Call edition 2012
A new edition of the Prize of the Belgian Development Cooperation has been launched. This call is open until March 31st, 2011. You can read in the regulations whether you comply with the criteria for participation.
Ecotoxicological research is extremely relevant, not least in a development context. Ecotoxicology is also a field of research in which a too simplistic vision can have important harmful consequences. One of ecotoxicology’s central problems is the combined action of several pollutants: if you mix two toxic substances, is their combined effect the sum of the individual substances or are there synergetic or antagonistic interactions? This question is the subject of Dr. Otitoloju’s prize-winning publications. The attraction of this research lies in the author’s combination of an international standard of work with an obvious relevance to the local context. The author uses locally-occurring marine benthic organisms as model organisms and in well-organized experiments he exposes them to a gradient of known mixtures of heavy metals. The obtained response (mortality) is compared with prognostications based on the response observed during exposure to individual pollutants. The results are remarkable and suggest mainly antagonistic interactions.
What appeals to me in the present study is the author’s endeavour – despite the less favourable logistical conditions that probably prevail in Lagos – to enter the international field with conceptually interesting research of a sufficiently high standard to be accepted by international journals, without losing sight of its relevance to the local context. There can be no doubt that this study is of value in determining limiting values for pollution in coastal environments in and around Nigeria and in this way can contribute to a more environment-friendly expansion of the economy in the region.
Having said that, it may also be pointed out that a few comments are in order regarding the present studies. For instance, in the discussion of one of the publications the idea is suggested that it would perhaps be possible to exploit the antagonistic interactions between zinc and cadmium in the management of cadmium-contaminated aquatic systems. This is potentially a very dangerous suggestion (for one thing because it is based on a study with a very restricted number of species), which can perhaps be abused for not tackling the problem of cadmium-contamination at the source. There are, otherwise, inherent limitations in this type of study, which the author does not really take into account: in his research mainly binary mixtures are used, but this also ignores the complexity of the natural habitats, with more pollutants and interactions with all manner of other factors. But this can be countered by the fact that in one of the submitted studies the author does attempt to replicate the mixtures of pollutants, namely in Lagos Lagoon.
In sum, these publications attract my attention because an excellent attempt is made to deliver very sound research that meets the standards employed internationally, not by blindly copying the research of European or North American examples, but by adopting precisely the good elements of these examples in a study that is directly relevant to its own region.
report by Prof. Dr L. De Meester, Laboratory of Aquatic Ecology, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium