Course Program

Course program

The course program is based on the European and U.S. Framework for Ecological Risk Assessment and contains the following modules:

Ecological Risk Assessment

  1. Problem formulation
  2. Hazard assessment of chemical stressors
  3. Characterization of effects on One Health
  4. Pesticide pollution and vulnerability concepts
  5. Earth-to-space-based observing systems for environmental risk assessment and disaster management
  6. Use of Open Source spatial analysis tool
  7. Creation of global pesticide application maps
  8. Open Community approach in One Health risk mapping
  9. Risk assessment and data availability in developing countries



Experts from different national and international disciplines and institutions conduct the course:


Module description

Module 1: Problem formulation

In the first module, the problem and purpose for a risk assessment will be defined and a general overview on contamination through chemical substances, with focus on pesticides, and their effects on environmental and public health will be given. The participants will understand the concept of risk assessment based on the background and history of ecotoxicology. Furthermore within the first week, every participant will present the local situation and specific problems evolving from chemical contamination in their country, as well as available information on sources, stressors, known exposures and effects on One Health, as well as existing data on risk characterization and assessment.


Module 2: Hazard assessment of chemical stressors

The module gives an overview on how, when, and where contamination of the environment with chemicals can occur. In this module, the participants will learn characteristics of environmental chemicals, sources and releases of pesticides as example of a chemical stressor, fate and transport of the pesticides (degradation and dissipation processes), exposure pathways and distribution pattern, and will receive information on the extent and pattern of contact with pesticides. In a second part (Field/Laboratory day), simple inexpensive yet effective sampling procedures how to monitor and collect data in the field for characterization of exposure will be presented and practiced.


Module 3: Characterization of effects on One Health

A characterization of ecological effects describes how toxic a pesticide is to different organisms and/or to other ecological entities (e.g., community), what effects it produces, how the effects relate to the assessment endpoints, and how these effects change with varying levels of pesticide exposure. The participants will learn different toxicity tests to estimate the toxicity or hazard of a pesticide from short-term (acute) to long-term (chronic) laboratory studies as well as field studies, understand the different ecological effects that can be measured, apply and define toxicity endpoints, and calculate the risk. At the end of the first three modules, the particpants will understand the principles of ecotoxicology and comprehend the relation between exposure and toxicity levels of chemical substances. They will be able to formulate the problem and will know different instruments to conduct a simple characterization of exposure and effects of pesticides.


Module 4: Pesticide pollution and vulnerability concepts

This module aims to address the vulnerability aspects of chemical contamination. The overall goal is to improve the in-depth understanding of participants for the cause effect relationships between chemical contamination and the resilience of coupled social-ecological systems. Particularly, the module will look at root causes of the pollution, vulnerability of ecosystem services influenced by pollution, and resulting changes in the resilience of the coupled social-ecological systems as affected by the pollution. Particularly, participants will learn about the concepts of vulnerability, resilience and coupled social-ecological systems, which will be put in the context of chemical pollution with a concrete example from Vietnam. General methods of vulnerability assessment will be discussed as well as aspects of pesticide use assessment (interviews on household level, experts etc.), possible exposure pathways to pesticides (resuming module 2), vulnerabilities caused by degraded ecosystem services as far as the degradation was linked to the pollution (dependencies of different social groups from ecosystem services); linking typical exposure pathways with social groups (occupation, housing, wealth, age, gender etc).


Module 5: Earth-to-space-based observing systems for environmental risk assessment and disaster management

The objective of this module is to introduce to a number of global and regional, in-situ and spacebased observing systems around the world all of them essentially contributing to the continuous monitoring of environmental risks and hazards. Additionally, major mechanisms to access spacebased information and GIS specifically dedicated to support all phases of crisis management will be presented. The overview will be completed by illustrating some selected key technologies, such as SensorWebs, Grids and Computation Clouds for rapid acquisition and distribution of data products in order to provide useful forecasting and decision support tools for local decision makers.


Module 6: Use of Open Source spatial analysis tools

This module aims to provide the necessary computational skills to conduct spatial analyses and create simplified pesticide exposure maps for regions with data scarcity. This will be done with free open source software such as R, GRASS GIS and QGIS. The students will learn the basic operations to obtain and process freely available global satellite and other geographical as well as ecological data and how to join information to charaterise risks from chemicals. Given the limited availability of data in developing countries, a special emphasis will lie on spatio-temporal interpolation techniques that may be used to fill data gaps.


Module 7: Open community approach in One Health risk mapping

Open Community is a generalization of the concept of Open Source to other collaborative effort. The term “open” for an open community refers to the opportunity for anyone to join and contribute to the collaborative effort. The direction and goals are determined collaboratively by all members of the community. The resulting work (“product”) is made available under a free license, so that other communities can adapt and build on them. In this context the “product” of the open community is an “one health risk mitigation by tailored application of limited resources”. This module will show how the collaborative effort can be organized, tasks can be assigned (PhD, Master Thesis, Research Project…), and protection of research (e.g. in a PhD) can be organized in an open community with project management tools. Interoperability of risk mitigation strategies and risk assessment will also focus on versioning and digital signatures of versions.


Module 8: Creation of Global Pesticide Application Maps

The objective of this module will be the transfer of the methodological basics learned in the previous module, that are necessary for the creation of contamination maps with open-source GIS. In a first step, the theoretical basics on the topics of agricultural practice and modeling of pesticide contamination will be presented. In a further step, practical exercises will be carried out together with the participants of the International Online Autumn Academy. At the end of this module the participants will be able to create contamination maps using open-source software and relate them to other relevant variables such as population density or land use.


Module 9: Risk assessment and data availability in a developing country

After a more general projection in the previous modules, this module will present the real situation in a developing country representing many other countries with similar conditions. Thereby, the participants will learn from a specific approach for risk assessment, the development of exposuremaps and possible classification of pesticides in risk categories to set priorities in the subsequent monitoring and risk assessment. This will be done by putting particular attention to the optimal allocation of the limited resources available in developing countries.


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