Human activity releases a vast amount of pollutants into the soil. In fact, it is impossible to test all the various pollutants in all their combinations for their toxicity using traditional ecotoxicology methods. My project aims to develop methods based on gene regulation to detect pollutants. The results of this work can lay the foundation for rapid and cost-effective pollutant detection and can help policy makers regulate pollution. Currently, we are able to use gene expression of springtails (Folsomia candida) for metal pollution detection. However, we seek to expand our current toolkit to include different groups of pollutants. Special interest goes out to neonicotinoids, the most popular insecticide class of the past decade that gained notoriety in recent years for its links with bee colony collapse and diminishing overall insect abundance.

We offer a master internship and seek highly motivated students to come join our team. The project’s backbone will be ecotoxicological work such as testing for the toxicity of chemicals and their combinations (mixture toxicity). However, depending on your personal interests, the work can easily be expanded to include other topics. Molecular methods are used regularly and if you wish to delve into bioinformatics that too can be accommodated for. This project is ideal for students wishing to become well versed as biologist.

Techniques: rearing animals, toxicity testing, mixture toxicology. Optionally: molecular methods – protein/RNA isolation, primer design, qPCR, etc. bioinformatics: working with R (or Python), the bioconductor ecosystem or linux base

Supervision and contact information

Ruben Bakker, PhD student
Dick Roelofs, Associate Professor
Kees van Gestel, Associate Professor
Jacintha Ellers, Professor

For more information or to apply directly contact