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Reinforcement of research potential of laboratory for ecotoxicology

Final Report Summary - REP-LECOTOX (Reinforcement of research potential of laboratory for ecotoxicology)

This project presented a crucial milestone for Lecotox - the Laboratory for Ecotoxicology at the University of Novi Sad Faculty of Sciences - both in terms of overall research performance and its visibility and presentation to the international scientific community. The project enabled the upgrading and renewal of S&T equipment, hiring new young researchers to reinforce human resources and it facilitated extensive networking - via workshops, exchange of scientific personnel and trainings of young scientists in some of the finest research institutions in the EU in the field of environmental research.

The project enabled Lecotox, focusing mainly on two research topics, i.e. endocrine disruption/reproductive toxicity, and identification and characterisation of aquatic toxicity, to form a functional competitive research team ready for combining transcriptomics with the established conventional toxicity tests and traditional function-based biomarkers. Lecotox became well-equipped and experienced research group confident enough to join any Framework Programme or otherwise funded ecotoxicological research project and network.

Another important aspect of reinforcement of human resources (mentioned earlier) was the selection of young research trainees to be hired for REP-Lecotox project. Apart from three research trainees hired according to the plan, another three part-time research trainees - PhD students who had been granted the full scholarship by the Ministry of Science and Technological Development of the Republic of Serbia - were co-funded by the REP-LECOTOX project and included into all ongoing activities during the course of the project. All three full-time and three part-time research trainees progressed as planned during project implementation.

The main objective of the first REP-LECOTOX workshop: 'Ecotoxicogenomics: the challenge of integrating genomics/proteomics/metabolomics into aquatic and terrestrial ecotoxicology', Novi Sad, 15 to 18 June 2008 was to bring together experts in the field of genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics and bioinformatics as invited speakers to the workshop in order to get a comprehensive overview of the state-of-the-art ecotoxicogenomics and implementation of omic technologies in the field of ecotoxicology. Workshop participants had the opportunity to learn about trends in ecotoxicogenomics from five plenary and six topic-specific presentations of recognised experts in each specific field (presentation available on Lecotox webpage). The last two days of the workshop were devoted to laboratory demonstrations of the 7900HT Fast Real-Time PCR system (Applied Biosystems) and 2100 Bioanalyzer (Agilent).

The second REP-LECOTOX workshop: 'Trends in ecological risk assessment', Novi Sad, 21 to 23 September 2009 was aimed at presenting comprehensive information about the current state, challenges and trends in the field of ecological risk assessment, with special reference to application into environmental management practice and providing local and regional professionals, decision makers, and different stakeholders (industry, regulatory agencies, academia) with a broad overview of the current EU regulations and future trends regarding risk assessment of chemicals and ecological risk assessment (with special reference to REACH and WFD).

The workshop scientific programme was structured into two large sessions:
(1) risk assessment of chemicals with special attention to REACH (divided according to topics into three subsessions, (a) legislative aspect; (b) emerging substances and nanomaterials: analyses, environmental fate, effects, ERA; and (c) incorporating omic information into risk assessment and policy) and
(2) ecosystem risk assessment (divided into three subsessions: (a) aquatic ecosystems, ERA in WFD and GD; (b) special ERA topic - upscaling and (c) terrestrial ecosystems).
Two keynote lecturers and even 18 invited speakers from well-known European research institutions were invited to present extremely diverse ERA topics, ranging from case studies to conceptual frameworks and opinion statements (presentations available at project's homepage). To enable further exchange of experiences and information about the research potential and capacities of local (Serbian) and regional research institutions and teams, seven workshop participants were invited to present the results of their current work in the form of short oral presentations while others were invited to present posters.

The most important milestone in dissemination of information about the Lecotox and REP-Lecotox project was launching of the web portal: Other important activities included publications in scientific, and popular, journals, participation in various scientific meetings and other events and press releases. Lecotox members promoted REP-LECOTOX project, as well as the results of recent and ongoing research projects of the group at the important international scientific conferences and round tables. Promotional material (flyers, leaflets - available for download from the home page as well as the project compendium) and all the above-mentioned events were used for further networking and promotion of Lecotox as a suitable competitive and competent partner for future research projects within the Framework Programme and beyond. REP-LECOTOX project and other activities of Lecotox were presented to a wide national public via press releases in printed (three articles in regional newspapers) and electronic media (interviews of senior Lecotox members for the radio and TV, talk show at regional TV, footage from the openings of the REP-LECOTOX workshops, web resources).