My research interests fall into the areas of ecotoxicology, environmental risk assessment and wildlife conservation.
The study of the adverse effects of emerging contaminants is extremely useful for ecological, and also human, risk assessment. Throughout these years, I have progressively developed a multidisciplinary approach that combines extensive field studies and detailed experimental setups to study effects of man-made chemicals across multiple levels of biological organization; from the molecular to the population level. My goal is to obtain better knowledge and an integrated insight of the relationship between environmental pollutants and wildlife, which is of paramount importance in improving our current environmental risk assessment procedures.
One of my lines of research aims to assess the risk of seeds treated with pestiticides for birds. Seed treatments are a method widely used for crop protection. Treated seeds present some advantages as they reduce the need for spraying and deliver the active ingredient to where it is needed the most. On the other hand, treated seeds pose a risk to seed-eating birds and mammals that use them as a food source (sometimes the only available source). During one research project, I described the toxicological effects of ingesting cereal seeds treated with pesticides (insecticides and fungicides) on the health and reproductive success of red-legged partridges (Alectoris rufa). A second aim was to estimate the risk of exposure of partridges to treated seeds in the field.
At the University of Antwerp, I am currently working on a project to assess the adverse effects of Perfluoralkyl compounds on birds. These compounds have a wide range of applications such as surface coatings for carpets, textile stain, soil repellents, food contact paper and fire-fighting foams. The extended use of perfluoralkyl compounds, together with their high persistence, has resulted in global contamination of the environment, wildlife and humans. The ubiquity of these compounds contrasts sharply with the limited information about their effects on organisms. With this project, we aim to understand the toxicity mechanism of perfluoralkyl compounds and the biological consequences of exposure to levels present in the environmental.
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