regulation and homeostasis of ions and essential metals is highly dependent on energy metabolism and protein metabolism, processes that are severely down regulated during hypometabolism. The aim of the presented research is to study the interacting effects of hypoxia, hypercapnia and ammonia on ionoregulation and uptake, homeostasis and excretion of essential metals with a special focus on the influence of stress and/or ion regulatory related hormones.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Physiologically based pharmacokinetic models for the accumulation of microcontaminants and immunological effects in harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) and harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena). 01/10/2009 - 30/09/2011

Abstract

Aims: Development of a physiologically based pharmacokinetic model for long-term uptake and accumulation of microcontaminants by seals. Model evaluation by comparison of predicted values with observed results of microcontaminants in blood and biopsy (living animals) and other tissues (dead animals). Determination of the condition of seals by use of general condition-indices and more specific indications for homeostasis and stress by analysis of bloodsamples with special attention for endocrine effects and immunity. Making connections between exposure, accumulation and effects. By comparison with results from analysis of animals from different areas and by use of multivariate statistical methods we will check whether it is possible to find the cause of the effects.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Characterization of toxicological effects on the energy metabolism after exposure to endocrine disrupting compounds. 01/10/2009 - 30/09/2011

Abstract

In the present project we will investigate if endocrine disrupting chemicals are able to disrupt pancreas, liver and adipose tissue function; if they could alter insulin, glucagon and leptin levels; and if they could induce molecular mechanisms related to metabolic diseases such as diabetes, obesity and/or cardiovascular disorders. A limited list of endocrine disrupting chemicals, all known as environmental pollutants, will be studied. With this project we will attempt to show that some of these compounds disrupt cellular energy homeostasis, more specifically by influencing glucose and/or lipid metabolism. Special attention will be given to the elucidation of the mode of action that underlies this disruption. Additionally, in this project we will investigate if the selected in vitro models can be used in the future as an alternative test system for detection and toxicological characterization of endocrine disrupting compounds with regard to the insulin/glucagon related metabolism. To this purpose, a defined set of biomarker genes with a toxicological predictive and/or xeno-estrogenic characterizing value will be selected.

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: De Coen Wim
  • Co-promotor: Van der Ven Karlijn
  • Fellow: Hectors Tine

Research team(s)

Perfluorinated Organics in our diet (PERFOOD). 01/08/2009 - 31/07/2012

Abstract

The aims of the present project are to assess the origin of PFCs in our diet and the diet's contribution to the total human exposure to PFCs. To that end the project will develop robust and reliable analytical tools for the determination of PFCs, and use these to (i) qualify and quantify PFCs in our diet; (ii) understand how PFCs are transferred from the environment into dietary items, and (iii) quantify the possible contribution of food/beverage contact materials and food and water processing to the overall PFC levels in our diet. The newly gained knowledge will enable us to evaluate the possible routes, including their relative importance, of human exposure to PFCs via our diet, to assess the role of the technosphere in the contamination of our food, and to identify ways to reduce the PFC contamination of dietary articles.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Ecological and ecotoxicological quality of the Dommel after depopulation of the soil / Compilation of existing data / reports. Proposal to further measuring strategy. 30/07/2009 - 29/07/2010

Abstract

The main objective of this study is to combine / centralization and reporting of existing data (water-and water soil quality, fish populations, bioaccumulation) in an information system linked to GIS so as to come to a clear report of all research carried out before and after rehabilitation work of the Dommel.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

ENNSATOX - Engineered Nanoparticle Impact on Aquatic Environments: Structure, Activity and Toxicology. 01/07/2009 - 30/06/2012

Abstract

The ENNSATOX's mission is to integrate and exploit the most cutting edge innovative science in Europe to deliver critical new knowledge of the fate and risks of engineered nanoparticles in aquatic environments for informing all stakeholders seeking maximum technoligical, societal and economic beneficial impact from Europe's substantial investment in nanotechnology.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Functional-ecological study of the combined effects of predator- and pesticide stress on aquatic insects: from gen to community. 01/01/2009 - 31/12/2012

Abstract

The central objective of this project is to evaluate to what extent biomarkers can be used to predict pollutant effects at the community level, with special attention for the interaction with predator stress and competition. Focus will be on studying the pesticide endosulfan, worldwide one of the most commonly used insecticides. Model organisms will be three aquatic insect groups: midge larvae (Chironomidae), water boatmen (Corixidae) and damselflies (Coenagrionidae).

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

A system biological analysis of metal induced responses in the zebrafish, Danio rerio. 01/01/2009 - 31/12/2012

Abstract

In the framework of this project we want to perform a comparative study of metal regulation, compartmentalisation and toxicity in the genetically well characterised zebrafish, Danio rerio, for two essential (copper and zinc) and one nonessential (cadmium) metals. We want to determine the similarities and differences in metal handling and resulting responses after exposure under three physiologically different conditions.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Marine Teleosts and Elasmobranchs: differences in physiology lead to differences in sensitivity. 01/01/2009 - 31/12/2011

Abstract

Elasmobranchs possess a unique system for osmoregulation. They are slightly hyperosmotic compared to their environment due to high levels of urea and trimethylamino oxide in their body. Therefore, they absorb water continuously by osmosis and do not have to drink. This system creates an enormous urea gradient at the gills, which is supposedly maintained by urea back-transporters. This study aims at characterizing environmental influences on these transporters.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project website

Implementation of fast bioassays in industrial waste water treatment and WET (Whole Effluent Toxicity Testing) - Validation of the selected assays in view of the EU Water Framework Directive. 01/01/2009 - 31/12/2010

Abstract

The water frame work directive, the new European legislation for water management requires the water quality to fulfill some strict chemical and biological criteria. The duration of classical bioassays is too long and incompatible with the dynamics of a water treatment plant. There is therefore a high need for fast and sensitive bioassays. In this project some fast assays will be validated for the usefulness in waste water treatment applications.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Effects of sediment-bound metals in the aquatic environment. Relationships between exposure, accumulation, internal distribution and the effects on macro-invertebrate community life. 01/01/2009 - 31/12/2010

Abstract

The main objective of the project is to investigate the effect of sediment-bound metals to the macroinvertebrate community composition, this in relation to metal exposure and accumulation. With this special attention is given to the presence of different metal binding sediment characteristics (o.a. Acid Volatile Sulfides, organic matter, iron- and manganese oxides,...), metal speciation and differences in species sensitivity and general ecology. Finally the obtained information will be used to find certain invertebrate species, which on the one hand can be used as a measurement for metal bioavailability in the aquatic ecosystem and on the other hand can serve as a predictor for the effects of metals on other, more sensitive organisms.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

High Resolution Inductive Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer (HR-ICP-MS). 19/12/2008 - 18/12/2013

Abstract

This project represents a research contract awarded by the University of Antwerp. The supervisor provides the Antwerp University research mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions stipulated by the university.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Food interactions: consequences on health, consumer perception and impact on the agro-alimentary industry (FOODINTER) - second phase. 15/12/2008 - 31/01/2011

Abstract

The objective of this project is to contribute to the risk assessment of chemicals, natural compounds and environmental contaminants, present in dietary supplements and para-pharmacy products which could interact with micro of macronutrients of normal human diet. Our project will also analyse the place of functional foods, dietary supplements and para-pharmacy products in the diet and their impact on human health. It will increase knowledge and fill some gaps regarding health claims and drawbacks that could be linked to these new habits in human nutrition.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Development of innovative detection methods for ergot alkaloids in cereal and cereal products. (ERGOT) 01/12/2008 - 30/11/2011

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the Federal Public Service. UA provides the Federal Public Service research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Bi-Cycle. 01/12/2008 - 30/11/2011

Abstract

This project represents a research agreement between the UA and on the onther hand IWT. UA provides IWT research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Defence mechanisms of fish with different sensitivity towards heavy metals: Interaction and dynamics of proteins and hormones. 01/11/2008 - 31/10/2010

