Wildlife and landscape science research topics: biological test method development

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Biological Test Method Development

Standardized biological test methods are used to assess the impacts of contaminants on plant, vertebrate, and invertebrate species, and on terrestrial and aquatic environments. These tests are used by federal, provincial, and municipal governments, the mining, pulp and paper, and petroleum industries, as well as wastewater systems and sewage treatment facilities. The results of these laboratory tests help scientists assess the risks to the environment posed by pollutants or other substances. In addition, these tests help ensure compliance with federal legislation including the Fisheries Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

Since 1990, a total of 25 standardized toxicity test methods, four procedures, and nine supporting guidance documents have been published and distributed to a national and international audience for use in environmental toxicology laboratories. Depending on the method chosen, and the environmental compartment of concern, the substances or materials to be tested for toxicity could include samples of chemicals, effluents, sediments or soils, or similar particulate materials.

A laboratory technician monitors cultures of Rhodomonas salina (red algae) used to feed Acartia tonsa (marine copepod).

Core activities in our group include:

  • forecasting the need for new environmental toxicology testing methods;
  • developing and validating standardized biological test methods and supporting guidance required by departmental programs;
  • developing soil toxicity tests for individual species and microbial communities to evaluate the impact of contaminants on natural soil systems;
  • coordinating research in partnership with ECCC regional laboratories;
  • collaborating with partners who share our focus on method development, including the Inter-Governmental Ecotoxicological Testing Group, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD);
  • providing advice on the use of biological test methods; and
  • providing ongoing support to the toxicology component of the national laboratory accreditation program managed by the Canadian Association for Laboratory Accreditation (CALA).
A toxicity test showing concentration-dependent growth inhibition of agricultural plants in contaminated soil.
A laboratory technician monitors a Lemna minor (duckweed) culture in a plant growth chamber.

Experts in biological test method development

  • Leana Van der Vliet, Manager, Methods Development and Applications Unit
  • Rick Scroggins, Chief, Biological Assessment and Standardization Section
  • Juliska Princz, Manager, Soil Toxicology Laboratory

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Further reading on toxicity testing

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