Thoughts on the Advanced Environmental Toxicology Course

keccl's picture

The in class portion of the two-week intensive CREATE-REACT course Advanced Environmental Toxicology has just come to an end and I wanted to share some of my thoughts on the course. I have an unconventional background in regards to toxicology, I was not trained as a chemist or a biologist, but as a geographer. At the beginning I was a little bit apprehensive about this course and what I could take from it. A lot of this course focused on the molecular, organ, and system effects that stressors (chemicals) could have on an organisms, though the development of adverse outcome pathways (AOPs).  AOPs can be extended to population level effects, a place where I feel more comfortable, but there are methodological issues with actually demonstrating causation at this level of aggregation. This is something I will continue to think about over the course of my PhD. While I did learn more about current and upcoming toxicological methods, AOPs, fugacity models, and exposure models, the take home message I received from this course is really a new way to think about toxicology.

We live in a complex world, with many complex problems. In order to solve some of these issues we need to be smart in our methods. This is the approach that AOPs have taken. If we can develop many pathways perturbed by a stress and the corresponding response in organisms, we can use these pathways in a predictive manor. By not limiting the pathways to one chemical, or one type of stress, the applicability of these pathways are much more diverse.  While this course focused on the details of the various models, it was always underlaid with the notion of looking at the big picture. While at times this can be hard while immersed in the details of your research, it is important.  To be efficient in the way we do research, we need to design research to look at multi levels of organization. This way even when looking at details, it is clear how it fits in to the big picture. Additionally, research preformed in this manor can be used in regulator setting. Overall this course was very use in providing a conceptual, and practical framework for toxicology research. 

University of Ottawa, Carleton University, University of Alberta and Université Laval