Researchers Develop Early Warning System for Water Pollution Using Tiny Water Fleas


The health of common water fleas like this one are being examined by University of Toronto researchers using a powerful instrument called a tandem mass spectrometer.

Researchers at the University of Toronto are developing an early warning system for water quality and pollution that combines tiny water fleas and an instrument so sensitive it’s able to detect changes at the molecular level.

The technique being developed by Myrna Simpson, a professor in U of T Scarborough’s department of physical and environmental sciences, and post-doctoral researcherTae-Yong Jeong uses something called metabolomics to study the health of common water fleas (Daphnia). It uses a powerful instrument called a tandem mass spectrometer to offer a window into biochemical processes taking place inside Daphnia when they’re exposed to different water conditions.

“Metabolomics is really dynamic – it allows you to detect biochemical changes in tissues and cells almost instantaneously,” says Simpson.

The technique can be incorporated into what’s called the Biological Early Warning System for water pollution, which involves looking at how organisms respond biologically to changes in water quality. The organisms used in the system usually have a fast response to pollutants and changes in nutrients, so the technique is useful for the continuous monitoring of water quality.

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