Second Newsletter – April 2022

by | May 5, 2022 | News

First Time to Meet in Person !

We finally got to meet each other in person for our Training Event B in Wageningen, Holland! The training event was held in Wageningen University from 4th of April to 8th of April. We had training in modelling, bioaccumulation, bio-availability, research and animal ethics. In this rich program, we had a lot of thoughtful discussions and had broadened our knowledge in eco-toxicity. Although it was a rainy week with grey sky and storm, we had a lot of fun as we finally were able to meet each other face-to-face after some online exchanges. We were a bit shy at the beginning but the ice was broken within a few hours.

The Marie Curie Initial Training Networks are international partnerships created by research teams in different Member or Associate States, which promote the initial training of researchers in the beginning of their careers. We gladly present to you our second newsletter to share the exciting things that we have done so far!

Presentation of Progress & Decision on

During the training event, we spent a lot of time talking about almost everything: our thoughts and feelings in a new country, the project, the supervisors, ideas in experiments and setup, reasons for doing the PhD, etc. We presented our progress in the project and we were updated about what the other ESRs had been doing and possible collaborations in the future were planned. Besides, we got to know our objectives and the skills we wished to learn so we had a detailed discussion on rearranging our secondment plan. We came up with a better secondment plan that allowed us to have some collaborations with the other ESRs and to gain the skills required in the project.


Thoughts about Training Event B?

• Assif: I was excited to meet this group of ESRs from different places. I learned not to say “Thank you” at the end of my presentation.

• Maria: I thought it was a very creative way to help me move further in my research and to get feedbacks from all the CHRONIC members.

• Shivani: It helped me to think about my project in a broader way. It was very interactive and I learnt a lot from these people.

Meeting the Project Officer

At the last day of Training Event B, we had a meeting with the project officer. All the ESRs had the chance to introduce themselves and their projects to the project officer. We had the opportunity to ask questions regarding the whole project, such as the obligations and fundings.

Supervisory board meeting

Two ESRs representation had a meeting with the supervisory board and discussed the followings:

New secondment plan: Each ESR was going to make a new secondment plan or update the original one according to the learning or project needs.

Personal AOP draft: Each ESR was going to develop a draft of AOP for the their particular system and the draft would be presented in the next training event (Training Event C) that would take place in Aveiro.

Important Quotes

“It’s DATA, not DAAATA.”
“Know your pets!”
“There is no biological reason you need for dancing.”
“Be optimistic and always have a backup!”

Progress of the ESRs

Jacqueline Hilgendorf

Topic: Different biotic and abiotic environments change the responses of
Lumbriculus variegatus to long-term exposures to chemicals

Joint exposure to chemicals and biotic and abiotic factors can trigger different Key Initiating Effects (KIE) that various behavioural and physiological responses can detect. My PhD project will investigate the consistency of chemical-induced KIE and individual-level responses in Lumbriculus variegatus using long-term and low-dose exposure of a model substance. The combined exposure with abiotic (e.g. temperature) or biotic (predator) stressors will also be tested, measuring different subcellular biomarkers, genotoxicity, respiration rate and behavioural responses. What I have done so far:

• Choice of model test substances
• First acute tests with Fluoxetine
• Chronic preliminary test to try experimental conditions (sediment, food)
• Adjustment of Comet assay (genotoxicity) protocol to Lumbriculus variegatus

Martina Santobuono

Topic: Multi-generational long-term exposure to low concentrations of pharmaceuticals in Capitella teleta: from epigenome to individual-level to population-level effects

My current project aims to better understand the impact of antidepressants in the environment. I am studying hydrophobic compounds, which can be easily accumulated in sediments. I believe this is extremely interesting, since most of the ecotoxicology studies focus on the water compartment, thus mainly highlighting the toxicity of hydrophilic chemicals. My first findings in Capitella teleta, a benthic estuarine worm living in sediments, suggest that chronic exposure to antidepressants might alter the burrowing behaviour of these organisms. This can pose a threat in the wildlife, since the worms might be more exposed to predators.

Wing Sze Charlie Chan

Topic: Linking sub organismal to individual level impact of low chronic exposure under different environmental settings

My project aims to study the impacts of the chronic exposure of pharmaceuticals on the sediment-feeding-worm Tubifex tubifex. I would like to compare the differences of impacts between non-neurotoxic and neurotoxic drugs as well as the influences of environmental stressors like temperature and pH. My first finding suggests that sertraline, an antidepressant, slowed down the flee reaction time of T. tubifex. The organism also showed unusual behaviour and more vigorous movement after being exposed to sertraline. My next step will focus on the changes in enzymic activities of the worm and try to link it to the behavioural changes.


