BIOREC PhD Project 6: Endocrine effects of environmental pollution in amphibians and fish

PhD student: Dominik ALTMANN 1, Aquatic Ecotoxicology  2

Supervisors: Britta GRILLITSCH 3, Erich MÖSTL 4

Abstract: Environmental pollution forms an important category of anthropogenic threats to wildlife and humans. Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) are of special concern in that they are exogenous substances that have the potential to alter functions of the endocrine system and consequently cause adverse health effects. Reproductive and developmental effects resulting from early life phase exposure to EDCs are of priority research interest particularly so for longer term and multi-stressor mediated effects. However, other than estrogenic effects resulting from single-compound exposure have rarely been analysed to date. In this project, we will focus on (a) the aquatic exposure pathway, (b) freshwater vertebrate model species (amphibians and fish), (c) embryonal and larval exposure, (d) interactions along the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal and -gonadal axes, and (e) both, shorter and longer term effects as indicated by changes in life history and performance traits. In order to reliably assess exposure-response relationships, experiments will be conducted under highly defined and controlled conditions and employing a set of model test compounds according to state of the art principles on quality assurance and test designs (e.g., OECD, EC TGDs). The applicability of non-invasive monitoring techniques will be validated. To assess the extrapolative power of results derived from laboratory model systems established in Ecotoxicological Risk Assessment, we will analyse the intra- and interspecific variability in a multi-level set of structural and functional indication criteria for single- and multi-stressor exposure, and shorter and longer term observation scenarios.


Dominik ALTMANN, Mag. rer. nat.

Aquatic Ecotoxicology
Department for Biomedical Sciences

Working hypothesis: Exposure of fish and amphibians to steroid hormones during early life phases affects their viability in subsequent phases.