Master dissertation proposals

On this page you can find a short overview of the master dissertation topics our lab offers to students for the academic year 2020-2021. More information on the master dissertation is available at the Ghent University master thesis website.


Master dissertation topics:

  1. De whereabouts van microplastics. Waar vinden we deze deeltjes terug in de Gentse waterlopen
  2. Assessment of the ecotoxicity of a World War I dumpsite sediment using copepod bioassays
  3. Working towards sustainable maritime practices: fixing antifouling
  4. Working towards sustainable aquaculture practices: mapping resource streams in hatchery systems
  5. Developing and optimizing a rapid and robust method for in-situ monitoring of microplastics in the marine environment using flow cytometry
  6. Is our marine food web changing due to climate change
  7. Ecotoxicologisch en fysicochemisch verantwoord lozen en hergebruiken van afvalwater binnen de groenten- en aardappelverwerkende industrie
  8. SMART-DETOX: evaluation of the efficiency of novel detoxification technologies for waste water
  9. ECOPHARMA: bioavailability and ecological risks of pharmaceuticals in surface water
  10. No guts, no glory: hoe werken onze darmen in op plastics
  11. In vitro toxicity of selected microplastic particles at nexus of food, environment and health

 

De whereabouts van microplastics. Waar vinden we deze deeltjes terug in de Gentse waterlopen.

Trefwoorden:
microplastics, Gentse waterlopen, sediment, waterkolom, plastic flow
Beschrijving:

Plastics zijn overal en plastic vervuiling is een steeds groter wordend probleem. Plastics die niet verzameld worden na gebruik en in de natuur terechtkomen kunnen enorme gevolgen hebben voor het aquatische ecosysteem. Door de waterlopen kunnen de plastics getransporteerd worden en op verschillende plaatsen en in verschillende ecosystemen terechtkomen.

Er is echter nog heel weinig informatie over hoe deze plastics zich in die waterlopen bewegen. Door een systematische staalname in verschillende transecten in de Gentse waterlopen, zal deze masterthesis de verdeling van plastics in kaart brengen. Dit onderzoek zal antwoorden formuleren op de vragen: Stapelen plastics zich op in de oevers? Worden plastics uit de binnenstad getransporteerd naar de rand? Blijven de plastics drijven? Waar bevinden de plastics zich in de waterkolom? Zijn er bepaalde hotspots in de stadswateren waar er veel plastics verzameld worden?

 

Door een combinatie van veldwerk en labo-experimenten brengen we de whereabouts van plastic in de Gentse wateren in kaart. Met behulp van verschillende technieken zullen de plastics in het labo gekwantificeerd en gekarakteriseerd worden.

 



Promotor(s):
prof. dr. Colin Janssen (LA22)
dr. Maaike Vercauteren (LA22)


Tutor(s):
dr. Maaike Vercauteren (LA22)

 

 

Assessment of the ecotoxicity of a World War I dumpsite sediment using copepod bioassays

Trefwoorden:
Paardenmarkt, copepods, sediment toxicity, gene expression
Beschrijving:
 

In the decades following World War I and World War II massive quantities of chemical warfare (CW) agents and explosives, including chemicals present on artillery shells, mortar rounds, aerial bombs and chemicals stored in large metal containers, were dumped into the oceans all over the globe. Designed to cause human casualties, CW agents, and corresponding degradation products, can also provoke severe harm to the marine environment.

In this thesis, inserted in the DISARM project (https://disarm.be/en), particular attention is given to the toxicity of the sediment in the Paardenmarkt, a World War I dumpsite over the Belgian coast. More specifically, the student will be exposing copepods to sediment samples from the dumpsite as well as to single or mixtures of previously identified compounds, aiming at unraveling their biological response to various endpoints, e.g. mortality, development, reproduction and DNA damage. Subsequently, alterations in gene expression will be evaluated in order to identify the molecular events leading to the observed effects.