Abstract

The aim of this project is to investigate whether gill cells of fish with a different sensitivity towards copper show intracellular differences with regard to the expression of transporters, carriers and metal binding protein, as well as defensive proteins and enzymes involved in oxidative stress, during sublethal copper exposure. The role of the hormonal status on these processes will be examined. The most suitable biomarker will be selected, and an ELISA for this biomarker will be developed.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Comparative Fish Physiology: Putting Feeding into the Picture. 01/10/2008 - 30/06/2013

Abstract

Feeding has generally been ignored as a contributing factor in fish physiology and ecotoxicology. Nevertheless, it plays a crucial role in ion homeostasis and has clear osmotic benefits. Furthermore, it induces obvious effects on the energy metabolism with coinciding changes in respiratory gas exchange and acid-base balance (e.g. ammonia and urea excretion, alkaline tide). The aim of this project is to investigate the importance of feeding in fish with different ionoregulatory strategies and nitrogen metabolisms.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Sensitive and exact detection of contaminants in the environment and the food chain using specific biomolecules. 01/10/2008 - 30/09/2011

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the Federal Public Service. UA provides the Federal Public Service research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Effect of temperature on metal toxicity to zebrafish: from gene to organismal responses. 01/10/2008 - 30/09/2010

Abstract

Aquatic organisms are constantly being exposed to changes in their environment. These changes comprise both natural fluctuations (such as changes in environmental temperature) as well as anthropogenic disturbances (such as chemical pollution). This PhD combines these 2 kinds of stressors, investigating the influence of environmental temperature on cadmum toxicity in zebrafish (Danio rerio). A wide set of analyses ranges from gene expression changes to changes in swimming performance.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Critical evaluation of marine calcareous skeletons as recorders of global climate changes. (CALMARS II - second phase) 01/01/2008 - 30/06/2010

Abstract

The project aims to improve the physical, chemical and biological understanding of the processes underlying proxy incorporation in bivalve skeletons, carry out a critical validation of different proxies and refine the use of these calcareous marine skeletons for reconstruction of past salinity changes.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Consequences on health, bio-accumulation and detoxificatie of metal at large grazers. 01/01/2008 - 31/12/2009

Abstract

During this study, the effects of metals on horses and cows will be determined together with their metal accumulation and detoxification capacity. The relation between internal metal concentrations in liver, kidney, muscle and lung and non-destructive tissues (blood, hair and feces) will be measured. Different biomarkers in blood and organs will also be measured

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Development of a physiologically based pharmacokinetic model for long-term uptake and accumulation of microcontaminants by seals (Phoca vitulina) and en porpoises (Phocoena phocoena). 01/01/2008 - 30/09/2009

Abstract

Aims: Development of a physiologically based pharmacokinetic model for long-term uptake and accumulation of microcontaminants by seals. Model evaluation by comparison of predicted values with observed results of microcontaminants in blood and biopsy (living animals) and other tissues (dead animals). Determination of the condition of seals by use of general condition-indices and more specific indications for homeostasis and stress by analysis of bloodsamples with special attention for endocrine effects and immunity. Making connections between exposure, accumulation and effects. By comparison with results from analysis of animals from different areas and by use of multivariate statistical methods we will check whether it is possible to find the cause of the effects.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

BOF - University Research Fund: 1 year doctoral fellowship in view of a second IWT application (Jorina Baerts). 01/01/2008 - 31/12/2008

Abstract

The central aim of this project is to investigate the effects of micro contaminants on larvae of damselflies. Since these larvae are both prey and predator the play an important roe in fresh water ecosystems. Their presence, behavior, and sensitivity make them ideal model organisms in ecotoxicological research. More specifically the effect of micro pollutants on the behavior will be studied.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Prediction of metal accumulation and sublethal effects in benthic invertebrates by means of the AVS-SEM model 01/01/2008 - 31/01/2008

Abstract

In this project the relationship between metal concentrations in sediment and accumulation and effects in Chironomidae and Oligochaeta will be investigated. Special attention will be paid to the influence of AVS concentrations in sediment on the accumulation and chronic effects (energy reserves, ion and osmoregulation, growth and survival) of metals under laboratory and field conditions.

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: Reynders Hans

Research team(s)

Integrated environmental toxicological evaluation of perfluoralkyl pollutants for aquatic organisms. 01/10/2007 - 30/09/2009

Abstract

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: De Coen Wim
  • Fellow: Hagenaars An

Research team(s)

Epigenetic and maternal effects of toxicants with different functioning mechanism in zebrafish (Danio rerio). 01/10/2007 - 30/09/2009

Abstract

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: De Coen Wim
  • Fellow: Van den Bril Bo

Research team(s)

Characterization of toxicological effects on the energy metabolism after exposure to endocrine disrupting compounds. 01/10/2007 - 30/09/2009

Abstract

In the present project we will investigate if endocrine disrupting chemicals are able to disrupt pancreas, liver and adipose tissue function; if they could alter insulin, glucagon and leptin levels; and if they could induce molecular mechanisms related to metabolic diseases such as diabetes, obesity and/or cardiovascular disorders. A limited list of endocrine disrupting chemicals, all known as environmental pollutants, will be studied. With this project we will attempt to show that some of these compounds disrupt cellular energy homeostasis, more specifically by influencing glucose and/or lipid metabolism. Special attention will be given to the elucidation of the mode of action that underlies this disruption. Additionally, in this project we will investigate if the selected in vitro models can be used in the future as an alternative test system for detection and toxicological characterization of endocrine disrupting compounds with regard to the insulin/glucagon related metabolism. To this purpose, a defined set of biomarker genes with a toxicological predictive and/or xeno-estrogenic characterizing value will be selected.

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: De Coen Wim
  • Co-promotor: Van der Ven Karlijn
  • Fellow: Hectors Tine

Research team(s)

A physiologically based pharmacokinetic model for the accumulation and effects of microcontaminants in seals. 01/10/2007 - 31/12/2007

Abstract

Aims: Development of a physiologically based pharmacokinetic model for long-term uptake and accumulation of microcontaminants by seals. Model evaluation by comparison of predicted values with observed results of microcontaminants in blood and biopsy (living animals) and other tissues (dead animals). Determination of the condition of seals by use of general condition-indices and more specific indications for homeostasis and stress by analysis of bloodsamples with special attention for endocrine effects and immunity. Making connections between exposure, accumulation and effects. By comparison with results from analysis of animals from different areas and by use of multivariate statistical methods we will check whether it is possible to find the cause of the effects.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

FWO-Visiting Postdoctoral Fellowship. (Christian VOGT, Germany) 01/09/2007 - 31/08/2008

Abstract

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: De Coen Wim

Research team(s)

Perfluoralkyl chemicals in the food chain: a risk analysis to support policy. (PERFOOD). 01/07/2007 - 30/04/2012

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the Federal Public Service. UA provides the Federal Public Service research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Identification and characterisation of urea transporters in the gills of the spiny dogfish, Squalus acanthias. 01/07/2007 - 31/12/2011

Abstract

Elasmobranchs possess a unique system for osmoregulation. They are slightly hyperosmotic compared to their environment due to high levels of urea and trimethylamino oxide in their body. Therefore, they absorb water continuously by osmosis and do not have to drink. This system creates an enormous urea gradient at the gills, which is supposedly maintained by urea back-transporters. This study aims at identifying and characterizing these transporters.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Development of a biodiversity chip for the biomonitoring of benthic ma-cro invertebrate communities. 01/07/2007 - 31/12/2011

Abstract

The Biological water quality in Flanders is assessed applying the Belgian Biotic Index (BBI). The aim of this proposal is the development of a biodiversity chip (DNA-array) for the identification of benthic macro invertebrate communities. We will start with the characterization of some key taxa of the BBI. With the biodiversity chip it will possible to assess the water quality in a correct and faster way compared to the classical identification of the BBI.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

OSIRIS - Optimized Strategies for Risk Assessment of Industrial Chemicals through Integration of Non-Test and Test Information. 01/04/2007 - 30/09/2011

