Aarhus University Seal / Aarhus Universitets segl

Ecotoxicology, climate

and health

Our main focus is exploring the singular and interactive impact of multiple stressors, both natural (e.g. zoonoses and feeding ecology) and anthropogenic (e.g. environmental contaminants and climate change) on the health of Arctic and Baltic wildlife. We particularly focus on apex marine predatory species, but extend our work to fish, seabirds, raptors and humans as well. Our approaches involve analytical chemistry, in vitro experimentation (dose response exposure) and in silico modelling (physiologically-based pharmacokinetic, dynamic energy budget, stable isotope mixing and ecological network analysis) and aim for a mechanistic and holistic understanding of wildlife health on the individual, population and ecosystem level in a rapidly changing multi-stressor environment.

We assess wildlife health applying an interdisciplinary toolbox of chemical, clinical, veterinary, and physiological and ecological analyses. We work in the cross-field of biological effects from exposure to natural stressors, such as diseases (incl. diseases transmissible to humans, i.e. "zoonoses") and trophic ecology, as well as anthropogenic stressors, such as environmental contaminants and climate change. Working with a broad range of animal species covering fish, seabirds, raptorial birds, predatory mammals and humans gives a unique insight to our areas of focus.

Implanting of transmitters

and other clinical projects

Our work includes surgical implanting of transmitters in seabirds, clinical work on eider ducks and white-tailed eagles and autopsies of freshly caught and hunted animals. A central player in the understanding of health effects due to climate change and exposure to contaminants is the simultaneous characterisation of trophic ecology to understand ecosystem dynamics, food chain interactions and spread of diseases incl. zoonoses. 


In vitro experiments

- replacing the animal model

In vitro models provide a basis to reduce the usage of animals in toxicity testing, a goal of many regulatory agencies. The many advantages of using in vitro experimentation when assessing effects of contaminant exposure include simplification and easy manipulation of experimental system, isolation of specific processes of interest, facilitation of detailed analysis of mechanisms, less expensive and more rapid, and can be automated for high-throughput analyses. Many studies have shown that in vitro assessments are in fact predictive of in vivo models, thus validating the use of in vitro experimentation when assessing the risk of contaminant exposure on various health endpoints.

We apply in vitro models to the study of immunotoxicology, endocrine disruption, contaminant metabolism, and disease resistance. Our work in these fields are in close collaboration with different international partners and our goals are always to understand the mechanisms of specific effects and to evaluate effect thresholds and potencies through dose-response relationships. Our research has focused on collecting live cells from highly exposed marine mammal species in the Arctic and Baltic. Other projects involve human cell models to evaluate disease susceptibility after contaminant exposure.