Environmental laboratory

A.Y. 2019/2020
Overall hours
AGR/13 AGR/16 CHIM/06
Learning objectives
The course "Environmental Laboratory" consists of three disciplines (environmental chemistry, environmental microbiology and environmental biochemistry and ecotoxicology) which include laboratory activities and lectures aimed at dealing with cases of contamination and environmental restoration. Research-oriented and problem-solving approaches are applied in the course. Activities of the three subjects are strongly integrated and teach students to work in group and to tackle problems with a multidisciplinary perspective and adequate critical evaluation approach.
The course will strength students on following topics:
- Distribution of organic and inorganic contaminations in different environmental compartments (water, air, soil)
- Analytical techniques for environmental monitoring
- Role of plants and microorganisms in environmental processes
- Biological approaches for environmental restoration, waste treatment, material recovery with reference to environmental legislation
- Statistical analysis of environmental data.
Expected learning outcomes
Students will acquire practical skills in the use of analytical instruments for the quantification of organic and inorganic compounds in the environment, microflora connected to environmental processes, physiological state of plants. In addition, soft skills like communication and discussion of scientific reports will be implemented.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
First semester
Prerequisites for admission
Basic knowledge of chemistry, plant physiology and microbiology.
Assessment methods and Criteria
Presentation and discussion of the results of the joint environmental laboratory: the final test will consist of the public presentation and the drafting of a report with the results obtained referring in more detail to one of the various research activities carried out whose choice is agreed with the teachers.
Students will have to demonstrate knowledge of the limits and strengths of the analytical techniques learned, know how to contextualize the case study and discuss the data obtained in order to finalize a remediation intervention proposal. The ability to conduct multidisciplinary work in a team spirit will also be assessed.
environmental chemistry
Course syllabus
Lectures (3 credits): Measure units. Heavy metals: chemistry and toxicology. Environmental sampling, samples storage. Spectroscopy: Electromagnetic radiation, Adsorption and emission spectroscopy: principles. Ultraviolet and Visible spectroscopy: Lambert Beer law, instrumentation and applications. Mass spectroscopy: theory, instrumentation, quadrupole detector, ICP-MS. Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR): theory, instrumentation, chemical shift, spectra of elements other that H and C. Fundamentals of chromatography: retention time, selectivity, efficiency. Gas chromatography and HPLC, instrumentation, use. Workshop (3 credits): Safety rules in a chemical laboratory. Sampling on the site under investigation. Sample extraction, separation by TLC and HPLC and quantification by spectrophotometric methods of plant pigments. Analysis of heavy metals and other elements by means of ICP-MS. Recording NMR spectra of different nuclei.
Teaching methods
Lectures and practical laboratory activities.
Teaching Resources
Course slides, articles provided by the teacher.
Environmental microbiology
Course syllabus
Lectures (3 credits): The microbiological sampling. Methods of analysis and monitoring of environmental microbial communities. Cell count methods on pollutants, enrichment cultures, microcosms. Environmental genomics: polymerase chain reaction (PCR), quantitative Real Time PCR, clone libraries, denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE), Sanger sequencing, Illumina sequencing. Biodegradation of organic pollutants and genetics: monoaromatic hydrocarbons, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), aliphatics. Bacterial resistance and metabolism of heavy metals and Arsenic. Rhizosphere and endosphere microbiology: plant growth promoting bacteria, pollutants rhizo-degradation, metal translocation in plants (phytoremediation and food safety). Bioremediation of contaminated sites. Microbial life in extreme environments: the acid mine drainage. Microbial electrochemical systems: electroactive bacteria, microbial fuel cells, chemicals production from waste biomass. Seminars complete the preparation of the student: private bioremediation companies, public bodies involved in environmental monitoring and managing (ARPA, CNR, park authority).
