Dipartimento di Scienze della Vita e dell'Ambiente - Guida degli insegnamenti (Syllabus)


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Seat Scienze
A.A. 2016/2017
Credits 7
Hours 56
Period 1^ semestre
Language ENG
U-gov code SM02 W000017


A good knowledge of basic chemistry, ecology and cell biology are important requisites for this course.

Development of the course

The course is based on both theoretical lessons and practical exercitations on the main chemical contaminants, their environmental distribution and biological effects, bioindicator organisms, molecular and cellular responses to pollutants.

Learning outcomes

The Course is aimed to prepare students for the study of environmental pollution, with particular emphasis to the toxicological implications of chemicals on various biotic components. The course will also prepare students on environmental diffusion of contaminants, criteria for biomonitoring programs, assessment of biological risks, biomagnification and main issues in environmental toxicology. Particular emphasis will be given to bioindicator organisms, molecular and cellular responses to pollutants, use of biomarkers, biological and toxicity tests in research, normative guidelines and environmental impact assessment.

Ability to apply the knowledge:
At the end of the Course the student will have the capability to: describe main characteristics of chemicals and environmental distribution pathways; evaluate problems and results related to biomagnification, use of bioindicator organisms and biomarker analyses; use the main analytical methodologies for both chemical residues and cellular responses; organize and plan a biomonitoring program, choose bioindicators, define appropriate analyses and biomarkers to investigate, identify best methodological practices.

Soft skills:
Transversal competences include the integration between chemical properties of environmental pollutants and their biological effects: chemical-physical characteristics of such compounds, sources of input and distribution among environmental matrices are integrated with mechanism of accumulation, detoxification, differences of responsiveness and sensitivity of various species. These transversal competences will be further enhanced by practical exercitations when students will acquire preliminary skills on analytical methodologies of chemicals in environmental matrices and biological tissues, as well as on toxicological measurements at molecular and cellular level. 


- Introduction and definition of ecotoxicology. –Main classes of environmental pollutants, distribution in environmental matrices and factors which affect their toxicity. Persistent pollutants, bioaccumulation and biomagnification. - Ecotoxicological approach in the marine environment; biomonitoring, biological resources and impact assessment. - Choice of bioindicator organisms. Mussel Watch programs. - Biological effects of chemicals, biomarkers at molecular cellular level with diagnostic and prognostic value. Effect and exposure biomarkers. - Biotransformation and toxicity of aromatic xenobiotics, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, pesticides, halogenated hydrocarbons, dioxins. – Detoxification and toxicity of trace metals. Mercury and organotin compounds in trophic webs. Organophosphate and carbamate pesticides, and effects on acetylcholinesterase. – Role of lysosomes in detoxification and in pollutant-mediated pathologies. – Antioxidant defences and oxidative stress induced by pollutants. – Environmental genotoxicity and DNA damages as biomarkers. – Immunotoxicity in invertebrates and fish. – Endocrine disruptors in the marine environment. – Liver pathology and chemical carcinogenesis. – Emerging pollutants; from pharmaceuticals to nanoparticles. – Plastics and microplastics in the marine environment. - Toxicity Tests, general procedures, interpretation and applicability of results; examples of most commonly used tests for waters and sediments. - Elaboration of ecotoxicological results and definition of hazard indices. – Case studies of ecotoxicological applications.

Development of the examination

The examination is oral, based on questions and following discussion related to environmental pollutants, bioaccumulation mechanisms, detoxification pathways and onset of toxicity, monitoring and assessment of ecotoxicological risk.

Criteria for assessing learning outcomes: 
During the examination, it will be evaluated the capability of the student to properly answer and discuss various issues, the general competence on problematics, the use of appropriate terminology, the capability to move from a topic to another one and make transversal links.

Criteria for measuring learning outcomes:
The final assessment is made of thirty. The examination is considered as passed with a vote of 18/30 or higher. The student can decide to decline the proposed vote and give again the examination in the following session.

Criteria for conferring final mark:
The final assessment will be given depending on the capability of the student to answer all the questions, general competence and ability to properly discuss various issues.

Recommended reading

Provided material, slides and scientific literature suggested on specific topics.
Fundamentals of Aquatic Toxicology. Edited by Gary M. Rand, Taylor & Francis 
Biomarkers in Marine Organisms: a practical approach. Edited by Garrigues et al., Elsevier 2001

  • Biologia marina

Università Politecnica delle Marche
P.zza Roma 22, 60121 Ancona
Tel (+39) 071.220.1, Fax (+39) 071.220.2324
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