Ecotoxicology / Environmental Chemistry

Part of our work deals with the accumulation of heavy metals in free-living animals as well as internal parasites of vertebrates. The aim of these studies is to use the organisms as bioindicators for the detection of metals in different habitats.

In addition to parasites, we also use organisms established as bioindicators as the zebra mussel and Asian clam as accumulation indicators (e.g. precious metals emitted from catalytic converters). Especially with the aid of the mussels it is possible to connect the detection of metal presence (accumulation indication) with the occurrence of effects (reaction indication, e.g. genotoxicity biomarkers, heat shock proteins, metallothioneins, etc.). The analysis of heavy metal concentrations in the biotic (as in many abiotic) matrices is performed in our laboratory by ICP-MS, ET-AAS or voltammetry after acid digestion of samples with a high pressure digestion apparatus or a microwave digestion unit.

We have a current focus on the platinum group elements (PGE) platinum, palladium and rhodium, which are used as catalytically active elements in automotive catalytic converters and are emitted particle bound when driving. The car-emitted metals are spread by the wind and the water path in the environment and come into contact with the biosphere. This raises the question of bioavailability and bioaccumulation of these metals.

Furthermore we are interested in questions of absorption and effects of nanoparticles. Our ongoing research shows that, for example mussels assimilate silver nanoparticles to a similar extent as ionic silver.  Studies on the question of the effects of these metals are currently being carried out.

In addition to various studies on the enrichment, we focus on the toxic properties of metals in vivo and in vitro. Cytotoxic effects of metals (genotoxicity, induction of heat shock proteins, metallothioneins) are detected based on continuous cell lines (in cooperation) as well as organismal toxicity studies are performed with gammarids, zebra mussels, Asian clams and giant ramshorn snail.