Abstract

The goal of OSIRIS is to develop Integrated Testing Strategies (ITS) fit for REACH that make it possible to significantly increase the use of non-testing information for regulatory decision making, and effectively reduce animal testing to the level needed from a risk perspective. To this end, operational procedures will be developed, tested and disseminated that guide a transparent and scientifically sound evaluation of chemical substances in a risk-driven, context-specific and substance-tailored (RCS) manner, and allow decision making to be built on information-rich combinations of novel non-testing and optimized experimental information.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Brominated flame retardant and perfluor compounds in Flanders. 15/03/2007 - 14/06/2009

Abstract

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Defence mechanisms against heavy metal exposure in fish with different sensitivities to stress: interactions and dynamics. 01/01/2007 - 31/12/2010

Abstract

The aim of this research is to assess whether gill cells of fish with a different sensitivity to copper exposure show intracellular differences in protein expression patterns of transporters, carriers and metal binding protein as well as in proteins and enzymes involved in the defence mechanisms against oxidative stress. We want to evaluate the dynamics of these patterns in three fish species under sublethal copper exposure and in addition determine the role of the changes in hormonal status on these processes.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Food interactions: consequences on health, consumer perception and impact on the agro-alimentary industry. (FOODINTER) 01/01/2007 - 31/01/2009

Abstract

The objective of this project is to contribute to the risk assessment of chemicals, natural compounds and environmental contaminants, present in dietary supplements and para-pharmacy products which could interact with micro of macronutrients of normal human diet. Our project will also analyse the place of functional foods, dietary supplements and para-pharmacy products in the diet and their impact on human health. It will increase knowledge and fill some gaps regarding health claims and drawbacks that could be linked to these new habits in human nutrition.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Light producing bacteria: ideal bioreporters in (eco)toxicology. 01/01/2007 - 31/12/2008

Abstract

In toxicology it is essential to have (biological) systems to obtain in a fast and cost effective way information for an adequate risk assessment of chemical compounds. A bacterial reporter will be developed that allows a chemical compound to be monitored and that allows to obtain mechanistic information for that compound. The used reporter system is the light emitting Vibrio luciferase, so that an easy detection is possible.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

In vitro and in vivo characterization of the molecular mode of action of selected peroxisome proliferators in zebrafish (Danio rerio). 01/01/2007 - 31/12/2008

Abstract

Peroxisome proliferators (PPs) can interfere with important nuclear hormone receptors (PPARs). Dispite the crucial role of these receptors in fundamental biological processes, very little information is available on the possible adverse effects of PPs and interference with PPAR-mediated pathways in teleosts. With the proposed research we aim to unravel the PPAR-pathways (in vitro as well as in vivo) to enable environmental risk evaluation of PPs.

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: Van der Ven Karlijn

Research team(s)

Development of biosensors for the optimization of water purification for tank cleaning companies. 01/01/2007 - 31/12/2008

Abstract

During water purification certain criteria for chemical and biological norms have to be fulfilled. Biological and ecological norms is a new concept and tests that allow to screen on a fast and routine basis are not available. Biosensors will therefore be developed for the sector of tankcleaning companies. The different steps of the waterpurification will be optimized

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Development of biomarkers for metal toxicity in fresh water algae on the basis of differential genexpression and protein profiles. 01/01/2007 - 31/12/2008

Abstract

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: De Coen Wim
  • Fellow: Jamers An

Research team(s)

Development of an alternative screening assay for classification of endocrine disruptors in the environment. 01/01/2007 - 31/12/2008

Abstract

Developing screening methods is an important effort to bypass initial needs to identify individual endocrine disruptors (EDs). However, screening methods for EDs will have to accomodate a wider variety of diverse chemicals than ever been subjected to screening methods before. The urge for more comprehensive in vitro systems that make multiple endpoint detection possible, is however in contrast with the few hormonal tissues currently analysed. So far, testing strategies have omitted the adrenal gland and therefore do not adequately cover the process of steroidogenesis, critical in adrenocortical, testicular and ovarian function. The present study combines the advantage of a pluripotent adrenocortical cell line with the capacity of microarray technique to analyse thousands of genes at ones. The H295R cell line covers the entire biochemical pathway responsible for steroidogenesis and therefore presents multiple molecular targets for toxicity, ranging from general effects on all steroidogenic tissues (e.g. aromatase) through to specific targets affecting only adrenocortical function. The idea of the project is to develop a cell line specific microarray, which allows classification of EDs according to their mode of action and is an important step in selecting potential biomarkers. As a confirmation and support of the microarray analysis, proteomics will be an important contribution to evaluate the broader metabolic context of the gene expression results.

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: De Coen Wim
  • Fellow: Vanparys Caroline

Research team(s)

'Alg-oil': The production of bio-diesel from algae: a feasibility study from an ecophysiological and chemical perspective. 01/01/2007 - 31/12/2008

Abstract

Feasibility study on the economics of bio-diesel production based on TAGs produced in micro-algae. Ecophysiological and chemical aspects will be investigated, in order to evaluate whether progress in both fields might contribute to a new economically valuable conceptual path. Ecophysiology will focus on high algae-concentration during cultivation and high intrinsic TAG concentration in the algae, whereas chemistry will focus on highly efficient extraction techniques and adequate transesterification reactions converting the algae-TAGs into bio-diesel.

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: De Coen Wim

Research team(s)

Task in the framework of the production of guidelines for nature management: Impact of wind dunes on the diffusion of heavy metals. 01/01/2007 - 30/09/2007

Abstract

Part of the wind dunes in the Flemish Campines are polluted with heavy metals. Due to the open character of these wind dunes the wind can blow freely and sand particles can thus be spread over long distances. This might be a means of transport of heavy metals. Another possible way for the heavy metals to spread from the wind dunes is through the groundwater. As these wind dunes act as infiltration areas the heavy metals can be transported away from the top soil layer with the infiltrating rainwater to surface elsewhere with the groundwater. The aim of this research is to get an insight in the amount of heavy metals that are spread from wind dunes through wind or groundwater. Therefore we will choose several bare and overgrown dunes in the study area BeNeKempen, here soil and water samples will be analysed. The selection of the sampling points will be able to tell us more about the spreading of heavy metals from wind dunes. The results shall be used to make a manual for the managers of the concerned areas. Possible measures will be proposed, such as the planting on wind dunes.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Layout of a guiding principle for nature administrators: usage and well-being of animals used for the managment of nature reserves. 01/01/2007 - 30/09/2007

Abstract

The aim of this project is to evaluate the effect of heavy metals on the health and the condition of cattle that are used for the managment of nature reserves situated in a heavy metal contaminated regio. Recomendations will be made to minimize or reduce the health risks of animals used in the contaminated reserves. Further the juridicial problems with transbondary nature managment applying grazers will be investigated.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Study into the impact of heavy metal pollution on aquatic communities for the sanitation of the Dommel. 03/11/2006 - 30/09/2007

Abstract

In this project the present impact of the Cd and Zn contamination on aquatic communities in the river Dommel will be assessed. This evaluation will serve as a reference situation before the sanitation of the sediment. At 8 sites along the polution gradient aquatic communities wil be invetarised; i.e. the diatom communities, macro invertebrates and fish. Also the bioavailability of the metals will be assessed by measuring the metal content in local organisms (invertebrates, aquatic plants and fish) and in transplanted zebra mussels.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

AOP's as a way to treat concentrate: Ecotoxicological testing aided optimisation of a (waste) water treatment process. 01/11/2006 - 31/10/2010

Abstract

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Defence mechanisms of fish with different sensitivity towards heavy metals: Interaction and dynamics of proteins and hormones. 01/11/2006 - 31/10/2008

Abstract

The aim of this project is to investigate whether gill cells of fish with a different sensitivity towards copper show intracellular differences with regard to the expression of transporters, carriers and metal binding protein, as well as defensive proteins and enzymes involved in oxidative stress, during sublethal copper exposure. The role of the hormonal status on these processes will be examined. The most suitable biomarker will be selected, and an ELISA for this biomarker will be developed.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

(Epi) genetic analysis of candidate genes for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. 01/10/2006 - 31/12/2011

Abstract

This project represents a research contract awarded by the University of Antwerp. The supervisor provides the Antwerp University research mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions stipulated by the university.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Contamination of the food chain and reproductive failure: a multi-disciplinary study in the cow. 01/10/2006 - 30/09/2010

Abstract

The impact of environmental contaminants on bovine reproduction is assessed using chemical and bio-analytical methods. The effect of these pollutants on the oocyte quality is assessed by in vitro methods. New genes will be identified that can serve as future biomarkers for oocyte quality. The basis of 'oocyte' banking is initiated, with the aim of preserving oocytes with a high fertilisation capacity.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Exposure, food chain transfer and metabolism of brominated flame retardants. 01/10/2006 - 30/09/2009

Abstract

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Toxicodynamics of microcontaminants in relation to temperature and energy status in the zebrafish, Danio rerio: from gene to organismal responses. 01/10/2006 - 30/09/2008

Abstract

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Development of new biomarkers for the detection of endocrine disruption in zebrafish (Danio rerio). 01/10/2006 - 30/09/2008

Abstract

It is widely recognized that certain chemicals can modulate the endocrine metabolism and can thereby interfere with reproduction and development processes in wildlife. In this study, the effects of 17a-ethinylestradiol (EE2), fadrozole, vinclozoline and faslodex exposures on adult zebrafish (Danio rerio) are evaluated. More specifically, the effects on genome, proteome and reproduction are quantified. Next to evaluation of the female reproductive success, the gonadosomatic index (GSI) and hepatosomatic index (HSI) are determined. For the gene expression monitoring, in which the transcriptional events are measured, we use DNA microarrays (4000 oligo's). This method makes it possible to analyze large sets of genes in a high-throughput fashion. For analysis of the proteome we rely upon Difference in-Gel Electrophoresis (DiGE), a recently developed 2-DE technique with high reproducibility. In this technique, the proteins extracted from different tissues are labeled with different fluorescent reagents and then separated by 2-DE using a single gel. The proteins can be detected separately at the excitation wavelength specific to the different fluorescent reagents. The differential protein expression patterns are analyzed and quantified by an image analyzer. Complementary to the DiGE analysis we make use of LC-MS (liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry), enabling us a gel-free approach to characterize differential expression of proteins in exposed organisms. The unique integration of these parameters, measured at different levels of biological organisation, will provide new biomarkers for endocrine disruption which can be used to predict effects on the reproductive health of zebrafish.

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: De Coen Wim
  • Fellow: De Wit Marijke

Research team(s)

A future for radioecology in Europe. (FUTURAE) 01/10/2006 - 30/09/2008

Abstract

The overall objective of the FUTURAE project is to evaluate the feasibility of network(s) of excellence to maintain and enhance competence in a resource efficient manner and to enhance sustainable collaboration in the field of assissment and management of the impact of radionuclides on man and environment.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

AF3-SEA. 29/05/2006 - 31/12/2007

Abstract

AF3-SEA.

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: De Coen Wim

Research team(s)

Animal Physiology. 01/03/2006 - 28/02/2017

Abstract

Because of the variability of oxygen concentrations in aquatic and especially freshwater environments, oxygen has been a major force in the evolution of fishes. Their long evolutionary history, the present different oxygen requirements between species, and the acclimatory responses to hypoxic conditions make fish prime models in the study of oxygen dependent cellular and organismal functions and their regulation. During the last decades, global change events such as slight rises in temperature and increasing eutrofication result in more frequent hypoxic events. For fish, hypoxia results in hyperventilation, changes in the haemoglobin-oxygen binding affinity, and release of stress hormones such as cateoholamines and cortisol. Most of these effects are amplified under increased levels of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (hypercapnia). In fish, hypoxia also causes hypometabolism, suppressing energy metabolism, growth and reproduction as a consequence. Despite the fact that fish are especially suitable to study hypoxic effects, very few studies have focussed on ion transport during hypoxia. In red blood cells, transporters are up regulated, but little is known on how hypoxia affects the uptake of ions and essential metals at the gill. Regulation and homeostasis of ions and essential metals is highly dependent on energy metabolism and protein metabolism, processes that are severely down regulated during hypometabolism. The aim of the presented research is to study the interacting effects of hypoxia, hypercapnia and ammonia on ionoregulation and uptake, homeostasis and excretion of essential metals with a special focus on the influence of stress andlor ion regulatory related hormones.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Development and execution of a pilot project for effective measurements to evaluate the air quality in Flanders. 01/03/2006 - 28/02/2008

Abstract

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: De Coen Wim

Research team(s)

Environmental Toxicology. 01/01/2006 - 31/12/2015

Abstract

The research will focus on two aspects of environmental toxicology : 1) Research on the bioavailability and accumulation of micro-pollutants by both aquatic and terrestrial organisms. Models that are able to predict accumulation of pollutants in organisms present in their natural environment will be constructed. 2) In the second part relationships will be studied between acuumulated levels (internal concentrations and internal distribution) and effects at different levels of biological organisation, with special attention to the effects at the community and ecosystem level.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

The biological effects of metal contamination on organisms, at the individual level and at the population level. 01/01/2006 - 31/12/2009

Abstract

To study the biological effects of metal contamination on organisms, at the individual level and at the population level: does pollution affect fitness-related characters in snails and isopods? To what extent does the pollution with metals affect the population genetic structure and genetic diversity in the different invertebrate taxa and species?

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

New experimental approach in the identification and characterisation of emerging chemical risks in food security. 01/01/2006 - 01/07/2007

Abstract

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Effects of endocrine disruptors on sperm physiology in fish. 01/01/2006 - 31/12/2006

Abstract

This project will evaluate the effects of endocrine disruptors on the sperm physiology of zebrafish using flow cytometric analysis. The impact of differential exposure on the sperm competition towards fertilization will be analysed. We will evaluate whether exposed organisms are capable to reproduce when competing with unexposed organisms.

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: De Coen Wim

Research team(s)

Critical evaluation of marine carcareous skeletons as recorders of global climate change (CALMARS II) 15/12/2005 - 14/12/2007

Abstract

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Caractérisation des espèces de champignons et mycotoxines des ensilages en Belgique. 01/11/2005 - 31/05/2008

Abstract

La conservation par ensilage tient une place importante dans l'alimentation fourragère des animaux de Ia ferme. En Belgique, il eprésente Ia base de l'alimentation du betail pendant l'hiver, mais aussi partiellement durant Ia période estivale. Différentes productions vegetales sont utilisées pour l'ensilage telles Ie mais fourrage (plante entière), maIs épis broyes (CCM), l'herbe, Ia pulpe de betterave sucrière, etc. La qualité des ensilages a une grande influence sur Ia santé et Ie développement des animaux. La contamination fongique et a production de mycotoxines sont des problèmes couramment rencontrés dans les ensilages et sont fréquemment suspectés comme responsable de problème de santé voire de mortalité. Très peu de données sont toutefois disponibles concernant l'évaluation des risques liés à de telles contaminations, principalement a cause du fait que Ia plupart des effets suspectés sont peu spécifiques (diminution de Ia fertilité, productivité reduite, défense immunitaire déficientes, etc.) et pas uniquement influencés par Ia qualité de l'aliment. La présence do moisissures n'implique pas toujours une production de mycotoxine mais représente un bon signal pour envisager une telle possibilité.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Endocrine disruption in zebrafish (Danio rerio): relation between toxicogenomics, gamete physiology and reproduction characteristics. 01/10/2005 - 30/09/2007

Abstract

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are believed to interfere with the reproduction of animals, but current biomarkers do not provide evidence of effects on reproduction itself. Using the zebrafish (Danio rerio) as a model organism, we will study the effects of 2 model chemicals (ethinylestradiol and fadrozole) and 4 test chemicals (propiconazole, atrazine, bromkal 70-5 DE and musk ketone) on different levels of biological organisation: (1) microarray analysis will be used to map out gene activation pathways; (2) computer assisted sperm analysis (CASA) will be applied to determine effects on sperm motility and flow cytometry to evaluate viability, mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP) and DNA-content of the sperm; (3) a computerised 3D-behaviour analysis system will record and quantify reproductive behaviour of the fish. In addition, steroid concentrations, vitellogenin (VTG), gonadosomatic index (GSI), fecundity, fertility and hatching will be quantified. All parameters will be determined after acute (96 hours) and chronic (28 days) exposure. This unique integration of parameters will provide new biomarkers for endocrine disruption which could be more closely linked to effects on reproductive health of the organisms.

