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Facilities and lab services

The research centre is exceptionally well resourced with extensive facilities for both environmental chemistry and ecotoxicology. The core facilities are integrated and purpose-built for our research; with newly refurbished laboratories and the latest state-of-the-art equipment. Our main resources are summerised below.

Biology facilities


Zebrafish research facility

For more information please visit the Zebrafish research facility page.

Aquaria and animal facilities for whole organism ecotoxicology

The University of Plymouth has very extensive aquarium facilities, and the largest of any University in England. The aquaria houses a diverse range of temperate freshwater fish (trout, carp, salmon, tench, ornamental species), and warm water species (tilapia, zebra fish, African catfish). There are also facilities for marine fish and shellfish. We are able to culture a range of invertebrate test organisms for ecotoxicology including Daphnia , various bivalves, crabs and sea urchins. The group has high expertise on using fish embryos and early life stages of other organisms for ecotoxicology. Uniquely, we also have a dedicated facility for the culture of marine algae, and green houses for the culture of terrestrial plants. Our biomedical facilities include a small mammal facility (rodents) and these animal rooms are also authorised to hold birds. All our facilities are Home Office approved and work to very highest standards of animal welfare.

Constant temperature rooms and wet labs

We have a suite of constant temperature rooms that enable work at temperatures (5, 10 and 15 o C) in addition to our tropical room. There are also adjacent wet areas for processing field samples, or anything requiring some initial preparation or cleaning.

Ecotoxicology laboratory suite

In addition to the aquaria, we have extensive laboratory facilities for all aspects of ecotoxicology including molecular biology, biochemistry, physiology, and computer aided video tracking equipment to quantify animal behaviour. The laboratory suite is well equipped for cell imaging (confocal microscopes, single-cell electrophoresis such as the comet assay, real-time intracellular metal ion measurements etc.), equipment for biochemistry (various plate readers/spectrophotometers, bespoke equipment for working with small volumes), electrophysiology rigs, equipment for ionoregulation studies, respirometry, and metabolic studies. The group has extensive facilities for making animal feeds and to study the effects of oral exposures to chemicals in fish.

Pathology and histopathology

The group is supported by world leading experts on pollutant-induced pathologies in fish. We have a full capability for wax and resin sections, and quantitative histological analysis. The histopathology suite is supported by a full time technician of some 30+ years experience, and we have archives of many species and types of pollutants. The unit established a pathology archive for nanomaterials in 2006 the first archive of its kind in the UK. Wildlife histopathology (invertebrates, fish) and small mammals (rats, mice) is routine. Birds, reptiles, and human pathologies from chemicals can also be examined.

Cell culture and in vitro organ toxicology

Our cell culture facilities were established in the 1960s and Plymouth therefore hosts some of the original cell lines used in fish and mammalian cell culture. Our facilities are supported by a very experienced technician. Our capabilities include cell isolation protocols, primary culture of fish or mammalian cells, and the use of established cell lines. There are also unique facilities for organ perfusion work on fish (gill, intestine, heart, liver), and a similar capability for mammalian organs.

Class 2 and 3 pathogen containment facility

Research on dangerous pathogens cannot be done without proper containment. The laboratory facility is the only one of its kind in the South West, and enables the safe handling of dangerous pathogens and infectious diseases.

Nanoparticle research and characterisation

We have expertise to conduct ecotoxicity with nanomaterials, and a full suite of analytical equipment for particle characterisation including NTA, DLS, FFF, ICP-MS, electron microscopy, etc.

Trout aquarium facilities


Tissue processor

Silver Nanoparticles (Electron Microscopy image)

Radioisotope suite 


The Consolidated Radio-isotope Facility (CORiF), at the University of Plymouth, was commissioned in December 2006. It is a dedicated laboratory for the manipulation and analysis of natural and enhanced radioactive materials. The radioanalytical instrumentation comprises three state-of-the-art gamma spectrometers and two liquid scintillation counters. It houses a wide range of equipment associated with the processing and preperation of any sample type. The CORiF has a license to hold and dispose of alpha, beta and gamma radionuclides which are used to support many applications in research and consultancy. The Laboratory acquired ISO9001:2008 certification in 2010 and is currently undertaking a range of analytical services related to internal and external research projects and contracts. It is committed to offering advanced postgraduate training and participating undergraduate teaching mainly for the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Science and the School of Biomedical and Biological Sciences. Major areas of work include:

  • studies of the eco- and geno-toxic effects of radio nuclides
  • sediment geochronology
  • soil erosion and sediment budget studies
  • investigations of land contaminated with radionuclides
  • geochemical tracer studies using radiochemicals
  • complementary research involving non-radiometric analyses

These areas are of direct relevence to research into Climate Change, Catchment and Coastal Processes, Environmental Protection and Sustainability, many of which are funded by Research Councils. The facility also undertakes external contract work in these areas, and others, via an arrangement with UoPEL.

Chemistry facilities


Research activities in the ERIC are underpinned by the analytical services of our ISO9001:2000 accredited Analytical Research Facility (ARF) and Consolidated Radio-isotope Facility (CORiF)


Two Thermo X-series 2 ICP-MS instruments equipped with collision cell technology are used for both research and teaching. The rapid scanning ability of a quadrupole analyser allows the ion signal of an individual element to be quantified in types. One of the ICP-MS instruments is housed in a class 10,000 clean-room facility for ultra-trace analysis.

A wide variety of sample introduction systems, including High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC), hydride generation, cold vapour generation, electrothermal vapour generation, gas chromatography and membrane desolvation, can be coupled to our ICP-MS instruments, either for elemental speciation work and/or to enhance instrumental sensitivity.


Varian ICP-AES instrument for routine elemental analysis to complement our ICP-MS capability.

Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy:

Varian flame AAS, Varian graphite furnace AAS.

Elemental analysers:

Carlo Erba CHN and Shimadzu DOC/DON analysers.


Alpha and Gamma Spectroscopy in a dedicated radiochemistry laboratory.

Specialist laboratories:

Dedicated HF laboratory, Class 1000 and Class 10,000 clean room facilities.

ERIC Facilities 


Comet ASSAY for DNA damage on single cells