Ecotoxicology, Master's Programme
During the master’s programme in Ecotoxicology you will obtain the skills necessary to identify problems related to the presence of toxic chemicals in the environment, develop appropriate problem-solving strategies and learn modern experimental techniques. You will also learn about the bigger societal context in which ecotoxicology operates. All of this will allow you to make a positive contribution to the work conducted at academia and industry alike, but also at governmental authorities and non-governmental organizations.
Modern society uses more than 100,000 chemicals as pesticides, pharmaceuticals, food contact chemicals, laundry agents, and for a range of other purposes. Roughly 40 new chemicals are discovered every hour. On the one hand, all those chemicals provide us with enormous societal benefits. On the other hand, they cause massive environmental damage and have huge impacts on human health. In order to facilitate societal developments towards our ultimate goal—a “non-toxic environment”—it is critical to balance these two aspects and navigate the resulting societal and political minefield. In other words, society is crucially dependent on well-trained ecotoxicologists and chemical risk assessors to characterize, understand, and predict the effects of toxic chemicals on plant and animal populations, ecological communities, and ecosystems.
Our scope: emphasising ECO in ecotoxicology
Ecotoxicology is the science of the structures, processes, and interactions that explain how toxic compounds affect ecosystems. Our programme focusses on the fate and effects of contaminants at different levels of biological organization (molecular, cell, individual, population, community) but prioritizes the assessment of ecologically relevant processes. We introduce modern laboratory techniques (for example, molecular ecotoxicology) and use the recent advances within molecular biology and cellular physiology in order to understand and predict effects at the community level.
Learning through interdisciplinarity and active fieldwork
Ecotoxicology has strong connections to biology, ecology, toxicology, biochemistry, analytical and environmental chemistry, statistics, and social sciences. Therefore, our programme is a collaboration between the Faculty of Social Science, the School of Business Economics and Law, , the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, the Department of Chemistry and Molecular Biology, and the Department of Mathematical Sciences. We focus on aquatic and marine ecotoxicology, and spend time at our marine field stations during the mandatory courses and, eventually, during the final master project. You will also have the opportunity to meet and discuss with different professionals, from industry, regulatory authorities, NGOs and academia. The final master thesis can be done at our University, at another institution of higher education (also in another country), or at other professional institutions.
Embracing a diversity of perspectives and experiences
The multitude of perspectives and attitudes in our highly international student group brings a valuable element to our programme: the realization that the problem of toxic chemicals in the environment is strongly connected to socioeconomic and political systems. The different perspectives and experiences that students contribute from their home countries therefore helps the whole group to gain a better understanding of the impacts of toxic chemicals on the different environments around the world.
Programme structure and content
The programme is structured in three parts:
• Introduction: Fundamentals of Ecotoxicology; Environmental Impact Assessment
• Core courses: Chemical Risk Assessment; Physiological and Molecular Ecotoxicology; Ecotoxicology from an Ecological Perspective
• Individual thesis project: One year as a member in a research team or specialized courses in fundamental or applied environmental science and a shorter thesis project.
Mandatory courses are highly interactive and utilize lectures, group projects, exercises (including quizzes, computer exercises, fieldwork, and a large proportion of lab work) and presentations (written reports, oral presentations, poster productions, etc.).
During your thesis work, you are part of ongoing research activities, including internal and external collaborations of your research group. You will have the opportunity to participate in workshops and national & international conferences together with your supervisor and be introduced to their contact networks.