Skip to main content

Study information


Module titleEcotoxicology
Module codeBIOM544
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Matthew Winter ()

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks




Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module offers you the opportunity to study the impacts of chemicals on animals (including humans and plants in the environment. Ecotoxicology is highly interdisciplinary, and this module will cover aspects of environmental biology and chemistry, animal physiology, behaviour, molecular biology, and chemical risk assessment. The module is taught by world leading researchers in ecotoxicology with specialisms in areas including endocrine disruption, pesticides, plastic pollution and the effects of human drugs on wildlife.

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 responses of organisms to pollutants, with a particular emphasis on the aquatic environment, and how this can impact individuals, populations and ecosystems. The module also aims to develop your understanding of some of the legislation aimed at minimising pollution as well as some of the methods used assessing the potential impacts.

Through lectures, seminars, directed reading and self-study, you will develop skills in interpreting, debating, reviewing, and summarising concepts and data relating to the impact of pollutants in the environment.

Accessibility Statement:

Some of the formative in person teaching sessions are interactive and can involve informal group work (although students are welcome to work alone during these times). The summative assessment consists of two pieces of written work. The first is an on-line, time-limited data handling paper requiring interpretation of experimental design and results/figures. The second is a piece of coursework comprising an environmental risk assessment on an allocated topic for which you are expected to use the information provided to design a small program of work to assess the impact of a chemical in the environment, including justification for your choices of each aspect of the designed work.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Critically evaluate the causes of pollution and the effects of these on different biological systems and at different biological levels
  • 2. Understand how the impacts of some of these pollutants are assessed and controlled

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 3. Digital data collection, statistical analysis and visualisation
  • 4. Evaluating the source and quality of digital information
  • 5. Drawing evidence-based and independent conclusions

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 6. Problem solving
  • 7. Linking ideas from different sources to build and appraise arguments
  • 8. Effective academic and scientific writing
  • 9. Confident, articulate verbal presentation

Syllabus plan

Through lectures and seminars, the module will cover the following interrelated topics:

  • Introduction to, and principles of, toxicology and ecotoxicology
  • The effects of various pollutants of current importance in the environment, including endocrine disruptors, plastics, pesticides and pharmaceuticals
  • Impacts of pollutants on organisms at the individual, population and ecosystem levels
  • Aspects of environmental protection including the environmental risk assessment and some of the methods used to measure the impact of pollution on the environment

Seminars to help develop skills in experimental design, the principles of environmental risk assessment and scientific data handling

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 Teaching14Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching7Interactive seminars and review sessions including data handling mock
Guided Independent Study59Lecture consolidation and associated reading
Guided Independent Study70Data handling revision and coursework

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Experimental design and risk assessment 2x 1hr1-7In class verbal feedback
Mock data handling paper1hr1,3-5,7Written

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
Written course work (Environmental Risk Assessment)402,000 words1,2,4-8Written
Oral presentation on ERA1010 mins2,5,7,9Written
Test (data handling)5080 mins1-5,7Written

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Written course work (Environmental Risk Assessment)Written course work (Environmental Risk Assessment) (40%)1,2,4-8August Ref/Def
Oral presentation on ERANarrated PowerPoint on ERA (10%)2,5,7,9August Ref/Def
Test (data handling)Test (data handling) (40%)1-5,7August Ref/Def

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons that are approved by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. If deferred, the format and timing of the re-assessment for each of the summative assessments is detailed in the table above ('Details of re-assessment'). The mark given for a deferred assessment 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 (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 50%) and the module cannot be condoned, you will be required to complete a re-assessment for each of the failed components on the module. The format and timing of the re-assessment for each of the summative assessments is detailed in the table above ('Details of re-assessment'). If you pass the module following re-assessment, your module mark will be capped at 50%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

General ecotoxicology

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

Endocrine Disruption

  • Windsor FM, Ormerod SJ, Tyler CR. Endocrine disruption in aquatic systems: up-scaling research to address ecological consequences. Biol Rev Camb Philos Soc. 2018 Feb;93(1):626-641. doi: 10.1111/brv.12360. Epub 2017 Aug 9. PMID: 28795474; PMCID: PMC6849538 (


Human pharmaceuticals

  • Corcoran J, Winter MJ, Tyler CR. (2010) Pharmaceuticals in the aquatic environment: a critical review of the evidence for health effects in fish. Crit Rev Toxicol. 2010 Apr;40(4):287-304. (

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

  • 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


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date