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Research area(s)

Research Projects

I have a broad background in ecotoxicology research through the use of in vitro and in vivo (mammalian and aquatic) test systems for environmental estrogens, studies into quantitative structure activity relationships of alkylphenolic chemicals, the application of solid-phase extraction techniques for analysing complex environmental samples, and studies into the molecular mechanisms of estrogen receptor action, to name a few. My present research interests include the application of freshwater mollusc species in environmental monitoring and regulatory testing of chemicals, fundamental research on the molecular endocrinology of freshwater molluscs and the effect of pollution on parasite-host interactions. Recent awards involving SMEs and from industry have a strong focus around water quality issues, from the health effects of consuming direct potable reuse water, validation of the efficacy of a novel device to kill pathogenic bacteria in hot water systems, and the development of ballast water treatment systems to prevent the spread of invasive species in aquatic ecosystems.

Research Interests

My research interests can be divided into the following areas:

1.  Ecotoxicology: The effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) on freshwater wildlife (fish and molluscs), including the effects of chemical pollutants on parasite host interactions.  New and emerging contaminants (e.g. microplastics).

2.  Animal Welfare and Regulatory Testing:  The use of molluscs as replacements to vertebrates in regulatory chemical testing strategies.  Includes fundamental biology research.

3.  Technological interventions and Health:  The prevention and control of pathogenic bacteria (Legionella) in domestic water systems.

4.  Neglected Tropical Diseases:  Developing novel approaches to control the transmission of schistosomiasis in humans.

6.  Fresh water sustainability:  The potential health effects of indirect potable reuse water (advanced treatment technologies) being developed to help meet societies’ demand for drinking water.

Research supervision

Postdoctotal Researchers

09/11-10/12 Dr. David Ribe (EC for the benefit of SMEs)

05/00 - 05/12 Dr. Margaret-Mary Town (The Leverhulme Trust)

03/04 – 03/07 Dr. Richard Bannister (BBSRC)

Postgraduate Researchers

  • Frances Orton – Thesis entitled “Investigation into the effects of pesticides on amphibians”. Awarded PhD in 2008
  • Neil Clarke – Thesis entitled “Seasonal effects of treated sewage effluents upon the reproduction and development of European freshwater molluscs”. Awarded PhD in 2009.
  • Alice Baynes – Thesis entitled “Reproductive effects in two species of native freshwater gastropod mollusc exposed to 17β-oestradiol or an environmentally relevant mixture of oestrogenic chemicals in outdoor mesocosms”. Awarded PhD in 2010.
  • Rachel Benstead – Thesis entitled “The effects of the natural vertebrate steroid 17β-oestradiol and the xeno-biotic vertebrate oestrogen receptor agonist bisphenol-A on reproduction in selected temperate freshwater gastropods: the potential for (neuro-)endocrine disruption”. Awarded PhD in 2010
  • Satwant Kaur (PT) – The snail assay as an alternative to the rat Hershberger male rodent assay for the detection of androgens and anti-androgens. Awarded PhD in 2014
  • Adam Lynch – Does Pollution Affect Parasite Host Interactions? (2011-2014).
  • Elizabeth Lawton – Investigation of Health Effects Associated with Exposure to Direct Potable Reuse Drinking Water (2011-2014).
  • Giovanna Cossali – An Electrolytic Devise to Control Legionella (2011-2015).
  • Aji Peter – Development of an evidence-based risk management tool for legionella control in domestic water systems (2015 – 2018).

Research project(s) and grant(s)

Since 2002 I have been awarded several grants totalling £2,047,319.00 in research funding.

1.     BBSRC.  The Characterisation and Functional Role of Novel Estrogen Receptors in the Prosobranch Mollusc Marisa cornuarietis. £181,011 over 3 years (2004-2007).  Principal Investigator with Dr. Jobling (Co-I) and Dr. Rand-Weaver (Co-I). The purpose of this award was to identify and characterise and elucidate the functional role of estrogen receptors in a mollusc.

2.     EU-funded project QLKA-CT2002-00603 (EDEN): Endocrine disrupters: exploring novel endpoints, exposure, low-dose and mixture effects in humans, aquatic wildlife and laboratory animals. March 2004-March 2007. In this award I contributed to the development of estrogen-responsive transgenic zebrafish.

3.     NERC (grant reference NER/A/S/2001/01154): Does Pollution cause Reproductive Disruption in British Freshwater Molluscs. Award £142,232 over 3 years (May 2002 – May 2005); Co-Investigator with Susan Jobling (PI).  The purpose of this award was to investigate the effects of treated sewage effluent on native  mollusc reproduction using outdoor mesocosms..

