Are the effects of toxicants on marine zooplankton populations magnified by climate change?

Master Thesis subject (30 ECTS)
Continental shelf sediments are extremely vulnerable to ongoing climate change and concurrently experience multiple disturbances related to the expansion of human activities in the coastal zone. Changes in sea water temperature, salinity, and pH result from climate change, while the human-induced increase in the concentration of dissolved nutrients and pollutants in shallow coastal marine ecosystems pose important ecotoxicological stress to many pelagic species populations and communities. Both type of stressors may cause changes in a whole range of ecological interactions with potential consequences for ecosystem functioning and the biodiversity that supports the many ecosystem services provided by marine ecosystems. Ecological risk assessment aims to investigate the risk a certain toxicant poses for the environment. These assessments are based on toxicity tests of model organisms, such as zooplanktonic species. However, these toxicity tests generally do not consider the possible synergistic or antagonistic effects of multiple stressors that take place at the same time. This thesis aims to experimentally investigate the combined effect of relevant toxicants and temperature stress on the most abundant groups of zooplankton organisms in the Belgian Part of the North Sea: holoplanktonic copepods and meroplanktonic bivalves, fish and macrocrustaceans. Both acute (short term exposure) and chronic (long term exposure) tests will be performed to assess the single and combined effects of stressors on the mortality, physiology and condition of the test organisms. The organisms needed for these experiments will be collected during multiple scientific expeditions on board of the Research Vessel Simon Stevin. This thesis will result in optimized testing methods in the framework of ecological risk assessment. As this thesis topic will involve a multidisciplinary approach, this research will be realized through a cooperation of the Marine Biology Research Group (UGent), Laboratory for Environmental Toxicology and Aquatic Ecology (UGent) and Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ, Ostend).
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contact person first name: 
Yana Deschutter
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Promotors: prof.dr.Karel Deschamphelaere (Ghent University, GhEnToxLab), prof.dr. Marleen De Troch (Ghent University, Marine Biology), dr. Carl Van Colen (Ghent University, Marine Biology)
Reference Number: RP-36092