11 November 2019

Escaping the academic microcosm for some mesocosms

On Secondment to Fera Science Ltd. in York

I am learning how to conduct a risk assessment. Since Fera is a company, I also gather experience on what it is like to work outside academia as a science contractor.

By Barbara Kubickova (ESR14)

After only 10 weeks at RECETOX, I embarked on my next secondment – this time to Fera in the UK. The initial date was scheduled to November 1, but due to a potential Brexit just before that date, we arranged the starting date a few days earlier.

Fera, formerly known as the Food and Environment Research Agency, is nowadays a joint venture between Capita and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). The areas of expertise covered include plant and pollinator health, crop protection, sustainable agriculture, food and feed quality and chemical safety in the environment. In 20102 and 20163, my co-supervisor Carmel Ramwell was included in the first risk assessment of the bracken toxin ptaquiloside.

The aim of this secondment is to dig into the toxicological endpoints relevant towards a human health risk assessment of natural toxins, with a focus on cyanobacterial blooms, since I am mainly working with cyanobacterial secondary metabolites. NaToxAq is also not the only Marie Sklodowska-Curie Action currently in progress at Fera. There are currently two researchers from the MSCA-RISE project “Knowledge for Pesticides Control” (KNOWPEC4) visiting Fera: Laura Galotta from the University of Buenos Aires and Zizis Vryzas from the Demokritus University of Thrace. Together we were exploring the Fera facilities, including the newly built mesocosm experimental plant (picture below).

Left picture: Exploring the mesocosm plant. From left to right: Barbara Kubickova, Zizis Vryzas, Laura Galotta, Carmel
Ramwell. Right picture: the mesocosm flow-through plant.

1: https://www.fera.co.uk/about-us/who-we-are

2: http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Document.aspx?Document=WT1235_10208_FRP.pdf

3: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6273727/

4: http://h2020-rise-knowpec.com/