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Chemical contamination of aquatic systems is an increasing problem in society. Large-scale production and use of novel and diverse chemicals means that water systems are often contaminated with many known and unknown chemicals. These chemicals can affect organisms and the resulting toxicity is often observed in laboratory and field-based bioassays. However, linking chemical exposure to toxicity is complicated due to synergism and antagonism between chemicals as well as differences in bioavailability between samples. My PhD project, supervised by Prof Ary Hoffmann, Dr Vincent Pettigrove (CEO – CAPIM) and Dr Melissa Carew, involves developing rapid and sensitive sublethal biomarkers to identify toxicity caused by pollution exposure in the Australian bioassay species, Chironomus tepperi. To achieve this, I am considering several levels of cellular function and linking them to whole organism endpoints. Expression of stress genes can change with pollution exposure and often link to protein and enzyme production, although not always. By combining gene expression with protein concentration, DNA damage and organism fitness we can get a more holistic view of the stress caused by chemical exposure. This will help us link pollutants to specific toxicity and provide rapid and reliable toxicity assessment.
Jasper Loftus-Hills Memorial Award (2010)
Jeppe, K.J., Carew, M.E., Long, S., Lee, S.F., Pettigrove, V., Hoffmann A.A. (in press), Genes involved in cysteine metabolism of Chironomus tepperi are regulate differently by copper and by cadmium Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, Part C.
Hale, R., Marshall, S., Jeppe, K., Pettigrove, V. (in press) Separating the effects of water physicochemistry and sediment contamination on Chironomus tepperi (Skuse) survival, growth and development: a boosted regression tree approach Aquatic toxicology .