Finally, gathered data will be analyzed and potential genetic patterns identified, filling in a long-term existent data gap and potentially contributing to the development of a novel biomarker to evaluate chemical warfare agents and explosives toxicity.



Promotor(s):
Jana Asselman (LA22)
prof. dr. Colin Janssen (LA22)


Tutor(s):
João Alves Barbosa (LA22)

 

 

Working towards sustainable maritime practices: fixing antifouling

Trefwoorden:
imagine analysis, imageJ, antifouling, biofouling, maritime industry
Beschrijving:
 

The Blue Economy is defined as "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem" by the World Bank. It is a fast growing sector that we are increasingly dependent on (e.g. shipping, offshore wind, aquaculture production).

An issue when working in the marine environment is marine growth (aka biofouling), the quick and persistent growth of organisms on submerged surfaces. In the shipping industry, the overgrowth of the hull increases the drag and can increase fuel consumption by 40-50 %. Biofouling on aquaculture pens strongly increases their weight, jeopardizes structural integrity, reduces material lifetime, as well as reduce water exchange, lowering water quality within the pens.

Traditionally, biofouling is combated with coatings that gradually release toxic compounds that kill off organisms that settle on the treated surfaces. However, there are increasing reports of the accumulation and adverse effects such compounds have on the surrounding marine environment. As such, these compounds are becoming increasingly restricted, and environmentally friendly alternatives are needed.

Within this thesis we aim to study and test several antifouling products on their capacity to withstand marine growth over the course of 6 to 9 months. Some products that are tested are industrial standards, as a reference, while others are innovative products under. Test plates will be hung from a floating platform off the coast of Oostende.

Collected data will be in the form of standardized pictures/images. With these images, the total biofouling cover will be determined through image processing software. Furthermore, the species groups that can be discerned will be determined, to map short term succession and determine if some products favor the settlement of some organisms over others.



Promotor(s):
prof. dr. Peter Dubruel (WE07)
prof. dr. Colin Janssen (LA22)


Tutor(s):
Simon Hernandez Lucas (LA22)

 

 

 

Working towards sustainable aquaculture practices: mapping resource streams in hatchery systems

Trefwoorden:
aquaculture, hatchery, RAS, shrimp, bivalve, seaweed, modeling, nutrient, resource
Beschrijving:
 

Aquaculture is one of the fastest growing food producing sectors worldwide. However, most aquaculture production is currently done in ways that aren’t exactly sustainable. Shrimp aquaculture, for instance, is one of the main drivers for mangrove destruction in the East-Asian & South-American tropics. Overspill of waste & nutrients from salmon aquaculture in Chile & Norway damages the surrounding environment & wild fish populations.

However, more sustainable technologies do exist. On-land recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) minimize their impact on the environment by reusing & treating the water in a circular system. In Europe, more such farms are being established & it is one way in which the industry can become more sustainable. However, an important bottleneck for their success is the reliable supply of larval material to grow out to commercial size. Due to sensitive early life stages and complex life cycles, this is quite a challenge. At UGent a project is currently running to establish aquaculture hatcheries for 3 species groups: shrimps, bivalves & seaweeds. Furthermore, the project aims to explore potential synergies between these individual hatchery systems, to minimize the impact on the environment (e.g. shared infrastructure, shared feed supply, serial water use).

The aim of this thesis is to map, quantify and model the resource (e.g. energy, water), nutrient and carbon streams within these hatchery systems. With this knowledge we can identify synergies between hatchery systems, where a combination may lead to a more sustainable multi-species alternative.

Within this thesis, water sampling campaigns will be performed during hatchery trials. Furthermore, nutrient and carbon content in these samples will be measured in the lab. Based on these results, a number of models will be made that can reliably predict the resource, carbon & nutrient streams in similar hatchery systems.



Promotor(s):
dr. ir. Margriet Drouillon (LA22)
prof. dr. Colin Janssen (LA22)


Tutor(s):
Simon Hernandez Lucas (LA22)

Developing and optimizing a rapid and robust method for in-situ monitoring of microplastics in the marine environment using flow cytometry.

