Combined Hydrological, Exposure and Risk Assessment Models in Support of Environmental Risk Assessment

Principal investigator:

Dr. Markus Brinkmann
Assistant Professor in Exposure and Risk Assessment Modelling
School of Environment and Sustainability (SENS)
University of Saskatchewan

Additional team members:

Saurabh Prajapati

Project description

We live in an era of unprecedented global change and changing environmental conditions can considerably impact the processes by which contaminants move through the environment, are taken up by and eventually cause toxicological effects in exposed organisms. Characterizing and predicting the impacts of these processes on aquatic systems requires an integrated understanding of the underlying hydrological, chemical and toxicological mechanisms and their interactions, but most previous research and resulting predictive models have been strictly disciplinary. Therefore, Dr. Brinkmann’s research program aims to integrate multidisciplinary uptake and effect models with large-scale hydrological and chemical fate models. These integrated risk assessment models will help to understand and predict threats to the safety of our water resources and will be instrumental for Canadians to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of global environmental change.

Supported through his GWF New Faculty Startup funds and a recently submitted infrastructure application through the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s John R. Evans Leaders Fund (CFI-JELF), Dr. Brinkmann aims to provide the missing links between various computational models. These will include existing large-scale hydrological and water quality models, such as the in-stream Water Quality Analysis Simulation Program (WASP). WASP features a sophisticated module (Advanced Toxic Chemicals Module, TOXI) to predict dissipative (sorption/desorption, diffusion, volatilization) and transformative processes (hydrolysis, photolysis, biodegradation) that affect contaminant dynamics in a water system. Together, these models will enable dynamic, spatially resolved prediction of the concentrations of environmental contaminants in a watershed. These outputs will be used to feed into uptake and bioaccumulation models (i.e. the Bioaccumulation and Aquatic System Simulator [BASS]; the food web bioaccumulation model by Arnot and Gobas; the physiologically-based toxicokinetic [PBTK] models developed by Dr. Brinkmann) that describe the processes by which chemical contaminants enter, concentrate and biodistribute in exposed aquatic organisms. These processes often result in elevated levels compared to water concentrations, thereby constituting potential health threats through human consumption of contaminated fish and environmental risks through secondary poisoning.

Ultimately, this research provides a unique opportunity to embark upon research that will aid Saskatchewan, Canada, and the ‘cold regions’ (i.e. regions with cold continental climate where snow, ice and frozen soils drive water quantity and quality, and which are severely affected by climate change) to prepare for future water threats.