Research in the Spotlight

Our research on microplastic pollution has over the past years attracted considerable media attention. Recently there has been increased interest in this issue from politicians who urge the Flemish/Belgian governments to develop action plans to prevent plastic pollution in our seas and waterways. A few days ago, the mayors of the Belgium coastal towns started up a campaign to address beach pollution. The research which attracted media attention this time was the low efficiency (to retain microplastics) of waste water treatment plants in Flanders and the contribution of the river Scheldt to the marine microplastic pollution issue.

Reporters of various national radio and TV stations and for the newspaper the Standaard (link) visited our lab and talked to Prof. Janssen to get the full story of recent research findings.

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.

Our latest microplastic research was included in the Science for Environment Policy news alert published by the European Commission’s DG Environment. This news alert summarises scientific studies carefully selected for quality and European policy relevance. Our research selected for publication in the news alert was the recently published paper on microplastics in two key marine species: mussels and lugworms.

Next week, 10 GhEnToxLab members will be presenting their research at the 25th SETAC Europe Annual Meeting in Barcelona, Spain from 3-7 May 2015. There we will highlight our research in a total of four platforms, one poster corner and 8 posters. To keep track of us during the conference, a comprehensive list of our activities is provided below.

Together with multiple partner institutions, GhEnToxLab has recently been awarded a significant research grant via the BELSPO BRAIN.BE program to develop “New Strategies for monitoring and risk assessment of Hazardous chemicals in the marine Environment with Passive Samplers” (see the NEWSTHEPS website for more information). Briefly, the project aims to develop innovative approaches and novel practical techniques that address the current fundamental scientific and methodological issues related to the implementation of Good Environmental Status (GES) of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive in national and European waters.

ZeeambGhEnToxLab-member, Maarten De Rijcke, has joined the expert group of ambassadors of sea research. These ambassadors communicate regularly the on the marine scientific research that's being conducted aboard the RV Simon Stevin. Using social media, the Flanders Marine Institute aims to improve the accessibility of marine research to the general public.GhEnToxLab supports this initiative full-heartedly. Today, our research on harmful algal blooms was featured on the facebook page of the RV Simon Stevin (dutch).

lisbethThis French documentary (airing October 7th, 22h55, France 2) investigates our plastic consumption and it's consequences. We're addicted to the stuff, but the biggest victim of our consumerism is the sea. Our seas and oceans are littered with tonnes of plastic, some of it so small it is invisible to the naked eye. These microplastics can be so small they are readily ingested by organisms at the base of the food chain. But, with this fact, new questions arise. Did plastics enter our food chain? Do we ingest them as well? Are we contaminated by the plastics that are so ubiquitously present in our daily life? This documentary will answer these questions and more, based on the research performed at GhEnToxLab. For more information click here 

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Due to the multitude of negative effects on the environment and human health, the environmental fate and toxicity of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are of a global concern. In one of our recent publications, we reported that the international efforts to reduce PCB emissions have effectively reduced concentrations in open water ecosystems like the Belgian coastal zone.

janaToday, September 15th, is the start of the second international Environmental Omics (iEOS) Conference in Liverpool, UK.  The iEOS conference and the Environmental Omics Synthesis Centre was founded to bring together people, ideas, research fields and organisations using omics approaches to advance environmental sciences. The EOS and the conference are funded through the Natural Environmental Research Council and the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council.

GhEnToxLab at the ESA annual meeting

ESA

Founded in 1915, the Ecological Society of America has strived to stimulate and promote ecological science for nearly a decade. Over the years, it has steadily grown from the original (mostly American) 307 members to an astounding 10.000 international members today. It is the single largest community of professional ecologists in the world and therefore a reliable and critical source of ecological knowledge. Its core business is to improve the communication among scientists as well as raising public awareness through their yearly conference. Today, their 99th anual meeting kicks off in Sacramento (California, USA) and our resident ecologist Jan Baert will be there. During his pitch presentation (COS 57-6), he will explain how the effects of biodiversity on community functioning shifts along a toxic gradient. Read more about his research below to discover the venue.

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