Sofie Rasmussen

Topic: Linking effects on individual behaviour to changes on population and community level metrics for integration into ERAs

My project focuses on the use of non-conventional endpoints to screen for long-term effects of neurotoxins on the benthic community. The problem is that some neurotoxins including insecticides induce effects once in the environment at lower concentrations than predicted by standard testing. For the beginning of this project, sulfoxaflor will hence be used as the chemical stressor. So far, I have managed to screen for effects using a scattergun approach. This approach showed that behaviour of Chironomus riparius might be altered in presence of the neurotoxin. Therefore, a follow-up experiment is performed to quantify the bio-mechanistic effects of low concentrations of sulfoxaflor.

Jian Ge

Topic: Costs and benefits of low dose toxicant exposures in interaction with ecologically relevant environmental stress

My project aims to study the longterm effects of low-dose pollutant on soil animals. At first we were curious on the effects of long-term
copper exposure on a typical soil decomposer, springtails Folsomia candida regarding their thermal performance including survival rate, individual and population growth. Our initial results showed chronic exposure to copper lowered the survival rate at suboptimal temperature and impaired the overall population growth. Accordingly, we wish to investigate how the thermal preference would be influenced by copper. Also, how would the whole population adaptation to highly contaminated environment

Maria Kloukinioti

Topic: Linking effects on individual behaviour to changes in population and community level metrics for integrating into Environmental Risk Assessments

To approach my scientific topic, I started conducting a literature review on my project to collect information on my model organism (physiology, living conditions, feeding preferences etc.) and on the pollutants used in the study (physiochemical properties, environmental concentrations, mode of action, etc). Up until now, I have conducted a dose-response experiment, using copper as the environmental stressor and the isopod Asellus aquaticus as the model organism, to estimate the lowest effective concentration that could be used in the upcoming chronic exposures. During this experiment, I evaluated the variability of specific behavioural endpoints, such as the activity of the individuals and their response to simulated predation, between different individuals. In parallel, I constructed agarosebased food pellets compatible with the isopod’s diet. These pellets will be used to test differences in feeding rates and potential preferences between contaminated and pollutant-free food sources.


Shivani Ronanki

Topic: Effects of climate induced food shortage on the vulnerability of great tit chicks to chemical exposures

My project aims to understand the effects of air pollution on the immunomodulation in free living birds. For the first year of my PhD, I planned a field experiment and set up artificial nest-boxes across a gradient of urban pollution. The main objective is to categorise non- standard end points that are related to the avian immune system and construct dose- response relationships between air pollution and the immune status of nestlings of great tits (Parus major). In the past four months, I worked on my literature review, project plan and career development plan. We successfully installed around 100 nest-boxes in four sites around Wageningen and Rhennen. I also received my article 9 certification and ringing license. I have decided what biomarkers I’m interested to measure and started optimising my protocols for my future samples. I will be doing field work in the next few months followed by some lab work to measure innate and acquired immune parameters of nestlings growing in sites with different levels of exposure.

Oihane Del Puerto Bengoetxea

Topic: Modelling the exposure and effects of pesticides and other stressors on soil organisms

My project focuses on modelling the effects of chemicals and other environmental stressors in soil invertebrates. The research aims to:

  • Develop a toxicokinetic model to understand the uptake and elimination kinetics of a set of chemicals with a range of physicochemical properties in earthworms and further expand it to other soil taxa
  • Elucidate whether the main enzymatic pathways involved in the biotransformation in earthworms are conservative within oligochaetes and across different soil dwelling taxa.
  • Analyze the effects of chronic exposure of low dose of pesticides in earthworms and enchytraeids by toxicokinetictoxicodynamic modeling and link effects at non-conventional endpoints with the affected pMoAs.
  • Understand the main environmental factors and physicochemical properties of chemicals that determines the bioavailability of these compounds in soil


Luca Boldrini

Topic: Linking effects on individual behaviour to changes in population and community level metrics for integrating into Environmental Risk Assessments

The purpose of my project is to study the long-term effects (over multiple generations) at different levels of biological complexity (from molecular to population level) in a duckweed species (Lemna minor) exposed to environmental relevant concentrations of different genotoxic radionuclides linked to possible nuclear accidental scenarios (137Cs, 90Sr). To this end, the first singleexposure experiment was carried out: Lemna minor plants were chronically exposed to 90Sr for a period of six weeks and samples were taken on a weekly basis to measure parameters such as growth, 90Sr uptake and molecular, biochemical and epigenetic endpoints.

Shankari Anna Balan

Topic: Assessing the role of genotoxicity in multigenerational effects during chronic exposure

Hello there! My project aims to learn about the mechanistic aspect of sensitisation of off-springs when exposed to low dose of persistent pollutants for multiple generations. In the past months we have pondered on the question, when exposed to a pollutant, which molecular initiating event causes genotoxicity and thereby heightened sensitivity?