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: De Coen Wim
  • Fellow: Keil Dorien

Research team(s)

Toxicodynamics of microcontaminants with different modes of actions in the zebrafish, Danio rerio: a molecular biological and physiological analysis. 01/10/2005 - 31/08/2006

Abstract

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: Blust Ronny
  • Co-promotor: De Coen Wim
  • Fellow: Lambrechts Bettina

Research team(s)

The effect of stressors on the metabolic activity and resilience of aquatic ecosystems. 01/10/2005 - 31/12/2005

Abstract

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Optimasation and field validation of Bacterial Exposure Stress Technology (BEST) for the determination of sediment- and water quality. 01/05/2005 - 31/12/2006

Abstract

The project aims at the optimasation and field validation of bacterial stress promotors (BEST) for the determination of sediment- and water quality. In a first approach, the sampling- and extraction procedures are optimised for four locations with know pollution profiles. Secondly, the BEST induction profiles are compared to available chemical, biological and ecotoxicological information for selected locations in Flanders with varying degrees of pollution.

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: Smolders Roel

Research team(s)

Copper homeostasis in fish: the role of subcellular partitioning and metal-binding proteins. 01/05/2005 - 31/12/2006

Abstract

The subcellular fractionation of a metal, in casu the essential copper, can be an important factor in modulating the effects that this metal exerts. Proteins involved in copper transport, detoxification and excretion play an essential role. The proposed research will examine the differences in subcellular fractionation and protein binding of copper, and asses their importance in the different way that copper affects two freshwater fish.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Additives in plant protection. 01/01/2005 - 31/12/2008

Abstract

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: De Coen Wim

Research team(s)

Exposure routes and toxico-kinetics of environmental microcontaminants with different modes of actions in the zebrafish, Danio rerio: a molecular biological and physiological analysis. 01/01/2005 - 31/12/2007

Abstract

This study investigates the importance of water and food as exposure sources of three model contaminants with different physico-chemical properties and modes of action to zebrafish. It is explored to what extend uptake via water or food results in different responses and toxic effects. The responses and effects are studied at molecular, cellular and organismal level using genomics, proteomics and physiological approaches.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Development of biomarkers for metal toxicity in fresh water algae on the basis of differential gene expression and protein profiles. 01/01/2005 - 31/12/2006

Abstract

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: De Coen Wim
  • Co-promotor: Blust Ronny
  • Fellow: Jamers An

Research team(s)

Development of an alternative screening assay for classification of endocrine disruptors in the environment. 01/01/2005 - 31/12/2006

Abstract

Developing screening methods is an important effort to bypass initial needs to identify individual endocrine disruptors (EDs). However, screening methods for EDs will have to accomodate a wider variety of diverse chemicals than ever been subjected to screening methods before. The urge for more comprehensive in vitro systems that make multiple endpoint detection possible, is however in contrast with the few hormonal tissues currently analysed. So far, testing strategies have omitted the adrenal gland and therefore do not adequately cover the process of steroidogenesis, critical in adrenocortical, testicular and ovarian function. The present study combines the advantage of a pluripotent adrenocortical cell line with the capacity of microarray technique to analyse thousands of genes at ones. The H295R cell line covers the entire biochemical pathway responsible for steroidogenesis and therefore presents multiple molecular targets for toxicity, ranging from general effects on all steroidogenic tissues (e.g. aromatase) through to specific targets affecting only adrenocortical function. The idea of the project is to develop a cell line specific microarray, which allows classification of EDs according to their mode of action and is an important step in selecting potential biomarkers. As a confirmation and support of the microarray analysis, proteomics will be an important contribution to evaluate the broader metabolic context of the gene expression results.

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: De Coen Wim
  • Co-promotor: Blust Ronny
  • Fellow: Vanparys Caroline

Research team(s)

Characterisation and dynamics of metal toxicity in carp using gene expression profiles. 01/01/2005 - 31/12/2006

Abstract

In aquatic ecosystems fish are being exposed to metals through water, food and sediment. However the relative importance of these exposure routes for uptake of metals and the relationship between uptake, accumulation and occurrence of effects at different levels of response still remains largely unknown. For a better understanding of these toxic responses and effects there is a growing need for more sensitive tools to determine early effects of metal exposure. Since gene expression can be considered as the basis of many toxicological responses, gene expression analysis provides a good method to elucidate the mechanisms of toxic action and to detect toxic effects in a fast and sensitive way. SSH-PCR (Suppression Subtractive Hybridisation-PCR) combined with microarray technology offers an excellent tool to detect genes that are differentially expressed after metal exposure and to evaluate their expression in different exposure scenario's. In this study the influence of time and exposure concentration on the accumulation and effects of cadmium in carp, Cyprinus carpio, will be investigated. For these goals a combination of SSH-PCR and microarray technology will be applied to construct four organ specific microarrays (liver, kidney, gills and intestine) for gene expression evaluation. The observed gene expression reactions will be related to the accumulation of cadmium and effects at different levels of response, such as disturbance of the ion homeostasis, liver damage, growth and mortality. These microarrays will also be applied to characterise the relative importance of water and food for the accumulation, compartmentalisation, organ specific gene expression patterns and effects of cadmium in carp. The results of the laboratory study will be validated in field studies using both `caged' and resident carp.

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: Blust Ronny
  • Co-promotor: De Coen Wim
  • Fellow: Reynders Hans

Research team(s)

Second Expert Opinion on the Applicability of Cadmium Bioavailability in sediments (AVS/SEM concept). 14/12/2004 - 31/12/2005

Abstract

In this study a critical review is given of two documents composed by the metal Industry. In both documents the AVS/SEM concept is promoted as a valuable tool for the assessment of bioavailability of cadmium from sediments. In our study it was concluded that at the moment to many uncertainties exist in order to implement the AVS/SEM concept in a risc assessment. Additional resaerch is required in order to validate the concept under realistic field conditions.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Fast detection and identification of contaminants in food products using biosensors. 01/12/2004 - 30/11/2005

Abstract

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Novel methods for integrated risk assessment of cumulative stressors in Europe. (NOMIRACLE) 01/11/2004 - 31/10/2009

Abstract

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Effects of environmental stress on the genetic structure of natural populations of intertidal invertebrates. 01/10/2004 - 16/08/2007

Abstract

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Development of new biomarkers for the detection of endocrine disruption in zebrafish (Danio rerio). 01/10/2004 - 30/09/2006

Abstract

It is widely recognized that certain chemicals can modulate the endocrine metabolism and can thereby interfere with reproduction and development processes in wildlife. In this study, the effects of 17a-ethinylestradiol (EE2), fadrozole, vinclozoline and faslodex exposures on adult zebrafish (Danio rerio) are evaluated. More specifically, the effects on genome, proteome and reproduction are quantified. Next to evaluation of the female reproductive success, the gonadosomatic index (GSI) and hepatosomatic index (HSI) are determined. For the gene expression monitoring, in which the transcriptional events are measured, we use DNA microarrays (4000 oligo's). This method makes it possible to analyze large sets of genes in a high-throughput fashion. For analysis of the proteome we rely upon Difference in-Gel Electrophoresis (DiGE), a recently developed 2-DE technique with high reproducibility. In this technique, the proteins extracted from different tissues are labeled with different fluorescent reagents and then separated by 2-DE using a single gel. The proteins can be detected separately at the excitation wavelength specific to the different fluorescent reagents. The differential protein expression patterns are analyzed and quantified by an image analyzer. Complementary to the DiGE analysis we make use of LC-MS (liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry), enabling us a gel-free approach to characterize differential expression of proteins in exposed organisms. The unique integration of these parameters, measured at different levels of biological organisation, will provide new biomarkers for endocrine disruption which can be used to predict effects on the reproductive health of zebrafish.

