Research Projects - Environmental biogeochemistry and ecotoxicology

On going projects:

Towards better understanding of the adverse outcome pathways of silver nanoparticles in freshwater gastropods (NANOPATHS)

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This project aims to get deeper knowledge on the basic mechanisms governing the biological responses of aquatic invertebrates to nanoparticles exposure under freshwater settings and to propose adverse outcome pathways for freshwater gastropods.
  • Funding: Swiss National Science Foundation
  • UniGe Responsible : Dr. Wei Liu
  • PhD student : Ting Wang
  • Partners: Prof. Vera Slaveykova, Dr. Mylène Docquier (Genomic platform iG3), Dr. Isabelle Worms, Dr. Emmanuel Castella.




Exploring the interaction of mercury species with different diatoms

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This project aims to attain insights about the role of diatoms (phytoplankton group) in the Hg cycle on freshwater systems. Bioaccumulation, kinetics and prevailing mechanisms of Hg biotic transformation pathways mediated by mainly Cyclotella meneghiniana under different conditions will be determined. Physiological endpoints will also be determined under different mercury concentrations and species to understand how it affects this organism. In parallel, transcriptomic and metabolomic techniques will be applied to explore the affected pathways.



Green Breath Box : Insights into biogeochemical cycles, environment, and sustainability

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Elucidation of the role of phytoplankton on aquatic biotic and abiotic transformation of mercury (PHYTAMBA)


This project aims to obtain new insights into the role of phytoplankton in Hg cycling and abiotic and biotic transformations in freshwater environments.





Interaction of nanoparticles with metalloproteins

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  • The project studies the interaction of nanoparticles (AgNPs and AuNPs) with metalloproteins by focusing on the formation of nanoparticles-protein corona (dynamic vs. static), the behaviour of the NPs and the related consequences for the protein in terms of conformation change and its biological function.
  • Funding : University of Geneva
  • UniGe Responsible : Prof. Vera Slaveykova
  • Collaborators : Dr. Wei Liu and Dr. Isabelle Worms




Projet Tripartite


Completed Projects


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The mixture effects of nanoTiO2 and mercury to green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii and invertebrate Daphnia magna through direct and dietary exposure.

  • The objectives of this project are: (i) to explore the interactions between mercury and TiO2 nanoparticles and their mixture effects to freshwater green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii and invertebrate Daphnia magna, (ii) to evaluate the effect of nanoTiO2 on the trophic transfer of Hg from microalgae to Daphnia magna, and (iii) to improve our knowledge about mixture toxicity and mechanisms of nanoparticles and toxic metals on aquatic organisms on different trophic levels.
  • Funding: China scholarship council
  • UniGe Responsible : Prof. Vera Slaveykova
  • PhD student : Mengting Li



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Lateral Connectivity in River Floodplains: From Invertebrate Community Prediction to Local Food Web Transfer of Contaminants

  • Funding : University of Geneva
  • UniGe Responsibles : Dr Emmanuel Castella, Prof. Vera Slaveykova
  • PhD student : Mr. Pierre Marle
  • Partners : Dr. Hervé Piégay & Dr. Jérémie Riquier, MR CNRS 5600 EVS, University of Lyon 3, France, Dr. Jean-Michel Olivier UMR CNRS 5023 LEHNA, University of Lyon 1, France







Assessing Metal Bioavailability Through Transcriptome Response in Aquatic Primary Producers

  • This project studies the relationship between toxic metal bioavailability and expression of genes in two representative aquatic primary producers: a rooted macrophyte and a green microalga, representing the aquatic plants and the phytoplankton typically found in the benthic environment and the water column.
  • Funding : Swiss National Science Foundation
  • UniGe Responsibles :  Prof. Vera Slaveykovaand Dr Claudia Cosio,
  • PhD student : Mrs Rebecca Beauvais-Flück
  • Partners : Genomic platform iG3, University of Geneva

Association of Uranium with Organic Matter- and Iron-bearing Colloids in Wetland Environments “UMIC”

  • The project aims to improve the mechanistic understanding of the role of (Fe-)NOM colloids on U(IV) dissemination with specific emphasis on the composition, size, shape, phases of natural organic matter- and Iron-bearing colloids in wetland environments. The UniGe contributes to the characterization of the size and molar mass distributions of natural organic matter (NOM), iron colloids and associated uranium by flow field-flow fractionation-multi detection system.
  • Funding : Horizon 2020 MARIE SKŁODOWSKA-CURIE Individual Fellowships
  • Principle Investigator: Dr Gabrille Dublet
  • Partners: Profs. Rizlan Bernier-Latmani (EPFL) and Prof. Vera Slaveykova



Bioavailability of Mercury Species to Phytoplankton

  • The project studies Hg species availability to model phytoplankton specie, unicellular green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, sub-cellular effects at transcriptomic and physiology level and role of various environmental factors.
  • Funding : Swiss National Science Foundation
  • UniGe Responsible : Prof. Vera Slaveykova
  • Collaborators : Dr. Nicole Regier, Mr. Killian Kavanagh, Mme Elodie Moulin
  • Partners : Genomic platform iG3, University of Geneva



