Marlene Ågerstrand, Assistant Professor, Department of Environmental Science. Photo: Tomas Ärlemo.

Chemicals has the potential to affect the behaviour of fish, insects and other wild animals. For example, perch exposed to anti-anxiety drugs become bolder and less social, and consequently more exposed for predators. Such deviations from natural behaviours could potential be devastating for the survival of the population.

Unfortunately, scientific studies investigating behavioural effects have not been prioritized in regulation of chemicals, but a new collaboration has set out to change this. The Department of Environmental Science (ACES) is, together with the German Environment Agency and several other stakeholders, working to improve the regulatory use of these studies.

Gerd Maack from the German Environment Agency concludes that: “Collaboration with the research community is crucial here. We need to join forces to create change.”

The collaboration has resulted in an analysis of the current use of behavioural studies and the limitations within the chemical regulation. The group is now working on recommendations and guidelines that will help regulators, as well as the scientific community, to recognize and assess the value of behavioural studies for understanding environmental effects from various chemicals. 

“This collaboration has provided me with valuable insights in how science is used, or not used, in decision-making. I will use this knowledge in my future research projects and in my teaching“, says Marlene Ågerstrand, researcher at the Department of Environmental Science. 


Fish exposed to pharmaceuticals and implanted with tracking device are being released in experimental lake outside of Umeå by researchers from SLU. Photo: Michael Bertram.