The group studies freshwater and marine aquatic toxicology. Research themes includes: mechanisms of metal toxicity; uptake, bioaccumulation and biotransformation of emerging contaminants; sediment toxicity and the effects of trophic transfer of chemicals on reproduction, as well as adaptation to pollution. Current research is focusing on New Approach Methods (NAMs) for ecological risk assessment using in vitro models and computational biology to identify chemicals of concern in the environment and those species that are vulnerable. This has seen the development of FIGCS as a tool in toxicology research and environmental monitoring.
The group has a long standing interest in fish physiology and metal homeostasis. This includes the use of in vivo and in vitro methods to better understand the mechanisms of metal uptake and toxicity and how water chemistry effects these processes. This includes studies investigating the effects of metal mixtures on metal bioavailability and on the expression of genes in the gills known to be involved in metal acquisition. The aim is to identify transport pathways shared between metals (metal mimicry) and the wider regulatory implications are to identify the toxicity of metal mixtures to fish . In addition, over the last 10 years we have worked on a population of brown trout that reside in a river with a legacy of metal pollution dating back to the 19th century. Our work has identified only subtle changes to population genetic structure of these fish and by the use of next-gen sequencing identified potential mechanism for tolerance. The wider implication is an understanding of how fish adapt to environmental change.
In mammals there are two corticosteroid receptors (CRs), glucocorticoid (GRs) and mineralocorticoid (MRs) receptors that control or influence a vast array of cellular functions. For example, they are involved in the stress response, mineral balance, immune system and development. We have recently made an intriguing discovery – teleost fish have two GRs and an MR, the extra GR apparently being retained following the whole genome duplication that occurred in the actinopterygian lineage around 350MYA. The CRs first emerged in early agnathans and current research investigates their functional role in hagfish and early actinopterygians with an aim to identify molecular mechanisms that have lead to the retention of the 2GRs in teleost fish.