Trefwoorden:
Microplastics, monitoring, marine environment, flow cytometry, Nile red, in-situ quantification, method development
Beschrijving:
 

Microplastics are ubiquitously present in the ocean. In recent years, there is a growing concern about their levels in the environment and the associated risks for ecological and human health. There is a growing interest for simple and cost-effective methods to identify, characterize and quantify microplastics in the field, there is an urgent need for standardized and reliable protocols that allow long-term monitoring. Currently, both physical and chemical identification methods are widely used, but these are usually time consuming, subjective and can often only be used for larger particles.

A promising method that can allow for high throughput detection of micro- and nanoplastics, but on which only few studies have focused, is the combination of flow cytometry with fluorescent dyes, specifically Nile Red. Flow cytometry is an extremely fast method that allows to quantify thousands of cells per seconds, and is widely used in different fields nowadays, e.g. for screening of phytoplankton in seawater. The fluorescent dye Nile Red has a selective staining behavior and is strongly fluorescent when adsorbed to hydrophobic environments (e.g. plastics). It can render plastics fluorescent when irradiated and is therefore an interesting tool for the detection and identification of microplastics in environmental samples.

In the present master thesis, we aim to explore the possibilities with this innovative methodology, and to further optimize it. The combination of two routinely used approaches have the potential to lead to a novel methodology to accurately detect and identify polydisperse plastic particles of unknown size and concentration, and can pave the way for a fast and robust in-situ monitoring method of microplastics in the marine environment, e.g. on board of a research vessel. VLIZ offers the opportunity to develop and optimize this method in our fully equipped laboratory spaces within the scope of a master thesis.



Promotor(s):
Dr. ir. Gert Everaert (Vlaams Instituut voor de zee (VLIZ) )
prof. dr. Colin Janssen (LA22)


Tutor(s):
Dr Ana Catarino (VLIZ)
Nelle Meyers (ILVO-VLIZ)
dr. Peter Rubbens (VLIZ)

 

 

Is our marine food web changing due to climate change

Trefwoorden:
Global change, North Sea, Monitoring, zooplankton
Beschrijving:
 

Our oceans and seas are being influenced by climate change and chemical pollution. Understanding the impacts on the marine food web is crucial because it is a good indicator of the effects of environmental stressors on the functioning of the marine environment. There are already some signs that the Belgian pelagic communities are struggling with the anthropogenic stressors they are facing. This is why we have been collecting various types of data for zooplankton, as it is one of the key components of marine ecosystems (density data, abiotic parameters, pollutant concentrations, gene counts) on sampling campaigns with the research vessel Simon Stevin, for the past three years. Using the generated data sets, we now want to quantitatively assess the health of zooplankton communities. Moreover, depending on the interest of the student, we would like to explore the current contribution of zooplankton to the diet some pelagic fish species by stomach content analyses. This thesis can be a combination of possibly some field work (depending on the student’s interest), some lab work and data analysis. 

 



Promotor(s):
Jana Asselman (LA22)
prof. dr. ir. Karel De Schamphelaere (LA22)


Tutor(s):
Ilias Semmouri (LA22)

 

 

Ecotoxicologisch en fysicochemisch verantwoord lozen en hergebruiken van afvalwater binnen de groenten- en aardappelverwerkende industrie

Trefwoorden:
proceswater, hergebruik, water, waterzuivering, voeding, ecotoxicologie, voedingsprocessen
Beschrijving:
 

De steeds grotere waterstress, en bijhorende stijgende waterprijzen, benadrukken de nood aan verhoogd hergebruik van proces- of afvalwater tijdens de verwerking van groenten en aardappelen. Dit is niet geheel zonder risico. Bij hergebruik kunnen bestrijdingsmiddelen, de zogenaamde gewasbeschermingsmiddelen (GBM), namelijk accumuleren in het proceswater waardoor kruiscontaminatie naar bv. andere of hetzelfde type gewassen kan optreden. Het gebruik van een ozon gebaseerde behandeling, al dan niet gecombineerd met actieve kool, heeft reeds aangetoond gelijkaardige componenten (bv. farmaceutische restproducten en/of pesticiden) efficiënt te verwijderen uit bv. conventioneel gezuiverd huishoudelijk afvalwater. 

