The Eurofins MITOX Group has operational sites in The Netherlands, Germany and Southwest of France. They are well known for the provision of environmental and regulatory services since the early 1990s and well-established in the Agrochemical industry.

The company has GLP accreditations and wealth of experiences in Taxonomy and Environmental Toxicology. Studies carried out include the following:

Field and Laboratory tests on non-target soil Arthropods and soil organisms

  • Residue and effect pollinator field studies
  • Insect Residue Studies
  • Aged Residue and semi-field studies
  • Resistance testing of agricultural pests

The facility where my internship was undertaken is in Pichoy, Fources, France.

The main reason I went for a voluntary internship (where no credit point was allocated and not part of my academic program) was to equip myself with first-hand practical experience by getting fully involved in laboratory and field works of an ecotoxicological firm based on my area of specialization in my master’s degree program. I was able to achieve my goals while working in Eurofins MITOX group southern France. I got the opportunity to mix with personalities from different areas of expertise, first-hand knowledge of laboratory and field procedures and good knowledge of good laboratory practices (GLP).

The decision to undergo a voluntary internship was made in October 2020. I applied to a lot of companies and got rejections but Eurofins MITOX Group, Fources, France accepted me after a long wait for a duration of three months (April to June 2021) with an opportunity to proceed with my master thesis project. I was overwhelmed with the offer, accepted it and started my preparations. There are four reasons I accepted the offer of coming down to Southern France, firstly, the provision of free accommodation which was confirmed during the phone conversation I had with the Facility Manager which was a free well-furnished shared apartment available in the company facility whereby all utilities were handled by the company and feeding by myself. Secondly, working with a firm that has recorded years of experience in what I see myself doing in the future which comprise field works and some laboratory work. Thirdly was getting funds during my internship to help with my mobility and gladly ERASMUS grant saved the day. I was also happy to receive monthly payments from the company which also very helpful. The fourth was getting a good means of transportation to the facility from Germany. I booked Train ticket using trainline mobile app about 2 weeks before the day of transit. Covid Test was also a travel requirement.

During my training as an Intern, I was involved in some reading activities, field work and laboratory work.

Reading: As part of the GLP procedures in the company, we had to make sure we read and understood all standard operating procedures (SOPs), study plans and sign GLP documents before, during and after completing any Laboratory or field work. This helped to ensure that all Staff were properly trained and aware of the work we were doing. As part of my training, SOP numbers were always given to us to read and sign documents that we have read them.

Field work: There are different category of field work which was based on the current investigation by the company. The studies I witnessed during my internship included the effect of insecticides on non-target soil arthropods using off-crop studies, In-crop studies, and Bee studies.

1. Off-crop Studies (Meadow): This involved studies on the effect of chemicals under investigation on non-target Soil arthropods in a meadow. It took place in a district called Monplaisir. We had two studies here each of them with 28 plots (30m X 30m each) with a buffer of 10m between plots. Sampling was carried out before application and after application of insecticides to ascertain effects and monitor recovery over time of non-target soil arthropods (NTA). Sampling methods involved the installation of pitfall traps, use of sweep nets, soil core sampling, weed sampling and aspirator sampling. In addition, weather monitoring of the study area and soil characteristics such as moisture content was also observed. This was achieved for a period of 2 months and some days.

Figure 2: Soil sore sampling with hammer, Chisel, and the soil core extractor already in the soil.

Figure 3: Aspirator sampling with Timer, aspirator machine and affixed collector to trap soil arthropods.

Figure 4: Pitfall installation for sampling NTA in field studies

2. In-crop Studies (Orchards).
Unlike the study carried out in the meadow, this involved a cultivated land and, in this case, an orchard plantation. This took place in two sites, Damazan and Monheurt. Both sites were 45 mins drive from the facility in Pichoy.

Figure 5: Orchard field for investigating short-term and long-term effects of pesticides on non-target soil arthropods (NTAs).

In the study, plots were marked according to the study and samples were collected using inventory sampling method, pitfalls, and leaf sampling (for mite population assessment).

Figure 6: Inventory sampling. The first picture shows already installed sheets on both sides of Orchard trees marked for samplings while the second picture shows the team collecting knocked down insects on a bucket which will be transferred to sample bottles following SOPs.

3. Bee studies: I was also involved in study activities that evaluates the effect of plant protection products on the colony conditions, brood size, foraging activity, mortality and feeding of Bees.

Figure 7: Bee sampling. First picture shows a picture of myself in front of the experimental setup for feeding study for bees, while the second is a picture of myself wearing a personal protective equipment (PPE) to prevent getting stung by bees and holding an aspirator for sucking bees when determining the foraging activities of Bees.

Laboratory work: The extraction of soil arthropods (from collected soil cores and weeds from sample plots) was carried out in the laboratory. Methods included Berlese for weed samples, Burkard, and MacFayden for Soil core samples.

In the mornings before the start of the day, we always had coffee time together, exchange pleasantries and sometimes in the evenings after work, we had birthday celebration and get together.

On some weekends, we did some exploration of surrounding cities like Condom, Agen, Fourcès, Montréal, Mezin and Nérac. Also did shopping for groceries and personal items in these cities. A special thing to note is that lunch was always provided by company whenever we went on long fieldwork trips which is about 45 mins drive from the company’s facility. I also had the opportunity to have some tasty French delicacies.

The house in Pichoy is just a stone throw to the company facility. It is a shared apartment furnished by the company to temporarily accommodate Staff and visitors. There are three furnished rooms with air conditions. There is also a kitchen, a bathroom & toilet with a washing machine and internet. The house is located far from the city thus occupants should have a car to experience city life and have easy access to the supermarkets. During my stay I was always driven to the city supermarkets by colleagues. All facilities are free, Guests only have to feed themselves.

I had a very good time and stay in Pichoy, the Staff were all nice, patient and always ready to give support when you need one. For this reason, I accepted to continue with my Master thesis, and after my proposal was presented, it was accepted. I am therefore happy to return to the facility soon for another three months to continue with my Master thesis.

The Eurofins MITOX FOPSE, Pichoy is a place I would recommend for anyone interested in terrestrial ecotoxicology for both field and laboratory experience. A driver’s license is very important because the company has vehicles one can use to travel to field sites and visit cities if you live in the little house for shopping. The work in the field at first may be hard and very strenuous because of the long hours, but with time it becomes a part of you.

I wish to appreciate the management and Staff of Eurofins MITOX FOPSE for accepting my internship application amidst other applicants, for the care and support shown to me during my stay. Special thanks to ERASMUS for the mobility funds I received which unburdened some financial responsibilities, to my mentor in the University (Professor Juliane, AG Filser) who approved my intention to undertake a voluntary internship, to my friends, family and relatives who always reached out to me and motivated me while I was in Pichoy. It was indeed a memorable experience.