autumn 2021
BIO-3020 Fundamentals of Ecotoxicology - 10 ECTS

Last changed 30.03.2022

Application deadline

Applicants from Nordic countries: 1st of June for the autumn semester and 1 December for the spring semester.

Exchange students and Fulbright students: 1st of October for the the spring semester and 15 April for the autumn semester.

Type of course

The course is relevant for students belonging to the Master in Biology programme and especially for students taking the Arctic Animal Physiology or Arctic Marine Ecology specialisations. 

The course is available as a singular course.

Maximum number of participants: 30.

Admission requirements

Admission requires a Bachelor`s degree (180 ECTS) or equivalent qualification, with a major in biology of minimum 80 ECTS.

Local admission, application code 9371 -  Master`s level singular course.

Course overlap

BIO-2015 Fundamentals of Ecotoxicology 1 10 stp
BIO-2012 Fundamentals of Ecotoxicolgy I 10 stp

Course content

The course covers general principles of ecotoxicology through lectures, seminars, and a practical component. The course is essentially dealing with aquatic ecotoxicology, but terrestrial case studies are also used. 

More specifically, the course deals with environmental contaminants and their fate in the environment, including emissions, transport of contaminants and effects in biota from cellular to community/ecosystem levels. Lectures provide an introduction to ecotoxicological approaches, toxicity testing, general concepts and theories (e.g. mode of actions, ecotoxicological modelling), and a part on risk assessment. Seminars focus on studying more in detail specific contaminants or approaches. The seminars are organized as case studies with scientific papers or datasets to read in advance and directed group discussions in class.  

The practical component of the course allows to acquire practical skills within the field of ecotoxicology and apply the theoretical knowledge by performing an ecotoxicological experiment, learning to analyse, discuss and present produced data. Every student is writing a report over the course of the semester with weekly deadlines to hand-in drafts of specific report section. The submitted section will be read and comments to allow every student to progress and improve their writing skills and the quality of their report. This work provides significant training in scientific writing.  

Objectives of the course

The student shall: 


  • Be able to define and discuss specific terms within the field such as toxicity, bioavailability, bioaccumulation, biomagnification, etc..  
  • Have knowledge about all classes of contaminants (persistent organic pollutants, microplastics, heavy metals, hydrocarbons, etc.) including their sources and particular effects on living organisms. 
  • Have knowledge about the chemical properties that determine their stability, persistence and fate in the environment as well as interactions with organisms and trophic transfer processes.  
  • Be able to explain how contaminants interact with organisms from mode of actions to organismal and population/community level effects  
  • Be familiar with a range of methods used in toxicity testing (e.g. LC50, in vitro, in vivo, mixture toxicity) and can discuss their relevance. 
  • have knowledge about the current Norwegian and European regulations for environmental risk assessment, the methods employed, and the responsible authorities​.


  • Know standard practical procedures during experimentation, from biological sample collection to data analysis in the laboratory, understand their rationale and execute them to preserve sample integrity and quality. 
  • Be able to read and critically execute laboratory protocols on sampling procedures and sample analysis, such as making solutions, dilutions, and determine the appropriate labware to use. 
  • Understand and apply equations in data treatment to transform raw data into final results (e.g. enzyme activities). 
  • Be able to perform basic data treatment using Excel to process raw data (e.g. calculation of enzyme activities) 
  • Be able to write a report in a scientific concise style (including data representation, and discuss critically own data in the light of existing knowledge from literature). 

General competence 

  • Develop the ability to interpret ecotoxicology data (such as contaminant levels, biomarkers in biota) within a specific environmental context (monitoring, experiment etc.) and problematic (baseline study, exposure experiment, etc.). 
  • Develop teamwork skills in the field and laboratory situations. 
  • Acquire confidence to work autonomously in the laboratory and take decisions based on few instructions.  
  • Develop the ability to plan ahead in the context of a long-term project with multiple steps. 
  • Be able to search and use relevant literature 
  • Scientific writing 

Language of instruction

Language of instruction is English. It is allowed for Scandinavian students to write their reports and written exam in a Scandinavian language.

Teaching methods

Lectures (13 x 90 min), seminars (6 x 90 min) including seminar preparation (1 hours per seminar), experimental work (2 days per student), laboratory work (3 days per student), 1 x pc-lab (6h) and home assignments (weekly submission of report sections). 

The course schedule will be coordinated with BIO-3009 and BIO-3015.

Information to incoming exchange students

This module is open for exchange students with bachelor degree in Biology.

Do you have questions about this module?  Please check the following website to contact the course coordinator for exchange students at the faculty:


The exam consists of a Laboratory Report which counts 50% of the grade and a 4 hour written exam which counts 50% of the grade. Grade: A-F, F is failed. In order to sit an examination students must complete and pass any obligatory coursework requirements.

Each assessment will be given a grade in percentage (%) according to defined criteria and transformed into a letter (A-F) according to 

The final grade will be based on the numerical average of the report and written exam and expressed as letter (A-F) according to 

The students will be informed on the grades received on each sub-exam and the final grade. 

Obligatory coursework requirements: 

  • Participation to at least 3 different days of the practical work (experiment, laboratory days) is mandatory. 
  • Students have to submit sections of their report on a weekly basis through CANVAS. The teacher provides comments to allow students to improve their report until final submission (as part of the exam). If the numbers of student is high, a different peer-review arrangement may be considered. The submission is mandatory to take the final examination.

Re-sit exam:

A re-sit examination will be arranged for students that did not pass the written examination. However no re-sit will be organised for the report.  

  • About the course
  • Campus: Tromsø |
  • ECTS: 10
  • Course code: BIO-3020