You are here: Home Undergraduate Portal Academic Planning Resources Syllabi BIOL 415

BIOL 415

Main Content

Welcome to Biology 415, Ecotoxicology 

Spring 2015

215 Armsby

T, TH 1:00 – 2:15 PM


Instructor: Dr. Denise Woodward         

Office: 329 Whitmore         

email through ANGEL(messages sent through regular email will not be answered), 865-9363 

Office hour: W 1:00-2:00 or by appointment


Teaching Assistant: Kevin McClure

email through ANGEL

Office Hour: by appointment

The goals of this course are to 

introduce the science and history of ecotoxicology
introduce the main classes of contaminants and their modes of action  
understand the impacts of various toxins on organisms and ecosystems
introduce the various agencies that evaluate and regulate contaminants in the environment
critically review scientific papers, data, and arguments
develop skills related to communicating like a scientist
One of the biggest challenges you will face in this course is dealing with potentially conflicting data and applying scientific thinking in the process of making decisions about these controversies.   These challenges will underscore the political, economic, and scientific constraints that U.S. regulatory agencies work under to protect public health.   


Course Materials:

Textbook:  Principles of Ecotoxicology.  2012.  4th  Edition.  C.H Walker, S.P. Hopkin, R.M. Sibly, and D.B. Peakall.   Taylor and Francis Publishers.  You may purchase this textbook at the PSU bookstore.
Our Stolen Future 1997, Colburn et al.  Plume/Penguin. You may purchase this book on your own ( price: $12.68, also available in bookstore) or use one of the two copies available on reserve. 


Supplemental readings

*We will be reading two large chapters (on DDT and Mercury) from the book "Aquatic Pollution."  We will also read a chapter from the book “Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Environmental Issues”.  Paper copies will be made available to you or you can read them through ANGEL.  Paper copies should be returned at the end of the semester. 
The syllabus, daily outlines, practice questions, and other course materials can be accessed through ANGEL.
Lecture format: This is a relatively small class so I expect classroom participation on a regular basis. Several classes will involve discussions of the reading for that day (prompted by questions posted on the web) or assignments due that day. Your participation is essential, therefore reading the assignments before class is important. In turn, you should not have to cram the night before an exam, and there should be no surprises on the exams. Exams will be based on lecture material, most of which will cover your reading. 
Grading: Your total grade will be based on 810 points. Your TA will do some of the exam and paper grading, however I will personally oversee all final grade assignments.   The 810 points will come from:
2 midterm exams worth 120 points each (240 points total)
1 final exam worth 210 points
4 1-2 page papers worth 25 points each (100 points total)
A group web project worth 50 points
A group engaged scholarship project worth 25 points
2 case studies worth 25 points each (50 points total)
1 scientific reading assignments worth 25 points
6 short quizzes worth 10-20 points each (110 points total)


Course Policies

Attendance at exams, quizzes, and for in-class activities is mandatory and absence during the scheduled exam time will result in a grade of zero unless prior arrangements (at least 24 hours before the exam) have been made, or you provide a legitimate and verifiable excuse within 24 hours after the exam.   Makeups for exams and quizzes that have not been completed within one week of the regularly scheduled exam, quiz, or activity will be given at the end of the semester. 
The following are the only legitimate excuses accepted:
 -  illness                                                                                                                                           
 - a University sponsored event (with a note from the sponsor)                                                                                         
 - a religious holiday recognized by PSU                                                                                                                        
 - death in the family           


Academic Integrity/Academic Dishonesty

Academic dishonesty is not limited to simply cheating on an exam or assignment.  The following is quoted directly from the "PSU Faculty Senate Policies for Students" regarding academic integrity and academic dishonesty:  “Academic integrity is the pursuit of scholarly activity free from fraud and deception and is an educational objective of this institution.  Academic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, cheating, plagiarizing, fabricating of information or citations, facilitating acts of academic dishonesty by others, having unauthorized possession of examinations, submitting work of another person or work previously used without informing the instructor, or tampering with the academic work of other students.”
All University and Departmental policies regarding academic integrity/academic dishonesty apply to this course and the students enrolled in this course.  Refer to the following URL for further details on the academic integrity policies of the Department of Biology 
Each student in this course is expected to work entirely on her/his own while taking any exam, to complete assignments on her/his own effort without the assistance of others unless directed otherwise by the instructor, and to abide by University and Department of Biology policies about academic integrity and academic dishonesty.  Academic dishonesty can result in assignment of “F” by the course instructors or "XF" by Judicial Affairs as the final grade for the student.



