Modern society depend on the use of chemicals and never before has the usage of chemicals been larger than today. Hundred thousand of chemicals are used for myriads of commercial purposes around the globe. Eventually, many of these end up in aquatic systems that serves as sinks for complex mixtures of chemicals.
Ecotoxicology is the science about those structures, processes and interactions that explain how toxic compounds affect ecosystems. Ecotoxicology involves both fate and effects of contaminants and can be practiced at all levels of biological organisation (e.g. enzyme, cell, individual, population, community). Much of our research is focused on different types of aquatic organisms and ecosystems, marine as well as limnic.
Ecotoxicology includes fundamental and applied science. It has an interdisciplinary character rooted in biology, chemistry, toxicology, statistics but also strong connections to social sciences. It provides strategies and tools for assessing the toxicity of chemicals and chemical products, and for detecting effects in the ecosystems caused by pollutants. Ecotoxicological studies range from the biochemical mechanisms of toxicity of individual toxicants to the combined effects on populations and communities caused by the chemical cocktails present in the ecosystems.
Recent areas of development in ecotoxicology are towards cellular in vitro testing and ecotoxicogenomics, and towards ecological realism recognizing the full chemical and biological complexity of pollution situations. This development is in concordance with the regulatory changes in EU with the ongoing implementation of REACH regulation, the Water Framework Directive and other management incentives in Europe and globally such as SAICM (Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management).
Ecotoxicology at the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences is a complete research environment with fundamental and applied science coupled to education in environmental science and to an international master’s programme in Ecotoxicology. A masters or doctoral degree in environmental sciences with emphasis on Ecotoxicology give a good potential for employment in both private and public sector. Qualified ecotoxicologists are needed as advisory experts in the governmental/administrative sector at local, national and international level, e.g. work within the municipal- or county administration as well as within national- or European agencies, participate in industrial development of new products, or work in the sector of environmental control. Growing working areas for ecotoxicologists are found at consultant agencies and universities.