Nutrition ecology and ecotoxicology

A.Y. 2021/2022
Overall hours
Learning objectives
The course aims, by widening and deepening base ecology notions - such as water and carbon cycles, energy flow through ecosystems, biodiversity and features of population growth - to apply their principles and concepts to the issue of environmental sustainability. Goal of the course is to provide (i) tools for the comprehension and evaluation of the impact on ecosystems of the human activity directed to food production and drinking water supply; (ii) basic concepts of eco-toxicology, through the description of the main classes of environmental pollutants, their mechanisms of action and the preferential access pathways to the organisms, and thei effects on human and biocenosis.
Expected learning outcomes
At the end of the course, students should be able to (i) know and understand the diverse environmental effects of the production and transformation of food, and to apply such competences to the identification of practices aimed to limit their impact; (ii) understand the nature, toxicity and mechanism of action of the main environmental contaminants and to apply such notions to limit associated risks. Students are also expected to have developed the ability to critically address the topic covered by the classes, and to have acquired the cultural and technical tools to autonomously deepen environment-related subjects.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
Second semester
More specific information on the delivery modes of training activities for academic year 2021/22 will be provided over the coming months, based on the evolution of the public health situation
Course syllabus
Heavy metals: definition, mechanisms of action, examples. Man-made chemicals: definition, environmental risk, definition of the main POP classes. Persistence and degradation: photo-degradation and bio-degradation, biodegradation assays
Biphasic partitioning coefficients: definition and role played by Kow, Koc and Kaw. Absorption cellular processes: active and passive mechanisms. Distribution mechanisms. Metabolism and excretion. Phase I and Phase II detoxification systems. Bioconcentration: kinetic trend, bioconcentration factor (BCF), examples. Biomagnification: definition, examples. Endocrine disruptors: endocrine modulators and endocrine disruptors, mechanisms of action, windows of sensitivity, transgenerational effects. Intensive agriculture and pesticide use: the green revolution, advantages and disadvantages of pesticides. The toxicity concept: acute and chronic toxicity. Ecotoxicological tests and the environmental legislations. Bioindicators: definition, application and examples. Ecotoxicological and toxicological risk evaluation (NOEL, ADI, PEC).
Prerequisites for admission
To understand the topics covered during the lessons it is strongly recommended to have knowledge of ecology, general and organic chemistry, biochemistry, zoology and botany.
Teaching methods
The teaching will be delivered through interactive frontal lessons with the help of the projection of slides. The teacher will try to actively involve students in the discussion of environmental issues of strict relevance, also organizing seminars on specific issues.
Attendance of the course is highly recommended.
Teaching Resources
The recommended texts for exam preparation are:
Ecotossicologia - Marco Vighi e Eros Bacci - UTET
Tossicologia - Galli, Corsini, Marinovich - PICCIN
Assessment methods and Criteria
The exam will be carried out orally, through a discussion that will focus on topics covered during the lectures. In addition to the skills acquired, the student's ability to connect the different topics covered in class and his clarity of presentation, as well as the ability to use the correct scientific terminology, will also be assessed.
BIO/07 - ECOLOGY - University credits: 6
Lessons: 48 hours
Educational website(s)