Irene Barnhoorn

Irene Barnhoorn


Irene’s research interest is in freshwater aquatic sciences with the emphasis on environmental endocrine disruption (ecotoxicology) and the safe consumption of wild fish. Key findings of her work include incidences of intersex in a South African freshwater fish species, Clarias gariepinus, in the Rietvlei Dam (Barnhoorn et al., 2004) and in a freshwater fish species, Oreochromis mossambicus, from an area where DDT (known EDC) spraying is on-going (Barnhoorn et al., 2010). Intersex in fish is the presence of both male and female reproductive features within the same individual. This is of concern as it may cause changes in the reproductive health of fish species and is usually associated with exposure to EDCs. Reports from the UK and Europe indicated exposure to EDCs since 1994 and my findings show that South African waters are not excluded from endocrine chemical pollution. The findings also have significance value for humans: Not only does EDCs exposure leads to intersex in fish species, but global reports show a number of reproductive, developmental, behavioural and immunological abnormalities in both humans and other wildlife species. This may have an impact on populations surrounding and using these polluted water sources. ). This research formed the baseline for future studies on the possible effects of EDCs on freshwater fish and aquatic ecosystems in South Africa. Completed research projects formed a basis in which protocols were developed to apply in EDCs research. I will focus on environmental endocrine disrupters and the safe human consumption of wild fish species. The concept will in future make an important contribution in South Africa to provide safe food for the local people/everybody. Irene teaches third year Eco-physiology and Limnology.


  1. Spatial Biodiversity Assessment of the Vhembe Biosphere Reserve

    The Department of Environmental Affairs are appointing consultants to undertake an Environmental Management Framework (EMF) for the Vhembe Biosphere Reserve (Vhembe District and Blouberg Local Municipality) which will include an analysis of the current zonation (core conservation areas and buffer zones), suggest future conservation areas and publish land use guidelines. The objective of the EMF […]
  2. Rivers and wetlands

    Chair members, Professors Paul Fouche, Irene Barnhoorn and Stefan Foord from the Zoology Department, Dr Jabulani Gumbo from the Hydrology Department in the School of Environmental Sciences and their students and collaborators, made significant contributions towards a better understanding of anthropogenic impacts on the water quality, nutrient status and biodiversity of selected rivers, dams and […]