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Environmental Pollution


Admission requirements


  • Environmental Science (100)


  • Quantitative Research Methods (200)

This course replaces Ecotoxicology. Students who have passed Ecotoxicology cannot enroll in this course.


What are the impacts of plastic pollution on plants and animals? How are pesticides related to declines in bird and invertebrate species? Why are levels of chemicals extremely high in the arctic regions, even though these chemicals are not used there? How do endocrine disruptors relate to increases in cancer rates and reduced reproduction? How do you determine, in a systematic way, the risk of existing and new contaminants?

This course will provide students with framework in order to assess the risk of environmental contaminants. The foundation of the course is Environmental Risk Assessment, which is a key tool for scientist and policy makers to assess the potential risk of contaminants to the environment. What is the difference between risk assessment, risk management and risk perception? Can new emerging pollutants be threated and investigated along the lines of the current guidelines or do they need alternative approaches?

Next basic key environmental pollutants will be discussed, including classic chemical contaminants (e.g. pesticides, persistent organic pollutants and metals), light and noise pollution and emerging contaminants (including nanoparticles, endocrine disruptors and plastics).

As part of the course there will be several hands-on labs planned. During these labs students will apply the tools and procedures discussed in class to further understand impacts the risk of pollutants in ecosystems. For example, there will be a risk assessment assignment, in which field (e.g., community level environmental "effects" monitoring) and laboratory (e.g., LC50 tests) methods for understanding contaminant fates and effects will be examined in a systematic manner.

Note that this course has strong emphasis on the lab-derived research and investigation of processes related to fate, uptake and effects AND includes the field relevance. The Environmental Science course has strong emphasis on field derived research and has the focus on population dynamics in stressed environments. The schematic view illustrates the connectivity –processes I want you to understand, and the topics that will be used within the course to illustrate this: they meet. The framework and approaches are fitting to each of the cases.

Course Objectives


  • Students can conduct an environmental risk assessment;

  • Students can conduct a lab experiment

  • Students can write up a method and result section in a scientific format as well as interpret their findings.

  • Students can develop a lab experiment and have understanding on pros and cons


  • Students can define and discus the framework of Environmental Risk Assessment

  • Students are able to describe and discuss important environmental pollutants, and their impacts on the environment.

  • Students can discuss the strengths and weaknesses of tools we have to assess the impacts of pollutants on the environment.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2020-2021 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

Online teaching via Kaltura live room; Brightspace. The main mode of instruction will centre around pre-recorded videos and interactions during live sessions; e.g. quizzes, discussions with peer students or experts and assignments. In addition, students are required to complete individual and group assignments. To facilitate completion of these assignments, there will be some time set aside during lectures to discuss and work on assignments (the remainder of the work is conducted outside class hours).

Assessment Method

Participation 10%
Dose-response experiment at home 35%
Working plan wicked problem test 30%
Exam 25%

Reading list

Readings will be made available prior to the class in Brightspace.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Prof. dr. Martina Vijver,