Specifiek binnen dit thesisonderwerp kan het onderzoek bestaan uit:

-          Waterstalen collecteren bij deelnemende ondernemingen waarbij een doelgerichte fysicochemische karakterisering van de waterstromen van belang is (cfr. effluent en mogelijkse hergebruik stromen). Mogelijke parameters zijn o.a. COD, pH, geleidbaarheid, etc.

-          Specifieke parameters van de ganse watermatrix zullen i.f.v. de toegepaste waterbehandeling (bv. ozonvraag, verhouding snel/traag reagerende componenten, etc.) worden bepaald.

-          Het ecotoxiciteitsniveau in het huidige ongezuiverde en het gezuiverde afvalwater worden bepaald (ism het GhEnToxLab).

-          Een eerste screening van mogelijke zuiveringstechnologieën zal gebeuren via toepassing van verschillende ozondoseringen alsook via mogelijke na schakeling van aktief kool filtratie.



Promotor(s):
prof. dr. ir. Karel De Schamphelaere (LA22)
prof. Imca Sampers (LA23)



Tutor(s):
Michael Chys (LA24)
Jacob Willems (LA23)

 

 

SMART-DETOX: evaluation of the efficiency of novel detoxification technologies for waste water

Trefwoorden:
waste water, micropollutants, toxicity, ecotoxicology, environmental technology
Beschrijving:
 

Public waste water effluents still contain dozens of organic micropollutants, despite well-functioning convential primary and secondary treatment. This is because many compounds, including several pharmaceuticals and antibiotics, are very poorly (bio-degradable). As a consequence, effluents can still cause toxicity in the receiving rivers and streams.

The SMARTDETOX project aims to develop new environmental technologies to further reduce the ecotoxicity of secondary waste water effluent. In this thesis, we will focus on (1) identifying those residual micropollutants that are causing the current residual toxicity in 5-10 efffluents from waste water treatment plants across Belgium, and (2) evaluating the toxicity reduction efficiency of some of the new technologies that the project is developing.

In practice, the students will first perform so-called toxicity-identification-evaluation (TIE) procedures by combining extraction methods with ecotoxicity experiments. In a second part, the student will test the toxicity reduction of waste waters after treatment with a new microbial technology (in collaboration with Prof. Boon, CMET) and/or plasma technology (in collaboration with KULeuven).



Promotor(s):
prof. dr. ir. Nico Boon (LA25)
prof. dr. ir. Karel De Schamphelaere (LA22)


Tutor(s):
Warich Leekitratanapisan (LA22)

 

 

ECOPHARMA: bioavailability and ecological risks of pharmaceuticals in surface water

Trefwoorden:
pharmaceuticals, medicines, environment, risks, ecotoxicology, micropollutants, water quality
Beschrijving:
 

Pharmaceuticals that are used in both human and veterinary medicine are increaslingly detected in surface waters worldwide and can negatively affect a wide variety of aquatic organisms. The ECOPHARMA project aims to develop ecologically relevant models and tools for risk assessment of pharmaceuticals and for deriving water quality criteria that adequately protect aquatic ecosystems.

In this thesis, we will focus on the bioavailability aspect. More specifically, we will investigate how water chemistry properties, such as the pH or the organic matter content of the water, affect the ecotoxicity of pharmaceuticals. This will occur through laboratory ecotoxicity experiments, some field work, chemical analytical work and/or modeling.

The thesis will contribute to a better understanding of the ecological risk of medicines residues in our rivers and streams and ultimately help prioritize policy actions in terms of (waste) water quality management.



