3 June 2020

Time is flying by! UK Updates from Lockdown

Written by Bilal Tariq - ESR15

In March, I was doing some arrangements to attend SETAC conference in Dublin in May 2020 with some other colleagues from Fera, but due to covid-19 spread our company put ban on international travelling and could not attend that conference. This was the short story before covid-19 outbreak in UK. Since end of March, I am working from home because of covid-19 outbreak in UK. The home-based office was a completely a new experience, and it did not affect my ongoing project work as my work is desktop (no lab work) based.

Because of covid-19, my secondment at UCPH, Denmark changed into online secondment which is going very well with ESR11 and Stathis. We started from setting up a model similar to Daisy in Pearl software to compare the results. The input parameters such as, climate data, soil data and toxin (PTA) input were used as similar as possible for both models. The latest results look very good and now we are considering to setup the same model in Hydrus to compare the results with Daisy and Pearl. I am also running simulations for other toxins to calculate predicted environmental concentrations (PECs). The toxin list for model simulation also contains Pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs), for which I have calculated DT50 and Koc values from ESR8 and ESR9 respectively. These PECs would be used in GIS environment to mark the high-risk areas. The risk assessment approach would be adopted considering different scenarios, based on rainfall data and soil properties for EU. In July, I shall discuss with ESR8 about Lupin data if that can be used for model simulations.

Throughout this home-based office period, everything shifted to online and so are my meetings with my supervisor and apart from those meetings we also have weekly online session where we play some games to keep the spirit up during this time and that is so much fun.    

Written by Ellie Stone - ESR16 

In these unusual times work has been carrying on with the formation of a toxic plant-phytotoxin 2.0. This begun with expanding the number of plants to include species that are found within European Union countries. As this is a mammoth task, parameters were set out to narrow down the plant selection. Plant species were selected based upon risk criteria such as their abundance, invasive nature, proximity to water sources and potential toxicity. A total of 943 plant species were found, along with inclusion of habitat and EU Country occurrence information for each species, that aids in toxin modelling processes carried out by ESR15, Bilal Tariq.

The stage currently being undertaken from home is the phytochemical aspect of the database. The phytochemicals the plants produce have been gathered using plant compound databases and the physical-chemical properties, aquatic toxicity and human toxicity are estimated using the models laid out by the Toxic Plant-Phytotoxins Database. These will then be used for an analysis that identifies which compounds are persistent, mobile and toxic, key parameters that contribute to higher risk to drinking water. After the database is completed, my project will shift its focus to land use policy and how existing policy could be amended to mitigate natural toxin risk.

This period has allowed for reflection, on not only my project but how we can navigate this difficult period. For me, knitting has been a great source of meditation and as Bilal said above, the games nights have brought much needed lightness to the week, ensuring that even though we are apart, we can still have a laugh together.