Ecotoxicology & Risk Assessment
The Ecotoxicology and Risk Assessment Laboratory at Loyola's Institute of Environmental Sustainability (IES) conducts ecotoxicity research to determine the fate and effects of inorganic and organic contaminants in the ecosystem.
The laboratory has a strong focus on the influence of chemical and physical characteristics of water, sediments and soils on the bioavailability and toxicity of contaminants to aquatic organisms. In the natural environment, toxicant concentrations usually fluctuate and are dependent on sources. Therefore, the usual method of using constant exposures in a laboratory setting is not always relevant.
In addition, research conducted in a laboratory usually examines the effects of a single contaminant on an individual organism. However, the effects of contaminants in the natural environment are often up to community levels. Ecotoxicity research conducted in IES uses traditional constant and fluctuating exposure methods to determine the effects of contaminants (single and mixtures) at both individual and community levels using field relevant study design, such as outdoor microcosms, water flow-through in artificial stream systems.
By studying the fate of contaminants and responses of organisms, IES ecotoxicologist and Environmental Studies faculty member, Dr. Tham Hoang, hopes to add to an understanding of how contaminants affect the environment and how we might ameliorate their negative effects in our world.
Species studied include fish, aquatic terrestrial invertebrates (e.g., zooplankton, benthic macroinvertebrates, bivalves, insects, snails, earthworms), phytoplankton, and periphyton.
Test species are housed separately in the laboratory. Ecotoxicity research is supported by in-house analytical chemistry of IES, such as ICP-MS for metal analysis, IC for ions analysis, GC-MS for analysis of organic contaminants, TOC analyzer for analysis of total and dissolved organic carbon the water, Hot Block for tissue digestion, and other instruments for measuring water quality characteristics (e.g., pH, DO, conductivity, turbidity, hardness, alkalinity, etc.). Results of research conducted in the IES Ecotoxicology and Risk Assessment Laboratory are used to:
- determine the bioavailability, bioconcentration and bioaccumulation of contaminants
- evaluate potential toxicity of individual and mixture chemicals in water, sediment, soil, and diets
- evaluate toxicity of effluent wastewaters and determine causative agent(s) through toxicity identification evaluations
- prepare ecological hazard and risk assessments for aquatic and terrestrial environments
- provide guidance to optimize efficiency of site cleanups and assist in development of safe numerical water, sediment, and soil.
In addition, the testing facility of the IES Ecotoxicology and Risk Assessment Laboratory also supports training undergraduate and graduate students in ecotoxicology and risk assessment, biology, environmental studies and sciences, and chemistry.