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Module titleEcotoxicology
Module codeBIO3067
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Dr Andrew Griffiths (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

This module offers you the opportunity to study the impacts of chemicals on wildlife and human health. It provides an excellent grounding on the basic principles of how chemicals alter the way our bodies work and what the implications for exposure to various pollutants are for wildlife health. Ecotoxicology is highly interdisciplinary and this module will cover aspects of environmental biology and chemistry, animal physiology, behaviour, molecular biology, and risk assessment. The module is taught by world leading researchers in ecotoxicology with specialisms in areas including chemical mechanisms, endocrine disruption and plastics pollution. 

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to develop your awareness of the major current theories and concepts in the field of ecotoxicology. The intention is to give you a critical understanding of the physiological responses of organisms to chemicals that are discharged in the environment, with a special emphasis on the aquatic environment. You will gain an appreciation of how (the mechanisms) chemicals affect reproduction, growth and development, and behaviour, and the implications for some of these effects on populations.  The module also aims to develop your understanding of the current methods for assessing the hazardous nature of chemicals discharged into the environment.  Pharmaceuticals form a particular focus here. The module will provide the forum for you to develop a broad appreciation of the issue of endocrine disruption in wildlife as a consequence of exposure to chemicals that mimic hormones.

Through the use of lectures, student seminars and directed reading, the module also aims to develop the ability to interpret, debate, review, and summarise quantitative data relating to ecotoxicology. The module assignments utilise self-study and transferable/generic skills (e.g. written and oral presentation skills). This module will suit students with interests in ecotoxicology, aquatic pollution and the environment.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Outline and critically analyse the basic concepts of ecotoxicology
  • 2. Discuss the relevance and importance of the effects of chemical on ecological systems
  • 3. Critically evaluate the effects of chemicals at different levels of the organisational hierarchy (DNA to populations)
  • 4. Explain how effects of chemicals on biological systems are measured and quantified in ecotoxicology
  • 5. Discuss the theories, concepts and evidence of endocrine disruption
  • 6. Contrast the view of ecotoxicology from industry and environment protection groups
  • 7. Explain the wider social and environmental implications of the area of study

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 8. Evaluate in detail approaches to our understanding of environmental biology with reference to primary literature, reviews and research articles
  • 9. Analyse in detail essential facts and theory in a sub-discipline of the biosciences
  • 10. Analyse and evaluate independently a range of research-informed literature and synthesise research-informed examples from the literature into written work

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 11. Communicate effectively arguments, evidence and conclusions using written means in a manner appropriate to the intended audience
  • 12. Devise and sustain, with little guidance, a logical and reasoned argument with sound, convincing conclusions
  • 13. Analyse and evaluate appropriate data with very limited guidance

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

The module will cover the following interrelated topics through lectures:

  • Introduction to the module and the principles of ecotoxicology
  • Ecosystems and how they work and global pollution impacts
  • Basic toxicological concepts and principles and the mechanistic basis of ecotoxicology
  • Endocrine disruption
  • Immunotoxicity of environmental pollutants
  • Biomarkers in environmental risk assessment
  • Pesticides – their use and abuse
  • Chemical test methods
  • Beyond individual effects
  • Plastics: marine litter
  • Plastics and human health
  • Human drug development and testing for environmental protection
  • Three seminars on data handling, revision and exam preparation

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching17Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching3Data handling, revision and exam preparation seminars
Guided Independent Study130Reading and preparation for lectures


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Data handling paper1 hour examination 1-4, 13Written

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay examination 602 hours1-12Written on request
Test to include data handling401 hour2-5, 7, 9, 12-13Written


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay examination Essay examination 1-12August Ref/Def
Test to include data handlingEssay examination 1-12August Ref/Def

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to sit a further examination. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will count for 100% of the final mark and will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • C. H.Walker (4th edition) Principles of Ecotoxicology CRC Press

Endocrine Disruption (lectures 4-5)

  • Tyler, C.R., Jobling, S and Sumpter, J.P (1998). Endocrine Disruption in Wildlife: A Critical Review of the Evidence

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

  • ELE page: (There are many relevant references within this review. You will find a large amount of information on the web generally on endocrine disruption. Other references will be provided via ELE.)

Module has an active ELE page

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

  • Many further references will be mentioned/provided in lectures by the various speakers

Key words search

Wildlife health, ecotoxicology, chemical mechanisms, endocrine disruption, environmental biology and chemistry, animal physiology, molecular biology

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

BIO1331 Animals

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date