4.     DEFRA (grant reference CTG0301). Investigations of Endocrine Disruption in UK Freshwater Molluscs. Award £138, 841 plus additional £11600 awarded to compensate for additional costs of analytical chemistry in revised experiment. Additional funds from the Environment Agency (£30,000). Co-I with Susan Jobling (PI). An additional £50,000 to extend project to include 6 month adult exposure with two mollusc species to the chemical Bisphenol A.  Research to determine if natural steroid estrogens and the main ingredient of the female contraceptive pill affect reproduction in native freshwater molluscs.

5.     The Leverhulme Trust. Modelling and Mimicking the Effects of pollution from Molluscs to Men. Co-I with Susan Jobling (PI; Brunel), Joanna Bridger (Brunel) and Geoff Rodgers (Brunel). Award £190,430 over 3 years (May 2009 – May 2012).  Research to determine if early developmental exposure of molluscs to diethylstilbestrol  is predictive of known effects reported in humans at different levels of organisation

6.     NC3Rs. Of Molluscs and Men. The Snail Assay as an Alternative to the Hersherger Male Rodent Assay for the Detection of Androgens and Anti-androgens. Co-I with Susan Jobling (PI), Les Noble (Aberdeen), Cath Jones (Aberdeen). Total award £657,671 FEC over 3 years (December 2009 – December 2012).  To establish whether molluscs could replace rats in the screening for chemicals with androgenic and anti-androgenic activities, including enzyme (5a-reductase) inhibitors. .

7.     NERC Doctoral Training Grant – Does Pollution affect parasite-host interactions? Award £78,145 over 3 years. 01/11 – 07/14. PI with Dr. Les Noble (Aberdeen University; external supervisor).  Research to determine if common fresh water pollutants affect the mollusc immune system thereby potentially altering transmission of parasites to humans.

8.     Thames Water – Investigation of Health Effects Associated with Exposure to Direct Potable Reuse Drinking Water. Award £181,970 over 3 years.  PI with Susan Jobling (Co-I). 05/11 – 05/14.  Research to determine the potential effects of treated domestic sewage effluent during stages of an advanced treatment process using genomic approaches in zebrafish embryos.

9.     Waterwise Technology Limited funded studentship - A novel device to eliminate Legionella and other pathogenic bacteria. Award £78,000 over 3 years. Co-I with Tassos Karayiannis (PI) and Martin Ratcliffe (School of Engineering and Design). 09/11- 09/14.  Research to establish the ability, and optimise the efficacy, of an electrolytic disinfection device to control pathogenic bacteria.

10.  EC (Research for the Benefit of SMEs) – An Integrated and Modular Bio-Monitoring System Based on Advanced Plasma Technology Delivering Maximum Performance and Lowest System Lifetime Cost (UV-Mon). RTD project leader in collaboration with Mark Scrimshaw (Co-I) at Brunel. Award £139,890 over 13.5 months. Partners include Martek Marine Ltd (SME-UK), CytoBouy (SME -The Netherlands), Purion GmBH (SME-Germany), PERA (RTD-UK) and Aquateam (RTD-Norway). 09/11 – 10/12.  Research to develop a real-time biomonitor system to measure live and dead bacteria in marine ballast water.

11.  Bill and Melind Gates Foundation.  Grand Challeneges Explorations Round 11.  A DASH (Decoy Artificial Snail Host) to Control Schistosomiasis.  PI in collaboration with Prof. Rakesh Kanda (Co-I).  $100,000 over 1.5 years.  11/13 – 05/15.  Research to identify Schistosoma mansoni attractant(s) released by snails as part of a strategy to break the transmission cycle of the parasite to humans.

12.  Innovate UK Knowledge Transfer Partnership.  Protex 2.  Co-I in collaboration with Prof. Tassos Karayiannis (PI).  £152529 over 2 years.  06/15 – 05/17.  To optimise the design, improve the durability, reduce the manufacturing costs and assess the performance of a prototype electro-chemical device for killing pathogenic bacteria in recirculating water systems.

13.  European Commission Framework Contract ENV.A.3/FRA/2014/0029 on Implementation of the Community Strategy on Endocrine Disruptors: Supporting the development of the OECD detailed review paper on the retinoid system. Euros 199910 over 1.5 years.  11/15-04/17Project Manager in collaboration with Prof. Ulla Hass (subcontract - DTU, Denmark). 

Awards

  • Student Led Teaching Awards: University Tutor/Supervisor of the Year Award (2016)
  • Student Led Teaching Awards: College of Health and Life Sciences Tutor/Supervisor of the Year Award (2016)