Industrial PhD on Biosensor Development

Biosensors for environmental monitoring: development of a new generation of biosensors based on fitness parameter endpoints

The industrial PhD project at BiotaTools was started in 2011 and will conclude at the end of 2014.

Biosensors for monitoring the environment in real-time have become an attractive resource for a wide range of industries. Few biosensor methods have been incorporated into commercial programmes, and those that have lack clear links to toxicological risk assessment parameters, such as growth and reproduction. As a result, a new generation of biosensors have been proposed that are capable of measuring endpoints corresponding directly to Darwinian fitness parameters. Such developments will create a direct link between environmental risk assessment and environmental monitoring.

The company BiotaTools AS has proposed and patented two concepts for new generation biosensors, utilising laser-based technology. The first biosensor will measure growth by laser triangulation. The second biosensor will employ laser Doppler velocimetry, with particle sizing, in order to characterise the particle concentration and size distribution in surrounding water bodies, allowing for the calculation of various feeding behaviour endpoints, such as clearance and ingestion rates. Ultimately, the data from these biosensors may be incorporated into models such as Scope for Growth and Dynamic Energy Budget, in order to provide a real-time estimation of the health status of individuals.

Two bivalve species will be investigated as potential species for use as sensors. The blue mussel (Mytilus edulis) is a well-established sentinel species in environmental monitoring. Whilst the blue mussel is widely distributed in shallow water environments (<10 m depth), Icelandic scallop populations are found in closer proximity to potential oil pollution and at deeper water depths (20-100 m).

In addition to providing relevant and easily interpretable information for monitoring purposes, the new sensors will help to expand knowledge regarding the biology and life history strategies of the bivalve species. As a result, theories, which have in the past been tested using indirect measurements, will be clarified.

For more information regarding the industrial PhD, or to obtain a copy of the completed PhD after the defence (scheduled for 22 January 2015) please contact the PhD candidate Kirsten Redmond.