Penn State encourages qualified persons with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities.  If you anticipate needing any type of accommodation in this course or have questions about physical access, please contact the instructor or the Penn State Office for Disability Services.


Assignment of Grades

The approximate grading scale (based on 810 total points for the course) is: 
A 753 -  810 points     C+ 607 – 647 points
A- 729 – 752 points    C 567 – 606 points
B+ 670 – 728 points   D 486 – 566 points
B 672 – 669 points      F Less than 486 points
B- 648 – 671 points                                      









·         Course introduction




·         Classes of contaminants

·         Practice Case Study on PCBs

·         Principals of Ecotoxicology  (POE) Ch. 1 (through section 1.3)



·         Discussion of Our Stolen Future reading

·       Introduction to group web page project


·         Our Stolen Future (OSF) Ch.1 & 2



·         Biochemical Effects of Pollutants

·         Case study: Neurotoxins – part I (25 points total)


·         POE Ch. 7



·         Biochemical Effects of Pollutants - continued

·         Case study: Neurotoxins – part II





·         Quiz 1 on Our Stolen Future (20 points)

·         Fates of Organic Pollutants

·         Our Stolen Future discussion


·         POE Ch. 5

·         OSF Ch. 3 and 4


·         Quiz 2 on Marcellus Shale Article (10 points

·         Marcellus shale presentation from the Marcellus Shale Outreach Center


·         Marcellus Shale article posted on ANGEL


·         Quiz 3 on DDT reading (20 points)

·         DDT Case Study Discussion

·         Write exam questions

·         Aquatic Pollution Ch.10: Pesticides, pages 275-306; 318-321



·         DDT  Discussion (cont’d)




·         EXAM 1 (120 points)




·         Movie: Blue Vinyl




·         Movie: Blue Vinyl (cont’d)

·         Scientific reading exercise due (25 points)





·         Our Stolen Future and endocrine disruption


·         OSF Ch. 5-8



·         Endocrine Disruption (cont’d)

·         Blue Vinyl analysis due (25 points)






·         Quiz 4 on Metals reading (20 points)

·         Metals and Minamata Disease Discussion


·         Aquatic Pollution, pages 369-397



·         Metals and Minamata Disease (cont’d)





·         Have fun



·         Al’s Waste Tour! (Further information on ANGEL)


·         Read article on ANGEL



·         Physiological effects of pollutants

·         Case Study: Atrazine and frogs  - Part I (25 points total)


  • POE Ch. 8


·         Interactive effects of pollutants

·         Case study:  Atrazine and frogs (Part II)

  • POE Ch. 9



·         Hormone Havoc

·         Quiz 5 on “Taking Sides” reading (20 points)


·         "Taking Sides" (10th edition), pp 184-207


·         Radiation

·         Movie: “Life Was Good”

·         Mercury and fish consumption analysis due (25 points)

·         POE Ch. 1 (pages 18-21)

·         POE Ch. 4 (pages 51-57)


·         Greenhouse presentations

·         articles on greenhouse reading



·         Greenhouse Tour (details posted on ANGEL)




EXAM 2 (120 points)




·         Routes by which pollutants enter ecosystems and long-range movement of pollutants


·         POE Ch. 2 & 3


·         Quiz 5 on Our Stolen Future (20 points)

·         Discussion of greenhouse project

·         OSF 9 &10



·         Evolution of resistance


·         POE Ch. 13



·         Evolution of resistance (cont’d)

·         Greenhouse practice analysis  due (25 points)





·         Biomarkers in population studies

·         Greenhouse group project due (25 points)


·         POE Ch. 16



·         Toxins in the home discussion

·         Toxins in the home analysis due (25 points)


·         OSF Ch. 12


FINAL EXAM – Date TBA (210 points)