Published on April 21, 2016

Environmental factors including chemicals can induce changes that can affect the offspring of exposed animals for multiple generations. These effects are referred to as transgenerational effects and are often the consequence of changes in DNA methylation. Within this paper, we have focused on understanding the role of DNA methylation by studying the patterns of methylation at the genomic level in two Daphnia species. We observed that these patterns are not random but are associated with the size of the gene family. This suggest that DNA methylation may help regulate the function and size of gene families which in turn may play an important role in stress response.

Published on April 14, 2016

Many congratulations to Dr. Gert Everaert of GhEnToxLab who is awarded the prize for the SETAC Europe Best Paper in the category of Chemical Analysis and Environmental Monitoring for his paper: "Multidecadal Field Data Support Intimate Links between Phytoplankton Dynamics and PCB Concentrations in Marine Sediments and Biota”. In this publication, Gert and his co-authors performed meta-analyses on existing monitoring data and found evidence that the biological pump plays a key role in the partitioning of PCBs between different marine compartments in the North Sea. One of the main strengths of the research is the uniquely large spatiotemporal scale on which the conclusions are based. The award ceremony will be held at the opening ceremony of the SETAC Europe Conference in Nantes on May 22nd 2016.

Published on April 5, 2016

The Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) and the UK Environmental Omics Synthesis Centre (iEOS) are organizing a joint focused topic meeting on environmental and (eco)toxicological omics and epigenetics. The conference will take place in Ghent, 12-15 September, 2016 and GhEnToxLab members Prof. Dr. Eng. Karel De Schamphelaere and Dr. Eng. Jana Asselman are members of the organizing committee. The application of ‘omics' in environmental and (eco)toxicological science is a fast moving area of research, with new understanding of the epigenome bringing an important new perspective to understanding of species response to environmental perturbations. The symposium will consist of platform and poster presentations from selected abstracts as well as opening lectures from world-renowned invited speakers. Abstracts for platform and poster presentations can be submitted (link) until 15 June 2016.

Published on March 15, 2016

Harmful algal blooms, produced by cyanobacteria, not only impact water quality, but they also have the potential to produce toxins that can harm humans, pets and wildlife. The blooms are caused by a combination of factors, one major factor being warmer temperatures. 2015 was the warmest year on record. Before that it was 2014. The long-term trend of rising temperatures is likely to further promote the global expansion of cyanobacteria. As copper is commonly used as an algaecide to eradicate cyanobacterial blooms, we investigated the combined effects of copper and the toxic cyanobacterium Microcystis aeruginosa and how these were affected by temperature and food concentration. Our study shows that the interactive effects between copper and harmful algae blooms are not overly dependent on temperature and food concentration. Nevertheless the present study warns against the use of copper-based algaecides and suggests that environmental risk assessment of copper should consider specific situations where harmful M. aeruginosa blooms can co-occur.

Published on February 18, 2016

Mostly, metal contamination comes as a mixture of different metals. These multi-component mixtures can produce significant mixture effects. In this study, metal mixture toxicity on barley root elongation was investigated. Mixture effects of four metals (Cu, Cd, Ni and Zn) were investigated when each metal was present in the mixture at a low effect concentration, i.e. individually only causing a small effect. Two commonly used ‘reference’ models (concentration addition and independent action) were used to test if it is possible to predict toxicity in these mixtures. In this study, it was shown that the toxicity of a mixture of metals was almost always larger than the effect of the most toxic metal in that mixture. In addition, it was found that a mixture of four metals, each causing individually < 10% effect, produced mixture effects up to 50%. This highlights the need to incorporate mixture toxicity in risk-assessment frameworks.

Published on February 1, 2016

Previous studies have suggested that phosphorus (P) deficiency can increase the sensitivity of microalgae to toxic trace metals, potentially due to reduced metal detoxification at low cell P quota. The existing evidence is, however, inconsistent. This study was set up to determine the combined effects of zinc (Zn) and P supplies on Zn and P bioaccumulation and growth of the green microalgae Pseudokirchneriella subcapitata. Zinc toxicity was investigated in (i) a 24 h growth rate assay with cells varying in initial cell P quota with no supplemental P during Zn exposure and in (ii) a 48 h growth assay initiated with cells at the end of a 14-days steady state culture at three P addition rates (RARs) between 0.8 and 1.6 day−1. Our data at two experimental scenarios and the prediction under various relevant scenarios suggest a weaker effect of secondary stress factor (Zn) when nutrient deficiency (first stress factor) is prevailing.

Published on January 27, 2016

For the second year in a row, the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) organized the PlaneetZee@work competition. As a committed partner of VLIZ, GhEnToxLab hosted an interactive day on marine sciences for high school students. On Tuesday 26 January, 30 fourth-year students of the Barnum school of Roeselare visited our lab to learn - hands on - about the effects of different stressors on the marine environment. After an introductory presentation and a guided tour of our facilities, the students participated in five workshops. Each workshop, organized by five of our PhD students, covered current, high profile issues like: harmful algal blooms, ocean acidification and (micro-)plastic pollution. Additionally workshops on innovative environmental DNA monitoring techniques and basic marine toxicity testing provided insights into new and current ecotoxicological methods. We would like to thank the students for their vibrant enthusiasm and wish them all the best with their further research activities leading to the development and presentation of their scientific posters on these topics.

Published on January 11, 2016

We determined whether a realistic mixture of hydrophobic chemicals affects the growth dynamics of a marine diatom and how this effect compares to the effect of temperature, light regime and nutrient conditions. Passive dosing was used to expose a marine diatom to a realistic mixture of hydrophobic compounds accumulated from Belgian coastal waters using passive samplers. Although ∑7PCBs exceeded the environmental quality standards (2 ng L− 1), we did not observe adverse ecotoxicological effects in a 72 h algal growth inhibition test with P. tricornutum. Natural drivers such as nutrients, temperature and light availability, explaining about 85% of the observed variability, are more important drivers of the growth of P. tricornutum than the mixture of organic pollutants present in Belgian coastal waters.

Published on December 15, 2015

As part of the lectures marine ecology of Prof. Janssen, students of several master programs went on a field trip to the Opal coast in France. In the shadow of the fortress of Ambleteuse they experienced the forces of tidal action in terms of ecological zonation on rocky shores, sandy beaches and within the salt marshes of the river Slack.

Next to the field trip to Ambleteuse, the bioscience engineering students boarded the research vessel Simon Stevin. A video compilation of this excursion can be found on the Media menu.

Published on November 12, 2015

On Sunday the 22nd of November, many research institutes in Flanders open their doors to the general audience for Science Day, an event coordinated by the Flemish Government. The Flanders Marine Institute is also opening its doors from 10am to 5pm. GhenToxLab Researchers are also present! They will take visitors on an interactive tour in the Molecular Lab of the Marine Station Ostend and will explain how DNA plays an important role in developing new techniques to assess biodiversity.