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: De Coen Wim
  • Fellow: De Wit Marijke

Research team(s)

Development of cDNA arrays for the freshwater flea Daphnia magna for toxicity characterization of chemicals. 01/10/2004 - 30/09/2006

Abstract

The number of chemical products produced by men is enormous. At present the number of chemicals registered by the Chemical Abstract Service exceeds 20 million. Estimations are that over 100.000 compounds are released in the environment in such volumes that they generate a potential threat for men and environment. Only little is known on the toxicological properties of this large group of chemicals. The scarce information available until now consists mainly of acute toxicity data. Long term adverse effects on populations, communities and ecosystems are poorly documented. The lack of chronic and long term data is illustrated by the phenomenon of endocrine disruption. Various chemicals are capable of interfering with the endocrine metabolism of several animal species leading to negative effects on their reproduction. There is a great deal of uncertainty about the possible adverse (endocrine disrupting) character of chemicals for men and environment due to the scarce availability of chronic toxicity data and restricted knowledge on the toxicological working mechanisms. Especially for the ecologically important group of invertebrates no clear assays for mechanistic evaluation of endocrinological pathways disruption are developed yet. It is clear that there is an urgent need for this kind of assays to provide both chronic relevant as well as mechanistic detailed data on a cost-effective way. In this research project a cDNA (complementary DNA) array for the freshwater flea Daphnia magna will be developed in order to: (a) quantify the relationship between the short term biomarker effects and the accompanying changes in population dynamics. (b) reveal the mechanisms of toxicant-induced effects on the different metabolic pathways. (c) gain insight in the disruption of endocrine mediated effects by toxic exposure. Freshwater fleas are considered as one of the most important test organisms for the ecotoxicological evaluation of chemicals. They are used intensively for the impact-evaluation of environmental pollution on freshwater ecosystems because of their little size, their relative short lifecycle, their high sensitivity to a wide range of environmental chemicals and their central role in diverse aquatic food chains. Since DNA sequence information of Daphnia magna is not readily available, this project will initiate the production of a cDNA array, with gene fragments related to energy, growth/molting, reproduction and mortality. This array will be tested as a possible instrument for the fast and sensitive prediction of harmful effects on the population level. In a first step, Suppression subtractive hybridisation (SSH) PCR will be used for the production of cDNA libraries which consist of the most relevant gene transcripts. Then, after identification of the isolated gene fragments, a macro-array will be developed using the obtained cDNA libraries. Subsequently, the prediction capacity of this array will be investigated for four `model chemicals'. More specifically, the relationship between early disruption of gene expression and the chronic effects on population dynamics will be determined. Finally, `hormone associated' cDNA libraries will be developed in order to evaluate their capacity of detecting endocrine disruptors in invertebrates.

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: De Coen Wim
  • Fellow: Soetaert Anneleen

Research team(s)

Characterisation of the toxicological mode of action and effect-evaluation of fluorinated organochemicals in marine and estuarine organisms. 01/10/2004 - 30/09/2006

Abstract

Research investigating the environmental fate and effects of halogenated organochemicals has largely focused on brominated and chlorinated organics. The group of fluorinated organochemicals (FOCs), however, has up to now received less attention. Nevertheless, these compounds are being produced over 50 years and have a broad application spectrum in industry and households as surfactants, adhesives, medicines, fire retardants, agrochemicals, food packaging, textile, carpets, etc. A recent study has reveiled the worldwide distribution of perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) in animals of various trophic levels through the entire food chain. Even in remote (arctic) areas a detectable amount of fluorinated organochemicals could be quantified in the blood and liver of wildlife. The presence of this compound has also been established in commercially available nonindustrially exposed human sera. Despite the fact that FOCs are spread worldwide in wildlife and humans, and despite their resistance to biotransformation, little precise information is known on the toxicological mode of action of perfluorinated chemicals. It has been shown that PFOS influences cell membrane integrity and that it has potent hepatic peroxisome proliferating capacities in rats, mice and freshwater fish, a phenomenon that has been intimately correlated with hepatocarcinogenesis. The main objects of this projects are on the one hand the characterisation of the distribution of PFOS and related chemicals in aquatic ecosystems in Europe. On the other hand, we will try to reveal the mode of action of these chemicals and the possible effects on marine and estuarine species. An important aspect will be the research of effects on the molecular level, using the recent developed technique of subtraction suppression hybridisation PCR (SSH-PCR). More specifically, following subjects will be included in the research: 1) Chemical characterisation: quantifying fluorinated concentrations in aquatic organisms and describing bioaccumulation capacities through the food chain 2) Differential gene expression: isolation and identification of differentially expressed genes after PFOS exposure 3) Biomarkers: influence on suborganismal endpoints (biochemical and physiological) 4) Biomonitoring: actual impact on organisms

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: De Coen Wim
  • Fellow: Van de Vijver Inneke

Research team(s)

An integrated study of potential relationships between exposure and accumulation of heavy metals in wood mice (Apodemus sylvaticus L.). 01/10/2004 - 30/09/2006

Abstract

The environment became polluted by various hazardous substances, such as heavy metals. Contamination by heavy metals may have severe effects on every level of biological organisation, i.e. from cell to ecosystem. An important problem that frequently occurs in ecotoxicological metal studies is that a clear relationship between exposure, accumulation and effects of heavy metals in an organism is often not found under natural conditions. There are two possible explanations. First, in many papers the absolute concentration of heavy metals in the soil and in the food are quantified while a large fraction of these metals are not bioavailable for the organism. Second, acclimatisation and/or adaptation to heavy metal contamination can result in a reduced uptake and accumulation of the bioavailable fraction of heavy metals and an altered sensitivity or tolerance. However, it is still unclear how and to what extent organisms can adapt and/or acclimatise to heavy metal contamination. Possible ways are: (1) a reduced absorption of heavy metals, (2) an increased excretion of heavy metals, (3) a different organ and tissue distribution and (4) a more efficient induction of detoxifying mechanisms like metallothioneins (MT's). The effect of heavy metal pollution on aquatic organisms has already received considerable attention, both in a laboratory and a field context. Field studies on terrestrial mammals are however very rare. The aim of this study is to get a better understanding of the effects of heavy metal exposure on the accumulation of heavy metals in the Wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus, L.). In second instance, we will investigate the potential role of some key physiological adaptations to heavy metal exposure in this study species.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Genetic characterisation of the periwinkles Littorina littorea and L. saxatilis along a pollution gradient in the Scheldt estuary. 01/01/2004 - 31/12/2007

Abstract

The genetic population structure of natural populations of the indirect developing (i.e. planctonic development) periwinkle, Littorina littorea and of the direct developer (i.e. non-planctonic development) L. saxatilis will be determined and compared. Populations will be collected along the polluted western and the relatively clean eastern Scheldt estuary. Hence, we will try to determine to what extent pollution affects the population genetic structure of both periwinkles, and which are the responsible mechanisms.

