Service provider: Centro Interdisciplinar de Investigação Marinha e Ambiental (CIIMAR)
Funding source: ASSEMBLE Plus* (2020)

‘Thanks to ASSEMBLE Plus, we, Dr Belén González-Gaya and PhD student Naroa Lopez- Herguedas, enjoyed a one-month internship at the Centro Interdisciplinar de Investigação Marinha e Ambiental (CIIMAR) in March 2020. We belong to the Analytical Chemistry department at Plentzia Marine Station (University of the Basque Country). Our research explores the presence and behaviour of pollutants in aquatic ecosystems.

We were hosted by Dr Miguel Santos, Principal Investigator of the Endocrine Disruptors and Emergent Contaminants research team. The objective of the internship was to test the obesity potential of the estrogenic compounds present in Basque hospital effluent waters with an in-vitro transactivation bioassay developed at CIIMAR.
The combination between our expertise in chemistry and wastewater xenobiotics identification perfectly matched the biological and effects-oriented approach from the hosting group. The experience enriched our study and helped us to apply new techniques that we do not have in our research centre. ASSEMBLE Plus was definitely a great opportunity for us!’

As for the impact of COVID on their research? Belén said that ‘The first two weeks were absolutely normal, running the programmed bioassays as scheduled. However, the third week, we (all CIIMAR staff, indeed) were advised to quit non essential activities and cell lines reproduction for biotesting was stopped, although we could perform a few more bioassays during those critical days. The last week, confinement was also recommended, and as we didn’t have more labwork to do without cell lines, we just kept our tasks of data treatment and interpretation from home there. We were in any case supported and assisted by CIIMAR collaborating and organising staff, and we were funded for extra expenses such as the use of a private car to avoid public transport (recommended at that time) during the third and last week. And also, we were allowed to fund our way back to the Basque country with a private car as our flights were cancelled. We still need a week of work to finish up the experimental part of the collaboration, and even if our hosts offered to do it themselves, there are still a few bioassays to perform’.

*ASSEMBLE Plus is an EMBRC-coordinated programme funded by Horizon 2020 under grant agreement number 730984