Practical classes (3 credits): Safety in microbiology laboratories. Sampling on the site under investigation. Preparation and conservation of samples for microbiological and molecular analysis. Total aerobic, anaerobic bacterial plate count, MPN count of pollutant degrading bacteria. Phenotypic characterization of bacterial isolates: resistance to heavy metals and arsenic, mineralization of organic compounds, plant growth promotion (siderophores, IAA, EPS, phosphate solubilisation, ACC deaminase, mobility). DNA extraction from environmental samples. Preparation of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and quantitative PCR (qPCR): 16S rRNA and functional genes. Electrophoresis run on agarose gel. Analysis of nucleotide sequences. Data analysis and discussion. Writing the report.
Teaching methods
Frontal teaching (24 h) and experimental and field activities, seminars (48 h). During some frontal lessons a flipped learning methods is adopted.
Teaching Resources
Slides of the lectures on the Ariel site.
Scientific papers supplied by the teacher.
Practical classes notes.
Text books:
-B. Biavati e C. Sorlini. Microbiologia Agroambientale. Volume unico. 2008. Casa Editrice Ambrosiana.
-M.T. Madigan, J.M. Martinko, K.S. Bender, D.H. Buckley, D.A. Stahl. Brock - Biology of microrganisms. 2016, XIV edition. Ed. Pearson.
biochimica ambientale ed ecotossicologia
Course syllabus
Plant stress physiology: molecular and physiological aspects
Approaches for the identification of genetic traits conferring plant tolerance to abiotic stresses
Relationships between environment quality and food security and safety
Plant-soil chemical, biochemical and microbiological interactions
Plant biosensors and bioindicators for monitoring environmental quality
Phytoremediation of contaminated soils and waters: opportunity and limits
Experimental/laboratory activities
Instrumental analysis techniques for studying: a) plant physiological status (leaf temperature by thermal IR imaging, leaf fluorescence and fluorescence imaging, chlorophyll content sensors, leaf photosynthesis, multi- and hyperspectral sensors); b) soil and plant contents in inorganic and organic pollutants (UV-Vis spectrometry, GC-MS, LC-MS, ICP-MS; C/H/N/S analyzer); d) pollutant fluxes in the framework of soil/plant/air relationships (IRMS-stable isotope ratio spectrometry)
Molecular and biochemical approaches (proteomics, metabolomics, ionomics) for studying plant physiological status and plant efficiency in phytoremediation techniques
Development of field sampling plans for the assessment of the presence of pollutants in soils, waters and plant material
Each year, together with the students, a real study case is chosen and a specific research, including field and laboratory activities, is chosen. In the last years the following cases have been addressed to: a) natural As contamination of a mountain stream and related effects on downstream soils and vegetation; b) use of plants for the phytoextraction of heavy metals from a polluted agricultural soil; c) phytostabilization and/ phytoremediation of urban soil contaminated by hydrocarbons and heavy metals; d) accidental leakage of oils from a buried pipeline: i) effects on soil and plants (wilds and crops); ii) evaluation of the potential use of plants for stabilization/remediation of the pollution.
Teaching methods
Frontal teaching (24 h) and experimental (48 h) activities. During frontal lessons a flipped learning methods is adopted.
Teaching Resources
The course is not covered by a textbook since the latest technologies will be discussed. Inherent literature will be provided during the lessons.
biochimica ambientale ed ecotossicologia
AGR/13 - AGRICULTURAL CHEMISTRY - University credits: 6
Laboratories: 48 hours
Lessons: 24 hours
environmental chemistry
CHIM/06 - ORGANIC CHEMISTRY - University credits: 6
Laboratories: 48 hours
Lessons: 24 hours
Professors: Bedussi Floriana, Scaglia Barbara, Scaglioni Leonardo
Environmental microbiology
AGR/16 - AGRICULTURAL MICROBIOLOGY - University credits: 6
Laboratories: 48 hours
Lessons: 24 hours
Professor: Cavalca Lucia
By appointment
DEFENS-Environmental Microbiology, Via Mangiagalli 25, 3rd floor
Every day (phone or e-mail appointment)
Office at Department of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
to take an appointment
office- DISAA
Thursday 10:30 to 12:30 am