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: De Wolf Hans

Research team(s)

Local genetic adaptations to heavy metal pollution in natural gudgeon (Gobio gobio) populations. 01/01/2004 - 31/12/2005

Abstract

In Flanders (Belgium), many fish species are declining at an alarming rate, several species have gone extinct in the last few decades, and many more risk the same fate. Water pollution and river management practices have reduced and extensively altered aquatic habitats. For many species, the number of populations as well as the number of individuals per population have decreased dramatically. Moreover, it seems very difficult for individuals to develop genetic adaptations to their polluted habitats, since adaptation through natural selection is a relatively slow process. Surprisingly, previous studies reveal that various species are capable of developing adaptations to changing environments at fast rates. Studying the occurence of genetic adaptations in natural fish populations inhabiting polluted streams can therefore be of great value to evaluate the consequences of human activities on aquatic ecosystems. This is of vital importance for setting up conservation strategies. This study aims to investigate whether populations of the gudgeon (Gobio gobio) have become genetically adapted to the heavy metals that occur in their habitats. Firstly, populations from a downstream Cd and Zn pollution gradient will be sampled by means of electrofishing. At each site, the levels of water pollution will be examined. The individuals' and populations' fitness will be compared using a number of fitness-parameters. Secondly, microsatellites, mitochondrial d-loop sequences and allozymes will be used to genetically characterise the populations. Correlations of frequencies of certain unique genotypes with the pollution gradient may be due to selection pressures of pollutants in the past. Furthermore, levels of gene flow between sample populations can be investigated. This information is needed since gene flow can affect the evolution of adaptations by causing outbreeding depressions. In a later stage, these data will be used to delineate conservation units. Since the current definition of conservation units only allows their application in undisturbed populations, our goal is to adjust for this situation, so that for all endangered populations and species conservation measures can be taken. To investigate if selection has led to new adaptive genetypes we will determine the nucleotide sequences of metallothionein (MT) genes. These proteins are believed to have a detoxifying effect on heavy metal pollution. Therefore, selection may have lead to the existence of new genotypes. Furthermore, expression of MT-genes will be studied by quantifying MT-mRNA's in different tissues. This will be related to measured MT-concentrations in these tissues. Using this approach, genetic adaptations can be demonstrated in a direct way. The combination of both research strategies will lead to new insights in the long-term impact of industrial river pollution on aquatic ecosystems, and will help optimize future conservation efforts.

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Research team(s)

Effect-evaluation of persistent pollutants on the European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus L.) by means of non-destructive biomarkers and population-ecological parameters. 01/01/2004 - 31/12/2005

Abstract

The emission of anthropogenic chemicals has caused worldwide pollution of our ecosystems. Exposure studies of these chemicals on wildlife have a long tradition, focussing mainly on chemical analyses of tissue residues. Although the effects of these pollutants on the individual and the population are of increasing concern, impact studies on terrestrial wildlife are scarce. Furthermore, there is a need for non-destructive methods as to assess the global impact on mammals. The overall goal of this field study is to investigate the relationships between the exposure of the hedgehog to persistent pollutants (heavy metals, PCBs and organochlorine pesticides) and the effects on a biochemical and population level, using non-destructive methods. A field study of selected hedgehog populations inhabiting park areas along a heavy metal pollution gradient in Antwerp (Belgium) is carried out. Hedgehogs are individually tagged. Furthermore condition indices and population parameters are collected. Hair samples are taken as to assess the contamination of individual hedgehogs, while biochemical effects are measured on blood samples. Some of the effects being measured are hormones, haematological parameters, genetic damage, 'Finally, relations between the exposure of the hedgehog to pollutants, the biochemical effects and population-ecological parameters will be investigated. These data will provide us more insight in the impact of persistent pollutants on natural hedgehog populations and more specifically if local populations are at risk.

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: De Coen Wim
  • Co-promotor: Scheirs Jan
  • Co-promotor: Verhagen Ron
  • Fellow: D'Havé Helga

Research team(s)

01/11/2003 - 30/10/2004

Abstract

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: De Coen Wim

Research team(s)

Toxicity identification and evaluation of neuro-active chemicals for the zebrafish. 01/10/2003 - 30/09/2005

Abstract

Until recently pharmaceuticals have systematically escaped the attention of environmental toxicologists. Due to the high volumes of pharmaceuticals used in human and veterinary medicine and animal production considerable amounts of drugs can enter the water cycle through a number of different exposure routes, e.g. disposal of waste water during the production process (industrial route) and more important the excretion in sewage after therapeutic use (domestic route). Several studies have already identified a variety of drugs in waste-, surface- and drinking water in the ng-µg/l range. Dispite of 1) worldwide production and consumption of pharmaceuticals, 2) detection of unneglectable concentrations of pharmaceuticals in the environment and 3) the fact that these substances are specifically designed to be biologically very active there is still very little known about the occurence and effect of pharmaceuticals on non-target organisms. In this study we are evaluating the effects of (neuro)pharmaceuticals in a teleost (zebrafish) as model of aquatic non-target species. The modelchemicals, chosen based on their occurrence in the environment, known effects in non-target organisms and the importance of the effected pathways in fish are: diazepam, chlorpromazin, mianserin and ethynylestradiol. The ultimate aim is to elucidate the toxic working mechanisms of pharmaceuticals and to develop relevant biomarkers for the early detection of chronic effects of these substances in fish. A very important point in this research is the investigation for correlation of effects on the biomarker level and effects on higher levels of biological organization. More specific this aim consists of several aspects: 1) development of highly sensitive and specific LC/MS/MS detection protocols for measurement of environmental concentrations and controling experimental exposures, 2) moleculair toxicological characterization of the modelchemicals. In this part cDNA array hybridizations will be applied to study differential gene expression in brain caused by exposure to the model pharmaceuticals, 3) further characterize the differentially expressed genes and test them as potential biomarkers for neurotoxic effects in fish by forming a concentration/respons relationship, 4) correlate the developed moleculair biomarkers to effects at higher levels of biological organization (growth/reproduction/survival, physiology, behavior). The results generated in this research will lead to a better understanding of the ecotoxicology of neuropharmaceuticals and can lead to the development of specific assays for the detection of neurotoxic effects in fish which enable the environmental risk assessment of these chemicals.

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: De Coen Wim
  • Co-promotor: De Boeck Gudrun
  • Fellow: Van der Ven Karlijn

Research team(s)

Endocrine disruption in zebrafish (Danio rerio): relation between toxicogenomics, gamete physiology and reproduction characteristics. 01/10/2003 - 30/09/2005

Abstract

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are believed to interfere with the reproduction of animals, but current biomarkers do not provide evidence of effects on reproduction itself. Using the zebrafish (Danio rerio) as a model organism, we will study the effects of 2 model chemicals (ethinylestradiol and fadrozole) and 4 test chemicals (propiconazole, atrazine, bromkal 70-5 DE and musk ketone) on different levels of biological organisation: (1) microarray analysis will be used to map out gene activation pathways; (2) computer assisted sperm analysis (CASA) will be applied to determine effects on sperm motility and flow cytometry to evaluate viability, mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP) and DNA-content of the sperm; (3) a computerised 3D-behaviour analysis system will record and quantify reproductive behaviour of the fish. In addition, steroid concentrations, vitellogenin (VTG), gonadosomatic index (GSI), fecundity, fertility and hatching will be quantified. All parameters will be determined after acute (96 hours) and chronic (28 days) exposure. This unique integration of parameters will provide new biomarkers for endocrine disruption which could be more closely linked to effects on reproductive health of the organisms.

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: De Coen Wim
  • Co-promotor: Blust Ronny
  • Fellow: Keil Dorien

Research team(s)

01/10/2003 - 31/12/2004

Abstract

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: De Coen Wim

Research team(s)

01/10/2003 - 31/12/2003

Abstract

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Swimming capacity of endemic fish species: consequences for the crossing of migration barriers in Belgian rivers. 01/05/2003 - 30/04/2005

Abstract

In most river systems, fragmentation of the longitudinal corridor (by dams, weirs, locks, culverts...) has resulted in the drastic reduction and the disappearance of numerous migratory fish species. At present, efforts are made to remediate these problems by use of fish passes and bypass channels in order to resto re the accessibility of upstream areas to fish. Assessing the swimming capacity of endemic fish species will allow the development of an integrated model to predict the accessibility of barriers to fish, which can be used as a management tool for river management.

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Research team(s)

Study ot N-glycan patterns isolated from serum proteins from chronically intoxicated carp. 01/05/2003 - 30/04/2005

Abstract

This project aims at studying chronic exposure of carp to toxicants of different chemical classes (paraquat, arochlor-1254, cadmium and PFOS) and its effect to posttranslational N-glycosylation of serum proteins. FACE and HPAEC-PAD technology will be used to study whether changed N-glycan profiles can be used as early indicators for future harm to health of the intoxicated carp. If indeed specific N-glycan profiles are found in relation to specific chronic exposures, then this project form the basis of totally new toxicology research in which suffering or killing of animals is limited to the minimum.

