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Ecological Models to Predict and Test the Effects of Chemical Stressors: Integration across 2 EPA STAR cooperative agreements
Nacci, D. Ecological Models to Predict and Test the Effects of Chemical Stressors: Integration across 2 EPA STAR cooperative agreements. EPA STAR Grantees, Minneapolis, MN, November 12, 2017.
Research described in this abstract provides an example of effective approaches and mechanisms to efficiently predict the ecological effects of chemicals, which supports broad environmental protection goals in the US.
Accessible tools to quantify adverse outcomes pathways (AOPs) that can predict the ecological effects of chemicals and other stressors are a major goal of Chemical Safety and Sustainability research within US EPA’s Office of Research and Development. To address this goal, we develop and test ecological models that have the potential to take into account a comprehensive array of effects, maximize available methods/data, and provide a mechanistic basis for extrapolation across chemicals, species, levels of biological organization, and varying ecologically realistic conditions. Our approach leverages expertise and resources within EPA, and enhances the goals of 2 EPA STAR cooperative agreements through our focus on a well-studied ecological model species Fundulus heteroclitus (Atlantic killifish), an estuarine fish with a particularly well-annotated genome. Specifically, we are exploring ecological models incorporating fish behavioral endpoints (and their genetic correlates), which complement our EPA STAR collaborators project “Development of a larval fish neurobehavior adverse outcome pathway…” using zebrafish, fathead minnow and yellow perch. We are also exploring the utility of bioenergetics models, or more specifically, Dynamic Energy Budget (DEB) models, which provide a physiologically-based approach to predict response to stressors, including toxic chemicals, across the life cycle and provides a basis for linking molecular to individual to community/ecosystem health. Our field and laboratory studies provide support for the development and testing of a killifish DEB model and its predictions of outcomes from exposures to high priority toxic chemicals via the STAR cooperative agreement, “Dynamical Systems Models Based on Energy Budgets for Ecotoxicological Impact Assessment”. Integration of these activities has been further enhanced through our participation in a 2 year National Institutes Math and Biology Synthesis (NIMBioS) workshop series, “Ecological models linking molecules to individual to ecosystems”, whose chairs include EPA STAR cooperators and whose participants include EPA Program Office and ORD staff. Together, these collaborations provide effective mechanisms to demonstrate and evaluate ecological modeling strategies within an AOP framework, and broadly support achievement of environmental protection goals in the US.