From previous studies that has exposed 10 generations to silver nanoparticles and ions, we structured a rough Adverse Outcome Pathway
(AOP) with Reactive oxygen species (ROS) being the key molecular initiating event and heightened sensitivity being the adverse outcome. In coming months we will expose the C. elegans with low doses for multiple generations to screen pollutants for studying ROS and later will quantify important biomarkers for in C. elegans to provide enough evidence for all the key events for the AOP.


Assif Friedman

Topic: Immune modulatory effects of chronic exposure of small mammals to trace metals, and implications for prevalence of zoonotic diseases fitness

My Ph.D. project will focus on the effects of chronic exposure to trace metals on the immune system’s ability to fight pathogens in wildlife while considering the wood mice (Apodemus sylvaticus) as the model species. During the project, I wish to look into different humoral and cell-mediated immune responses of wood mice in polluted vs. nonpolluted settings in the field and mesocosms. I hope to link chronic exposure to trace metals from anthropogenic sources to immunological effects in wood mice and their contribution to increasing pathogen load, which may eventually lead to spillover events to other species, including humans. My project aims to link anthropogenic pollution of trace metals to immunomodulation effects and pathogen acquisition in wood mice (Apodemus sylvaticus). I have no findings to examine the different immune parameters for humoral and cell-mediated immunity in wood mice. Flow cytometry was chosen as the optimal tool considering commercially available lab-mice (i) and lab-rat (i) antibodies; however, cross-reactivity with wood mice could not have been established with the most prominent antibodies.


Matteo Schiavinato

Topic: Effects of chronic exposure of birds to trace metals on telomere length, and implications for overall fitness

Telomeres are DNA region with the function to protect chromosomes from damage. Furthermore, since they shorten at each cell-division, are involved in the senescence process. Oxidative stress due low-dose urban air pollution, may also increase telomere shortening, resulting in artificial ageing of the cell and individual. This can lead to different genes expression patterns, also in brain, and so, premature senescence can shape behaviour and personality traits. What will the fitness consequences be for the individual and the population? To answers this and other questions, I’m studying wild birds, using both a field and a laboratory approach.


Kevin Noort

Topic: Contribution of toxicokinetic and toxicodynamic mechanisms to synergistic interactions between chemical and multiple stressors in mixtures

As ESR 12 I am studying chemical and environmental interactions in chemical mixtures of pesticides in Enchytraeus crypticus, an annelid. My project is going very well and I already have some survival results for exposure with prochloraz and either imidacloprid, cypermethrin or azoxystrobin in both soil and water medium. Interestingly, it seems that with cypermethrin and azoxystrobin, prochloraz shows chemical interactive effects while exposed in water medium. Results! I observed synergism! I am very excited to further study the biochemistry of this interaction. My next question: Does prochloraz inhibit the metabolic rate of detoxifying enzymes? {…to be continued}


Climate Pledge

The H2020-MSCA-ITN-2020-CHRONIC project pact pledge

We believe that we can make the most significant contribution to the fight against climate change by generating knowledge through our joint research and communicating it via different channels. Those would include scientific networks such as conferences, conventions, and workshops, through social media platforms and the publication of peer-reviewed papers, all aim to raise climate change awareness. The CHRONIC consortium’s universities and institutes are committed to conveying scientific knowledge on the link between pollution, biodiversity loss, environmental and human health, all intrinsically linked to climate change mitigation and making it accessible to all. We envisage that this will propagate towards a more comprehensive understating of the climate crisis and result in more informed individuals and contribute to emerging, long-lasting solutions.

The following are the targets the consortium is determined to achieve:

  • Fifty percent (50%) of all CHRONIC publications will be directly or indirectly related to climate change; those will offer possible prospects for climate change mitigation.
  • The CHRONIC website ( will accommodate the pact pledge and other climate change-related activities performed or supported by the CHRONIC consortium regularly according to the activities’ schedule.
  • The climate change ambassador will engage with the CHRONIC consortium partners and organize activities to raise climate change awareness within the project time frame of three years.

We have formed a communication team: Sofie, Shankari, Matteo and Charlie. We have been working on setting up the website for Chronic, opening an instagram account and maybe also a Twitter account in the future to increase our influence and introduce CHRONIC to more people. The communication team is also responsible for writing and designing this e-newsletter with Charlie being the main editor.

Check the website out now: The website and Instagram page will be updated on a regular basis. We hope to get in touch with the public in a different way and create small influences.



Download the newsletter here to read about our week in Wageningen and latest activities. Thanks to Charlie for putting the Newsletter together