Promotor(s):
prof. dr. ir. Karel De Schamphelaere (LA22)
prof. dr. ir. Kristof Demeestere (LA24)


Tutor(s):
Qiyun Zhang (LA22)

 

 

No guts, no glory: hoe werken onze darmen in op plastics

Trefwoorden:
Trefwoorden: Microbioom, microplastic, verwering, pH, maag-darm stelsel
Beschrijving:

Beschrijving: Plastics zijn overal, wat ook wil zeggen dat wij dagelijks verschillende kleine plastic deeltjes, ofwel microplastics, opnemen via voedsel en drank. De vraag naar meer informatie over de effecten van deze plastic deeltjes in ons maag-darm stelsel is dan ook heel groot. Maar de interactie (en gekoppelde effecten) van deze plastic deeltjes met ons cellen  hangt enorm af van de eigenschappen van de plastics, zoals de vorm, grootte en het type plastic en de chemische samenstelling. 

Deze eigenschappen kunnen door heel veel factoren, zoals temperatuur, bacteriën, mechanische beweging en Uv-licht, beïnvloedt worden, zo zal een ‘maagdelijk’ vers geproduceerd plastics deeltje er helemaal anders uitzien dan een dan een deeltje van een fles die al een half jaar in de zon staat. Het lijkt ons dan ook vanzelfsprekend dat ons maag-darm stelsel ook een invloed kan uitoefenen op de deeltjes die we innemen.

 

Deze masterproef heeft dan ook als doel om deze invloeden systematisch te onderzoeken en een voorspelling te kunnen maken van de veranderingen die een plastic deeltje kan ondergaan in ons maag-darm stelsel onder invloed van onze darmflora, de veranderende pH, peristaltische bewegingen,…. Dit zal onderzocht worden door gebruik te maken van labo-experimenten en  verschillende technieken om de plastics te karakteriseren.

Dit onderzoek kan cruciale informatie opleveren om de effecten van inname van plastics op de menselijke gezondheid te ondersteunen.



Promotor(s):
Jana Asselman (LA22)
dr. Maaike Vercauteren (LA22)


Tutor(s):
dr. Maaike Vercauteren (LA22)

 

 

In vitro toxicity of selected microplastic particles at nexus of food, environment and health

Trefwoorden:
microplastics, food, water, toxicity, sustainability
Beschrijving:
 

Microplastics (MPs) are now ubiquitous in global (food) ecosystem, therefore a risk of exposure and potential toxicity are of primary concern. In this thesis, which makes part of a large European project, we will investigate acute toxicity of selected MPs on human cells that represent intestinal and liver targets. Our special focus will be on molecular and functional signatures of toxicity and a central role of mitochondria in bioenergetics modulations caused by most abundant MPs of different chemical and physical characteristics . This novel and original research that will use state-of-the art instruments has tremendous societal value and contribution to Sustainability Goals of United Nations.

In-vitro non-targeted effect screening based on cell culture-based approaches will form basses of this work in which in-vitro models will be used to mimic systems/organs as defined by European Food Safety Authority. The non-targeted approach, in which the identity of the present contaminants is not a primary indicator of toxicity attribution, comprises an overall cytotoxicity for most relevant toxicological endpoints. In our work we will focus on liver, gastrointestinal and respiratory tract. The main targets in all the systems will be estimation of the dosage of MPs and mitochondrial dysfunction, which is not only a measurement of toxicity, but mitochondrial dysfunction increases the impact of allergic inflammation, as well as it also provides a first line information on impact of MP on metabolic disorder. Mitochondrial dysfunction will be measured through respiration and glycolysis using Agilent Seahorse XF 96e analyser, and will be accompanied by OMICS toolbox analysis.



Promotor(s):
Jana Asselman (LA22)
prof. dr. Andreja Rajkovic (LA23)


Tutor(s):
dr. Mohamed Fathi Abdallah Abdelmohsen (LA23)
dr. ir. Charlotte Grootaert (LA23)