Environmental research projects currently carried out at Biomiljø include the fields of marine ecotoxicology, biological effect and ecological functioning studies, environmental risk assessment, coastal, offshore and fresh water monitoring as well as microbial biodegradation. The department is continually working on the development of next generation methods
for environmental monitoring with the aim of providing effective indicators and biosensors.
IRIS is developing methods for in-situ real-time detection
of pollutants and their effects on the environment, e.g. hydrocarbons, enabling a rapid reponse to incidents and thus minimize further environmental impact.
A robotized Environmental Sampling Processor (ESP) will use genosensors for detection of oil microbial bio-indicators in the water column in the Genomape project. The ESP is a molecular-based autonomous monitoring device designed to collect water samples and identify/quantify specific DNA in the samples. In a separate project the ESP will be adapted for use within aquaculture. The DNA based technology will make it possible to detect fish pathogens and parasites, as well as escapees from fish farm installations.
Biomiljø has extensive expertise using biological response signals ( “biomarkers “ ) from both living organisms and tissue samples within biomonitoring activities. Biomarkers are often used as a suite of parameters, functioning in a similar fashion as human health diagnostics. When used within monitoring programs they may provide an early warning of potentially greater harm to biota, following both acute and chronic, planned and unplanned discharges. When linked with risk assessment and population effects, biomarkers can be an informative and cost efficient method for monitoring the environment. Currently, ecological level indicators are under development for environmental monitoring of sea bed processes.
The focus of one of our current research areas is the development of next generation protein based molecular markers
capable of indicating environmental impacts arising from offshore petroleum operations. These indicators are in the form of expressed proteins in tissues of fish affected by the presence of PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) in the marine environment. New potential biological markers for oil pollution related to tracking sources of contamination, are also under evaluation.
Microbial organisms in the marine environment respond rapidly to changes in water conditions, including pollution events such as hydrocarbon contamination and eutrophication. Few methods currently exist for routine monitoring of key coastal bacterial species. IRIS has been working on several projects focusing on the detection of these key marker species to test and monitor the biodegradation of contaminants in the environment (including oil spill bioremediation in the Arctic ).
Fresh water and terrestrial environmental issues are also investigated at IRIS Environment. Together with local authorities, IRIS researchers are working to assess legionella levels in public buildings and developing novel techniques to achieve this goal. Together with IVAR, an inter-municipal waste treatment company, IRIS Environment has been granted regional funding to examine to what extent wastewater treatment systems provide a gateway for microplastics into land based and water based food chains.