Laboratory of Ecotoxicology

Laboratory scientists focus on studying the distribution and accumulation patterns of newly developed materials and newly formed pollutants (nano- and micro-derivatives, rare earth elements (REEs), metal mixtures, nano- and micro-plastics, pharmaceuticals, wastewater, etc.) and their impact on aquatic organisms. Methodologically, ecotoxicological studies include investigation of responses of animals and plants belonging to different trophic levels of ecosystems to xenobiotics and analysis of organism responses at different levels of biological organization, using physiological, biochemical, genetic, and behavioural markers. Results are used to assess specific pollution risks to the sustainability of ecosystems (and consequently to human health), to determine environmental safety levels, and to justify the regulation, monitoring, and control of emissions of new substances into the environment.

Laboratory researchers focus on three main research trends:

The first research trend covers investigation of the effects of nano- and micro-particles on test organisms of different trophic levels and ontogenesis, using various standard and non-standard acute and long-term toxicity assessment methods, and elucidation of the mechanisms of the impact of these metal- and carbon-based materials on organisms and possibilities of their application. Results obtained will provide new insights into the embryotoxicity and nanotoxicity of newly developed materials to aquatic organisms, as well as the mechanisms of their penetration through biological barriers. The models and mechanisms of accumulation, transport, and distribution of these materials, as well as their impact on organisms will complement research in the field of nanoecotoxicology and will be important for assessing the nature of the impact of nano- and micro-pollutants and predicting the risk of these substances for ecosystem sustainability.

The second research trend focuses on investigation of interaction of micro- and nano-plastics, nanoparticles, and other chemicals with (a)biotic factors (for example, monospecific infections or co-infections) in the context of changing environment. Research is carried out in natura and in vivo to identify and predict the phenomenon of “something from nothing” in aquatic ecosystems, i.e. a synergistic effect of (a)biotic stressors acting individually at background or threshold concentrations. Experimental studies of xenobiotics (micro- and nano-plastics, etc.), parasitic infections or their interactions are conducted with artificially bred or wild fish species to determine and compare their or their offspring’s sensitivity to xenobiotics and assess fish recovery potential under altered environmental conditions. Investigations allow predicting the effects of (a)biotic factors and their complex effects on fish stocks and contribute to scientific knowledge of host-parasite-pollutant interactions in aquatic ecosystems in the context of changing environment.

The third research trend focuses on studying the effects of environmentally relevant concentrations of REEs on algae, aquatic plants and other aquatic organisms at various biological organization levels, using standardized and modified long-term toxicity test methods. Upon selection of informative reference points and establishment of active concentrations, researchers study the effects of individual REEs and their mixtures, as well as mixtures of REEs with drugs. Biotransformation and oxidative stress markers are used to study the effects of these chemical agents and to analyze specific cellular responses of Characeae algae and patterns of REEs accumulation in cellular compartments.