Liyan and Saúl at ECT Oekotoxikologie GmbH

Our ESRs Liyan Xie and Saúl Monteiro Fernandes spent joint secondment at ECT Oekotoxikologie GmbH, Germany. During their secondment, they focused on single and mixture exposure of pesticides on an agricultural field. They learned a lot from performing a field experiment, sampling, standard laboratory testing, and good laboratory practice (GLP). You can read their joint experiences in their short report.

January 2023 News

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Right after my PhD qualifying exam in Aarhus, I headed to Russelsheim, a city between Frankfurt and Mainz. Most importantly, it was the city we (me and Saúl, ESR 11) found the accommodation for our coming two months secondments at ECT Oekotoxikologie GmbH. After a while, we decided to move to Mainz, a nearby city.

Our first day was a bit challenging. According to google, we had to take two buses to get to work, but that task revealed more challenging than anticipated. We did not manage to catch the second bus. So, we started walking; after passing residential area, a couple of agricultural fields, “should not walk-on” side path and train tracks, we were finally at the ECT (Fig 1).

Figure 1. Saúl at the ECT door. We were officially at the ECT.

Thanks to Bernhard Förster (our field work tutor), our first day was not difficult at all. We were introduced to the team, visited the laboratories, and had lecture on work safety. According to our plan, we would conduct single and mixture exposure of pesticides on an agricultural field together with another PhD student, Camila Drocco. She is involved in the project ARISTO with which PRORISK established cooperation. We focus on studying the effect of pesticide applications to Collembola community. Along with the field experiment, we also performed standard reproduction test on Folsomia candida in the lab. At this point, the plan was clear, we just need to get started (Fig 2).

Figure 2. Left top: before setting up the plot. Left bottom: setting up the plot. Right: we have our plot ready.

Unlike doing experiment in a lab, every environmental condition can be kept under control. Field experiments really depend on the weather. Too much wind means no pesticide can be applied. Too much rain means no sampling. Too much animals? Hmm, be careful of stork and fingers cross it will not take your weather logger (Fig 3)!

Figure 3. A stork visited our field at the first experiment day.

We learned a lot from performing a field experiment. How to set up the plot in a square shape with exactly 2.5 meters at each size; how to record the weather condition in the field; how to prepare the pesticides from formulation; how to spray the pesticides in the field without contaminating the adjacent plots while keeping a constant amount of spray per plot; and how to sample the soil (Fig 4). In the last sampling day, the field has completely changed from the first day we saw it (Fig 4 bottom).

Figure 4. Our field work! At the last sampling day, our field looked completely different from the first day. Time flied, did not it?

Back in the lab, we got hands on experience of good laboratory practice (GLP). We definitely can see how much a company with laboratory work can be benefit from it. We picked up some of the habits we learned from GLP. We also learned how ECT performs standard test on F. candida and other model species used in ecotoxicology, which we found inspiring. When working in the lab, we established a temporary “Springtail Studio” (Fig 5), which allowed us to photograph the results of our tests.

Figure 5. Left top: teamwork at the laboratory. Right: “DIY” Springtail studio. Left bottom: “A picture of the results by Springtail studio production”.

We enjoyed our free time in Germany very much. On the weekends we visited famous farmer markets (Fig 6). We also, passed by in Frankfurt and Berlin. We had a good time at ECT, both at work and in life.

Figure 6. Enjoying ourselves in a local farmer market, Mainz.

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