small coral fragments in a glass beaker on coloured squares

Tropical toxicity testing

Developing toxicity tests to study the impact of pollutants on tropical species

AIMS has developed a full suite of standardised, chronic tropical toxicity tests to study the impact of pollutants on groups including:

  • adult and juvenile corals and sponges
  • molluscs and crustacean larvae
  • symbiotic algae of corals
  • other microalgae species

AIMS continues to develop new and novel assays for tropical species. This includes gene expression profiling and microbial assays.


We routinely assess:

  • oils and condensates
  • oil dispersants
  • produced water
  • industrial wastewater and discharges
  • chlorine from cooling water
  • pesticides and herbicides
  • metals and sediments from dredging


Other contaminants of interest include:

  • sunscreens
  • corrosion inhibitors and other production chemicals from gas and condensate extraction
  • pharmaceuticals
  • antifouling paint formulations

Science for informed water quality guidelines

Australia’s water quality guidelines stipulate the safe concentrations of contaminants for any particular activity. They are the environmental equivalent of a 0.05 blood alcohol limit.

AIMS’ ecotoxicology team play an important role in understanding the thresholds of indicator marine life to pollutants in tropical marine waters. This is important to understand the context of real-world acceptable levels of pollutants and, in some cases, to create water quality guideline values.

AIMS research informs the default guidelines through ‘species sensitivity distribution’. It’s a technique that tests the impact of contaminants on the community as a whole.