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Environmental Chemistry and Toxicology
Understanding the fate of pollutants and their effects on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems is a major goal of environmental toxicology. Reseachers at the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory focus their work in two primary areas: aquatic toxicology and environmental organic chemisty.
CBL’s aquatic environmental toxicology faculty study issues that relate to the chemical characteristics and fate of contaminants. For example, what is the concentration of a chemical in a particular environmental compartment such as water, sediment, or biota?
The ultimate fate of a released chemical is determined by a variety of abiotic and biotic processes. Toxicologists assess whether the chemical is available for uptake by organisms and to what extent. They address issues that relate to the processing of these contaminants by organisms and determine the deleterious consequences at various levels? DNA damage at the molecular level, the health and fitness of an individual, and population-level changes.
CBL toxicologists play lead roles in investigating the effects of pesticides and industrial contaminants on reptiles, amphibians, fish, and mollusks within the Chesapeake Bay watershed and other areas of the United States. Globally, their efforts include assessing causes for the decline of coral reefs.
Possessing a broad base of expertise, including molecular and biochemical toxicology, immunotoxicology, and ecological toxicology, the faculty employs both traditional and molecular methods to identify the responses of aquatic species to excess nutrients, diseases, and chemical stressors. They also are furthering the use of molecular biomarkers as early warning signs of contaminant effects among aquatic life.
Additionally, knowledge of toxicological mechanisms is applied to risk assessments of contaminated ecosystems used to develop technologies for the environmentally safe removal of unwanted organisms, as in the case of the treatment of ballast water for invasive planktonic species.
Environmental Organic Chemistry
What chemical, physical, and biological processes control the transport of man-made organic chemicals in the environment?
That one question underlies the wide-range of work performed in the environmental organic laboratory at CBL. With sensitive field sampling and laboratory analytical techniques, researchers measure the flows and levels of chemicals occurring in and between the atmosphere, surface waters, sediments, soils, and biota. Experiments under well-controlled laboratory conditions support in depth field studies, with process-based mathematical models integrating the findings.
Learn more about CBL's Environmental Chemistry and Toxicology Research Programs: