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Interview with Maria J. Belzunce Ph.D., leader of MONITOOL Work Package 4 (Database Management and correlation studies)

Maria J. Belzunce Ph.D. leads the Work Package 4 (Database Management and correlation studies) of the MONITOOL project. She works in the Marine Research Division of AZTI Foundation, located in the Basque Country - Spain. She has over 20 years experience working on trace metals and their effects in the marine environment.ebelzunce 3

What is the aim of Work Package 4?

The purpose of Work Package 4 (WP4) is to develop a common database to allow the compilation and interchange of all information related with physico-chemical parameters and metal concentrations for quality water assessment. The participation of all Partners is required in this work package because they must provide data from their regions to the database.

AZTI, as leading partner of WP4, guarantees an efficient cooperation between partners which is relevant to achieve the goals of this activity within the timeframe and accordingly to the methodology established by all Partners.

Which type of data is provided in the database?

Two types of data:

  • Data obtained from the literature related with dissolved metal concentrations from “classical” spot water sampling, with chemically labile metals and with labile metal concentrations derived from Diffusive Gradient Thin films (DGTs), and
  • Data obtained in this project from the eight consortium regions that cover the whole Atlantic region, including also the Mediterranean areas. These data include the dissolved metal concentration from spot water sampling, the chemically labile metals and the labile metal concentrations derived from DGTs. Furthermore, the physico-chemical parameters measured "in situ" every sampling time in 8 different regions are also collected in the database.

The physico-chemical parameters are the following: salinity, temperature, sampling depth, dissolved organic carbon, suspended matter, turbidity and "in situ" observations.

How many data have you provided to the database?

Data from literature are very scarce. We have not found many studies related with parallel measurement of metal concentrations in dissolved water (taken by spot sampling) and labile metal concentration in DGT resins with raw data available. In this sense, this study represents a novelty as it is the first database that compiles a large number of this type of data from different European regions.

In the framework of Monitool project we have produced more than 250 DGT samples and more than 500 water samples. In each DGT sample, the concentration of priority (Cd, Ni and Pb) and specific metals (Al, Cr, Co, Cu, Fe, Mn and Zn) have been analyzed and the data reported in the database. In each water sample the priority and specific metals have been analyzed by seaFAST ICP-MS. Besides, in each water sample, the priority metals have been analyzed by voltammetry technique. All the obtained data have been recorded in the database.

This means that, apart from the physico-chemical parameters data, the database compiles about 2,500 data of metal concentrations in DGT resins, and about 6,500 data of metal concentrations in marine and estuarine water samples.

With such large amount of data how did you deal with the database in order to minimize errors in data transcription, to reduce variability and to guaranty the homogeneity and comparability of data, same units, etc.?

The database was designed by AZTI as leader of WP4 and put in consensus with the other partners. In the same way, the protocol for the database management was proposed by AZTI and discussed among partners until reach a common agreement.

Each Partner was responsible for their data to be recorded in the database following the agreed protocol. After all data collection, several revisions were done by AZTI to guaranty the homogeneity of data.

Apart from the data collection, what other function fulfils the database?

The database is not only for data collection, but it is need for the information interchange between partners and for the statistical analysis to relate metal concentrations in Diffusive Gradient Thin films (DGTs) with spot water samplings. It is also necessary to evaluate the effect of water physical-chemical parameters in trace metal concentrations, and finally, based on the data recorded and on the correlations between data, it is possible to propose a methodology to obtain Environmental Quality Standards (EQS) adapted to the labile metal concentration obtained by DGTs. This step is the final purpose of the database and it is performed in close collaboration with Work Package 6 leaded by IFREMER.

As a matter of fact, last September, AZTI and IFREMER had a workshop to analyze correlations between data and to propose a methodology for adapted “labile metal concentration” EQS.