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: De Coen Wim
  • Co-promotor: Maras Marleen

Research team(s)

01/05/2003 - 31/12/2003

Abstract

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Research team(s)

01/04/2003 - 31/12/2003

Abstract

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Research team(s)

01/02/2003 - 31/12/2003

Abstract

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: De Coen Wim

Research team(s)

BERISP - Breaking Ecotoxicological Restraints in Spatial Planning. 04/01/2003 - 31/12/2008

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Physiological adaptation of the zebra mussel driehoeksmossel (Dreissena polymorpha) to metal stress. 01/01/2003 - 31/12/2006

Genetic selection and physiological acclimatization in a stress gradient: role of metallothionein in the adaptation of natural populations of the Gudgeon (Gobio gobio) to heavy metals. 01/01/2003 - 31/12/2006

Abstract

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Developmental stability as measure of individual quality in the Great Tit (Parus major) : a challenge experiment. 01/01/2003 - 31/12/2006

Abstract

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Impact assessment and remediation of anthropogenic interventions on fish populations. 01/01/2003 - 31/10/2006

Abstract

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Research team(s)

Evaluation and use of non-invasive and micro cellular flow cytometric analysis informative in environmental-toxicological and haematological context. 01/01/2003 - 31/12/2005

Abstract

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: De Coen Wim
  • Co-promotor: Scheirs Jan
  • Co-promotor: Verhagen Ron

Research team(s)

Characterisation and dynamics of metal toxicity in carp using gene expression profiles. 01/01/2003 - 31/12/2004

Abstract

In aquatic ecosystems fish are being exposed to metals through water, food and sediment. However the relative importance of these exposure routes for uptake of metals and the relationship between uptake, accumulation and occurrence of effects at different levels of response still remains largely unknown. For a better understanding of these toxic responses and effects there is a growing need for more sensitive tools to determine early effects of metal exposure. Since gene expression can be considered as the basis of many toxicological responses, gene expression analysis provides a good method to elucidate the mechanisms of toxic action and to detect toxic effects in a fast and sensitive way. SSH-PCR (Suppression Subtractive Hybridisation-PCR) combined with microarray technology offers an excellent tool to detect genes that are differentially expressed after metal exposure and to evaluate their expression in different exposure scenario's. In this study the influence of time and exposure concentration on the accumulation and effects of cadmium in carp, Cyprinus carpio, will be investigated. For these goals a combination of SSH-PCR and microarray technology will be applied to construct four organ specific microarrays (liver, kidney, gills and intestine) for gene expression evaluation. The observed gene expression reactions will be related to the accumulation of cadmium and effects at different levels of response, such as disturbance of the ion homeostasis, liver damage, growth and mortality. These microarrays will also be applied to characterise the relative importance of water and food for the accumulation, compartmentalisation, organ specific gene expression patterns and effects of cadmium in carp. The results of the laboratory study will be validated in field studies using both `caged' and resident carp

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

01/01/2003 - 31/12/2004

Abstract

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: De Coen Wim

Research team(s)

01/01/2003 - 31/12/2004

01/01/2003 - 31/12/2004

Abstract

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: Hattink Jasper

Research team(s)

01/01/2003 - 31/12/2003

Abstract

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Research team(s)

01/01/2003 - 31/12/2003

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Risk assessment of brominated flame retardants as suspected endocrine disrupters for human and wildlife health. (FIRE) 01/12/2002 - 31/05/2006

Abstract

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: De Coen Wim

Research team(s)

Development of Environmental Diagnostics based on Toxicogenomics and Bio-informatics. 01/10/2002 - 30/09/2006

Abstract

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: De Coen Wim

Research team(s)

01/10/2002 - 30/09/2005

Abstract

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Research team(s)

01/10/2002 - 30/09/2005

Characterisation of the toxicological mode of action and effect-evaluation of fluorinated organochemicals in marine and estuarine organisms. 01/10/2002 - 30/09/2004

Abstract

Research investigating the environmental fate and effects of halogenated organochemicals has largely focused on brominated and chlorinated organics. The group of fluorinated organochemicals (FOCs), however, has up to now received less attention. Nevertheless, these compounds are being produced over 50 years and have a broad application spectrum in industry and households as surfactants, adhesives, medicines, fire retardants, agrochemicals, food packaging, textile, carpets, etc. A recent study has reveiled the worldwide distribution of perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) in animals of various trophic levels through the entire food chain. Even in remote (arctic) areas a detectable amount of fluorinated organochemicals could be quantified in the blood and liver of wildlife. The presence of this compound has also been established in commercially available nonindustrially exposed human sera. Despite the fact that FOCs are spread worldwide in wildlife and humans, and despite their resistance to biotransformation, little precise information is known on the toxicological mode of action of perfluorinated chemicals. It has been shown that PFOS influences cell membrane integrity and that it has potent hepatic peroxisome proliferating capacities in rats, mice and freshwater fish, a phenomenon that has been intimately correlated with hepatocarcinogenesis. The main objects of this projects are on the one hand the characterisation of the distribution of PFOS and related chemicals in aquatic ecosystems in Europe. On the other hand, we will try to reveal the mode of action of these chemicals and the possible effects on marine and estuarine species. An important aspect will be the research of effects on the molecular level, using the recent developed technique of subtraction suppression hybridisation PCR (SSH-PCR). More specifically, following subjects will be included in the research: 1) Chemical characterisation: quantifying fluorinated concentrations in aquatic organisms and describing bioaccumulation capacities through the food chain 2) Differential gene expression: isolation and identification of differentially expressed genes after PFOS exposure 3) Biomarkers: influence on suborganismal endpoints (biochemical and physiological) 4) Biomonitoring: actual impact on organisms

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: De Coen Wim
  • Fellow: Van de Vijver Inneke

Research team(s)

01/10/2002 - 30/09/2004

Applicability of the zebra mussel for the assessment of water quality. 01/05/2002 - 30/04/2004

Abstract

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Research team(s)

01/05/2002 - 30/04/2004

Abstract

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: De Coen Wim

Research team(s)

19/03/2002 - 18/03/2004

Abstract

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: De Coen Wim

Research team(s)

Effects of pollutants on populations and benthic life communities in the North Sea. 01/02/2002 - 30/04/2006

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Ecological characterization of European estuaries, the Scheldt estuary as a model. 01/01/2002 - 31/12/2006

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Evaluation of the toxic mode of action of endocrine disruptors for the zebrafish, danio rerio. 01/01/2002 - 31/12/2005

Abstract

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: De Coen Wim

Research team(s)

01/01/2002 - 31/12/2003

Abstract

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: De Wolf Hans

Research team(s)

Effects of environmental stress on the genetic structure of natural populations of intertidal invertebrates. 01/10/2001 - 30/09/2004

Abstract

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Research team(s)

01/01/2001 - 31/12/2004

Abstract

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: Blust Ronny
  • Co-promotor: De Coen Wim
  • Co-promotor: Eens Marcel
  • Co-promotor: Schepens Paul
  • Co-promotor: Verhagen Ron

Research team(s)

01/01/2001 - 31/12/2003

Abstract

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Research team(s)

01/10/2000 - 30/09/2005

Abstract

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Research team(s)

01/10/2000 - 30/09/2004

The use of bird feathers as bio-indicators for heavy metal pollution, and study of the effects of this pollution on reproduction and health status in small insectivorous songbirds. 01/01/2000 - 31/12/2004

Abstract

In recent years, bird feathers have been used as an indicator tissue ofmetal exposure in birds. Bird feathers are ideal for assessment of heavy metals because they accumulate certain heavy metals in proportion to blood levels at the time offeather formation. Studying the effect of heavy metals on terfestrial songbirds by integrating reproductive, endocrinological, immunological and behavioural parameters is innovating

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Research team(s)