John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Defining the role of omics in assessing ecosystem health: Perspectives from the Canadian environmental monitoring program

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Scientific reviews and studies continue to describe omics technologies as the next generation of tools for environmental monitoring, while cautioning that there are limitations and obstacles to overcome. However, omics has not yet transitioned into national environmental monitoring programs designed to assess ecosystem health. Using the example of the Canadian Environmental Effects Monitoring (EEM) program, the authors describe the steps that would be required for omics technologies to be included in such an established program. These steps include baseline collection of omics endpoints across different species and sites to generate a range of what is biologically normal within a particular ecosystem. Natural individual variability in the omes is not adequately characterized and is often not measured in the field, but is a key component to an environmental monitoring program, to determine the critical effect size or action threshold for management. Omics endpoints must develop a level of standardization, consistency, and rigor that will allow interpretation of the relevance of changes across broader scales. To date, population‐level consequences of routinely measured endpoints such as reduced gonad size or intersex in fish is not entirely clear, and the significance of genome‐wide molecular, proteome, or metabolic changes on organism or population health is further removed from the levels of ecological change traditionally managed. The present review is not intended to dismiss the idea that omics will play a future role in large‐scale environmental monitoring studies, but rather outlines the necessary actions for its inclusion in regulatory monitoring programs focused on assessing ecosystem health. Environ Toxicol Chem 2015;9999:1–16. © 2015 SETAC

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