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Comprehensive non-target screening to find and identify new biomagnifying organic contaminants in Baltic Sea top consumers

Research project The project aims to develop tools for assessing the effects of anthropogenic (human-produced) substances on the functioning of the ecosystem and the health of organisms. The project utilizes time trend data and state-of-the-art food web models to identify new and emerging contaminants and create an understanding of their sources, pathways, accumulation and biological effects in the Baltic Sea.

Head of project

Project overview

Project period:

2018-01-01 2022-12-31

Funding

EU Bonus BaltHealth

Mistra

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Chemistry

Research area

Chemical sciences, Environmental chemistry, Marine science

Project description

The doctoral position is linked to the EU project BaltHealth, which will develop tools for assessing the effects of anthropogenic (human-produced)substances on the functioning of the ecosystem and the health of organisms. The project utilizes time trend data and state-of-the-art food web models to create an understanding of sources, pathways, accumulation and biological effects of anthropogenic substances in the Baltic Sea.

The aim of the PhD project will be to develop non-discriminating methods for extraction and purification of biological samples, non-target analysis and property directed screening and identification of bio-accumulating organic substances in top consumers in the Baltic Sea food webs.

In order to identify anthropogenic bioaccumulating substances, samples from lower trophy levels of the relevant Baltic Sea food webs (e.g. sediment, filter feeders (e.g. blue mussels), benthic fish (e.g. eelpout), pelagic fish (e.g. herring) will be collected, purified, analyzed, in parallel to samples of top consumers. Advanced data evaluation procedures will be used to find compounds that occurs in samples throughout the food way and increase in concentration towards the top, e.g. biomagnifying compounds.

This practical work includes developing and optimizing methods for non-discrimination sample extraction and purification. It also involves development of highly efficient separation and detection techniques, e.g. using two-dimensional (2D) and conventional (1D) gas and liquid chromatographic separation (GC and HPLC), ion mobility separation and mass spectrometric detection (TOF-MS), with various ionization techniques.

It also includes developing procedures for finding and prioritizing candidate structures and associated metabolites, thereby identifying new bioaccumulative substances. This part of the project may also include the use of bioanalytical techniques for biological effect and response measurements.

The results will be shared with other partners in the consortium and will be used in modelling efforts aiming at understanding the ecosystem dynamics in the Baltic Sea, how contaminants affect ecosystem function and top consumer health and, ultimately, to forecast changes in ecosystem structure, function, and health as a result of climate induced changes.