I strive to better understand, predict, and mitigate the impact that human activities, such as medicine use and agriculture, have on our ecosystems. These three objectives–understanding, predicting, and mitigating–run as a common thread through my research. Accordingly, my research questions range from “how is wildlife affected by pollution?” all the way to “what can we do to prevent pollution?”.
I mostly address these questions by studying the life history and behaviour of fish in controlled laboratory settings, and am now also expanding my research to incorporate greater ecological and economic realism. This involves, for example, using high-resolution acoustic telemetry to track fish in their natural habitats, or large-scale fish culturing in pilot production facilities focused on sustainable aquaculture practices. Besides fish, I also work with invertebrates and microalgae, and often complement my typical research approach–which tends to focus on a single species at a time–with methods that consider multiple interacting species simultaneously, such as mesocosm experiments and field surveys. Through this multifaceted approach, I aim to make meaningful contributions to the ongoing effort to safeguard our planet's biodiversity and ensure a sustainable future for all.
Understanding how ecosystems function is critical if we want to responsibly manage them. As part of my work, I focus on deepening our understanding of the ecology and behaviour of freshwater animals. By establishing a foundational understanding of these animals and the systems they inhabit, we can more effectively investigate the ecological impacts of human activities.
For example, I often study how emerging forms of pollution, such as pharmaceutical drugs, can affect fish and aquatic invertebrates. I usually focus on the long-term impact of drug exposure, separately or combined with additional environmental stressors, throughout animal development and across generations. I also study how intrinsic factors shape an individual’s response to pollution and how this translates at the population and community levels.
In addition, a foundational understanding of the biology and ecology of species is important for developing good husbandry procedures in both laboratory settings and in aquaculture production facilities. So far, I contributed mostly to the development of husbandry protocols for turquoise killifish, which is a short-lived fish species that is rapidly gaining popularity as a model organism for biomedical, ecological, and aquacultural research.
To effectively manage the presence of pollutants in the environment, it is important that we can predict their potential impact on wildlife at various concentrations. For this, standard ecotoxicological tests are important to determine which concentrations of a chemical could be considered safe. However, such tests often fail to account for the inherent complexities of real-world exposure scenarios, which may lead to an inaccurate risk estimation. To remedy this, I dedicate a significant portion of my work towards refining ecotoxicological assessment and creating tools to better predict the environmental impact of pollutants. Specifically, I aim to make long-term exposure assessments more efficient and contribute to more effective means of integrating behavioural testing into environmental protection frameworks.
I also seek innovative solutions that promote sustainable development and minimise our impact on the environment. For example, I examined how microalgae can be leveraged as part of a circular bio-economy to degrade, reduce, or detoxify agricultural waste while also producing valuable biomass for animal feed or bioplastic production. Furthermore, I am active as a guest researcher at the TRANSfarm pilot plant of KU Leuven (Belgium) where we invest in on-land aquaculture research and green chemistry solutions to meet the increasing global protein demand while prioritising animal welfare and minimising environmental impact.
I am working as a postdoctoral researcher in the research groups of Prof. Tomas Brodin (SLU) and Asst. Prof. Michael Bertram (SLU) in Umeå. I am also a guest researcher at the Department of Zoology at Stockholm University (Sweden) hosted by Prof. Niclas Kolm, and at the TRANSfarm pilot plant of KU Leuven (Belgium).
Beyond these roles, I am active as an ecotoxicologist in the EU-funded consortium "One Health drugs against parasitic vector borne diseases in Europe and beyond" (e-COST Action CA21111) which is aimed at developing new drugs for vector-transmitted diseases with minimal impact on the environment.
Please feel free to reach out if you are interested in my research, or if you want to collaborate!
I did my PhD research at KU Leuven (Belgium, 2016-'19) in the research group of Prof. Luc Brendonck, co-supervised by Dr. Tom Pinceel. For this, I generally focused on studying how natural stressors and chemical pollution impact fish and zooplankton (including large branchiopods). From a more applied point of view, one major objective of my PhD research was to establish turquoise killifish as a novel model organism for behavioural eco(toxico)logy research. I am still closely connected and involved in the follow-up research that builds upon this work.
After my PhD, I worked as a researcher at Radius research center (Thomas More University of Applied Sciences, Belgium) where I studied the cultivation and use of microalgae on lab and pilot scale from a circular economy viewpoint. Before moving to Sweden, I also worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the TRANSfarm pilot plant of KU Leuven (Belgium) where I led the development of a new, state-of-the-art research facility for aquacultural research. My research specifically focused on the toxicity and use of phytochemicals using Artemia-based assays, and on fish husbandry from an animal welfare viewpoint. I am still associated as a guest researcher to continue these activities.
Thoré, E., and W. Merckx. Substrate colour guides turquoise killifish’s (Nothobranchius furzeri) choice of preferred spawning habitat. Journal of Fish Biology, 2023, 1-8. DOI: 10.1111/jfb.15392
Thoré, E., B. Vanden Berghen, L. Brendonck, and T. Pinceel. Long-term exposure to a pharmaceutical pollutant affects geotaxic behaviour in the adult but not juvenile life stage of killifish. Science of the Total Environment, 2023, 876, 162746. DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2023.162746
Thoré, E., K. Muylaert, M. Bertram, and T. Brodin. Microalgae. Current Biology, 2023, 33: R91-R95. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2022.12.032
Thoré, E., F. Schoeters, A. De Cuyper, R. Vleugels, I. Noyens, P. Bleyen, and S. Van Miert. Waste is the new wealth – recovering resources from poultry wastewater for multifunctional microalgae feedstock. Frontiers in Environmental Science, 2021, 9: 679917. DOI: 10.3389/fenvs.2021.679917
Thoré, E., L. Brendonck, and T. Pinceel. Neurochemical exposure disrupts sex-specific trade-offs between body length and behaviour in a freshwater crustacean. Aquatic Toxicology, 2021, 105877. DOI: 10.1016/j.aquatox.2021.105877
Thoré, E., L. Brendonck, and T. Pinceel. Natural daily patterns in fish behaviour may confound results of ecotoxicological testing. Environmental Pollution, 2021, 116738. DOI: 10.1016/j.envpol.2021.116738
Thoré, E., C. Philippe, L. Brendonck, and T. Pinceel. Towards improved fish tests in ecotoxicology – efficient chronic and multi-generational testing with the killifish Nothobranchius furzeri. Chemosphere, 2021, 129697. DOI: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2021.129697
Thoré, E., C. Philippe, L. Brendonck, and T. Pinceel. Antidepressant exposure reduces body size, increases fecundity and alters social behaviour in the short-lived killifish Nothobranchius furzeri. Environmental Pollution, 2020, 265: 115068. DOI: 10.1016/j.envpol.2020.115068
Thoré, E., L. Brendonck, and T. Pinceel. Conspecific density and environmental complexity impact behaviour of turquoise killifish (Nothobranchius furzeri). Journal of Fish Biology, 2020, 97: 1448-1461. DOI: 10.1111/jfb.14512