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Evaluation of Environmental Impacts in Water Ecosystems with Genetic Based Bacteriological and Physicochemical Aspects Guided Sustainable Water Resource Management in Developing Countries: Case of South India and sub-Saharan Africa

  • Our laboratory is involved in the assesses the anthropogenic influences associated microbiological and toxic metal contamination of the aquatic environment receiving systems, irrigation water and crops, as well as drinking water supplies.
  • Funding : Swiss National Science Foundation
  • UniGe Responsibles : Dr John Pote, Prof. Vera Slaveykova and Honorary Prof. Walter Wildi
  • PhD student : Amandine Laffite (University of Geneva)
  • Partners : University of Kinshasa and UPN (Congo)




Probing Contaminant Bioavailability by Multi-endpoint Lab-on-Chip Whole Cell Arrays





Response of Natural Biofilms to Dynamic Fluctuation of Micropollutants

  • The project studies biofilm accumulation and composition as bioindicators of toxic metals exposure in contaminated sites.
  • Funding : Subside Tremplin, University of Geneva
  • Principle Investigator : Dr Séverine Le Faucheur
  • Partners : Prof. Vera Slaveykova, University of Geneva, Prof. Marc Amyot, Université de Montréal, Canada; Dr David Amouroux,  CNRS-Université de Pau et des Pays de l'Adour, France





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Spatial and Temporal Distribution of Vital and Toxic Trace Elements in Endemic Sponges of Lake Baikal

  • This project studies the distribution of vital and toxic trace elements including Hg within endemic sponge and explores the relationships between the changes in the elemental composition and the appearance of sponge damage or illnesses.
  • UniGe Responsibles : Prof. Vera Slaveykova, Dr Jean-Luc Loizeau
  • Collaborator : Mariapaola Ambrosone
  • Partners : Prof. Matsumi Yamamuro (Tokyo University, Japon) and Prof. Oleg Timoshkin (Institute of Limnology, RAN, Irkutsk, Russia).





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United We Stand Divided We Fall: Chlamydomonas reinhardtii Strategy to Endure Micropollutant Toxicity

  • The project aims to elucidate the mechanisms of palmelloid colony formation as a cellular strategy to avoid micropollutant toxicity. Despite the deep knowledge of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii cell biology the mechanisms that drive the transition from unicellular to colonial lifestyle are currently unclear and the biological function of palmelloid formation is still in question.
  • Funding : Swiss National Science Foundation –Marie Heim-Vögtlin
  • Principle Investigator : Dr Giulia Cheloni
  • Partners : Prof. Vera Slaveykova and Prof. Michel Goldschmidt-Clermont, Department of Molecular Biology, University of Geneva





 Water quality assessment of the former industrial sites of “Villard Le Planay” and “Pomblière Saint Marcel“

  • This project assesses the environmental quality of water and sediments in the former industrial site and the discharges of the Bozel valley as well as the six discharges of the Tarentaise valley.
  • Funding : RioTinto
  • UniGe Responsible: Dr Séverine Le Faucheur
  • Collaborator : Mrs Carmen Moinecourt


Non-invasive continuous monitoring of the interaction between nanoparticles and aquatic microorganisms (Mlle Nadia von Moos, en collaboration avec le Prof. O. Martin et le Dr P. Bowen, EPFL)


NanoUniCell, A comparative study of the effects of metal and semiconductor nanoparticles on two unicellular eukaryotic organisms (Dr. M. Mortimer, Prof. V. Slaveykova, in collaboration with Dr. A. Kahru, National Institute of Chemical Physics and Biophysics, Estonia)


Mercury threat in industrially impacted surface water bodies in Romania – integrated approach (MERCURO) (Mlle Perrine Dranguet, Drs. C.Cosio, S. Le Faucheur, J.L. Loizeau, Prof. V. Slaveykova, in collaboration with GEOECOMAR, Romania)


Bioavailability and toxicity of micropollutant mixtures to freshwater microalgae (Dr S. Le Faucheur)


Metal Bioavailability to aquatic photosynthetic organisms in Changing Environment (BioChEn) (Mlle G. Cheloni, Dr C. Cosio, Prof. V. Slaveykova)


Ecotoxicologie et biodiversité aquatique dans un système rivière-plaine alluviale (Mme D. Hug Peter, en collaboration avec le Dr E. Castella, Institut F.A.Forel).


Micropollutant availability and effects to phytoplankton in the Venice lagoon (M. M. Wildi, Mlle C. Pestrimaux, Dr S. Le Faucheur, Prof. V. Slaveykova, in collaboration with Dr. R. Zonta, ISMAR, Italy)


Assessing plant potential for biological monitoring of polluted waters and sediments (Dr N. Regier and Dr C. Cosio )