Course Description:

Graduates (~5) and upper-level undergraduate students (~15) from Biology, Chemistry and Geology will learn about the various classes of toxicants (including those naturally occurring), how toxicants move in ecosystems and within organisms (humans, animals, and plants). Lectures will cover chemical transformations and mechanisms of toxicity. This course will also introduce the students to how controlled toxicity experiments are conducted, how data is reduced, and the power of statistical analyses to identify significant effects. A case study approach will be utilized in lecture and labs to examine the toxic effects of acidification, heavy metals, PCB, insecticides, and environmental endocrine disrupters. Students will learn about important endpoints and bioindicators of toxin exposure specific to each class of toxin and how they are used to determine human/ecological risk assessment. A service –learning component of the course will require students to conduct an independent group toxicology project with their choice of community partner. 4 semester hours credit 3hrs of lecture and a 3hr lab per week Prerequisites: Biology Core courses and one semester of Organic Chemistry or by permission of instructor.


It is a frequent occurrence today that someone learns that some chemical is bad for them, some animal, or plant. The number of chemicals, naturally occurring and man-made, is enormous, something on the order of 100,000 just for man-made compounds. It is important to assess whether these chemicals pose a threat to organisms and/or ecosystems. Although the task of evaluating each compound for biological risk and elucidating that risk is an enormous undertaking, much of this work is being conducted. Studies conducted in the field are very relevant, however, the variables make legislatively-pertinent conclusions difficult. Therefore, much of this work is being conducted in controlled laboratory settings. As a result of this work many environmental toxicants have been evaluated for their effects on organisms. Most have been categorized as to structure and biological effects so that the possible structure-activity relationships of new chemicals may be tentatively predicted. This course would benefit majors in the ecology/environmental biology and pre-professional tracks as well as majors in environmental science, chemistry, sustainable development, or geology. This course will introduce the students to how appropriate species and biomarkers are selected and controlled toxicity experiments are conducted. They will gain an appreciation of the various classes of toxicants and their modes of toxicity, how they move through the environment, how they are chemically transformed or degraded, and the effects on each compounds’ toxicity. The course will be comparative in nature utilizing interactions with plants, animals and humans. The course will conclude with discussions of ecological implications and risk assessment. Graduate students would be required to submit additional reports and selected projects as is commensurate with the Graduate School standards. The course is highly integrative in nature and will utilize topics from chemistry, biochemistry, enzymology, physiology, animal culture, and ecology and even link toxicological issues to the social sciences and economics. Students will begin to understand the multidisciplinary nature of current environmental toxicology practices while building a foundation upon which they may build a very marketable career or graduate program for themselves. In addition, students will build upon their practical knowledge by conducting small scale environmental projects with community partners in the High Country. These projects will have regularly scheduled deadlines that will require concurrent written reflection exercises conducted in class throughout the semester.


The goals of this course are to introduce students to the methods by which chemicals are evaluated for their environmental toxicity. This includes discussions about the various categories of chemicals, their occurrence and use, chemical transformation and mechanism of toxicity, and collection and extraction of environmental samples for chemical characterization and quantification. In addition, the service-learning exercise will provide students further hands-on, minds-on experience working with community organizations to integrate their learning into service for the community. This last goal is a significant divergence from most science courses you have taken, due to this course being a service-learning course. In service-learning courses, you apply classroom/laboratory knowledge to your community real-world problems. In this class, you will be divided up into groups, and each group will work with a local community agency on some toxicological project. We will be assisted in this endeavor by ASU’s excellent ACT Community Outreach Center. More info on the service-learning component will be forthcoming including times for attending the Service Learning Orientation session in the student union (~1hr).

Required Text:

  • Toxicology for Non-Toxicologists. 2000. Mark E. Stelljes. Government Institutes, Rockville, Maryland. ISBN 0-86587-611-8

Lectures will also be created from the following text (not required):

  • Fundamentals of Ecotoxicology 2nd edition. 2003. Newman, M.C., and Unger, M. A.. Lewis publishers, ISBN 1-56670-598-3

Undergraduate Grading Scheme:

3 Exams x 100pts/each 300 pts 3 Quizzes 10 pts each 30 pts Service-Learning Project* 155 pts Organization report 10 pts Gantt Chart/resource assessment 10 pts Project experience reflections (3) 20 pts Service-Learning Project Final Report 50 pts Group Presentations* (10-15min) 30 pts Peer and Self Evaluation 5 pts Agency Evaluation 5 pts ACT Service Learning Orientation/Assessment 5 pts Case study, and discussion participation 20 pts Total: 385 pts *Teams of 3 or 4 will be asked to fill out peer evaluations of each other (5%) that will be combined with the faculty assessment and reflection writing pieces (95%). It is expected that each of the teams will contribute equally to each project. You will be graded on several aspects of the projects as a group.

Graduate Grading Scheme:

3 Exams x 100pts/each 300 pts 3 Quizzes 10 pts each 30 pts Service-Learning Project* 155 pts Organization report 10 pts Gantt Chart/resource assessment 10 pts Project experience reflections (4) 20 pts Individual Oral Presentation (20-25 min) 50 pts Service-Learning Project Final Report 50 pts Peer and Self Evaluation 5 pts Agency Evaluation 5 pts ACT Service Learning Orientation/Assessment 5 pts Lead scientific paper discussion 100 pts Case study and discussion participation 25 pts Total: 480 pts

Service-Learning Projects:

For most of you this will be your first service-learning experience. But we have an excellent resource on campus to help us through this most rewarding experience, so buck up and get excited about this opportunity. The basic principles of service learning involve student engagement and a group and community member collaboration to accomplish a public good. Group projects are valuable in that they create situations in which we must develop excellent communication and organization skills in addition to scientific skills in order to effectively carry them out. I will choose the actual members of groups determined by class size and strengths of the individual students. I have listed a number of community organizations and agencies below that will likely be able to find pertinent projects on which your groups will be able to collaborate. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list – just some ideas to get your minds thinking. The actual project descriptions and goals are completely up to you and your community partners (CP) (with some guidance from me when necessary). I will set deadlines for each stage of the project, which will keep you on schedule and prevent you from procrastinating if you follow the guidelines. You will be expected to work together outside of class time as well, this may include making first contact and communicating often with your community partners, work on your projects, or having group meetings (hopefully with your CP) to discuss problems and partition work loads. I will frequently present reasoning for these projects with the help of in class reflection exercises, as well as provide information, support, and time in class for your groups to discuss pertinent issues and deadlines. To aid some groups in knowledge of needed procedures, the schedule of lab and/or lecture subject matter may be changed mid semester. At the end of the semester we will celebrate the conclusion of our projects by inviting our community partners to a party where we will share food and enjoy watching each of the final presentations. Required Service-Learning Orientation Sessions* -- held January 19-25th (2nd and 3rd week of classes) During these sessions, the ACT program officers will cover the following information: what is service-learning, what they will gain/learn from service-learning, local and national statistics about college students involved in service-learning, tips for successful service-learning projects including important ethical considerations, and we will answer any questions/concerns that they might have about agencies, projects, etc. As part of this session, we show an upbeat, 15-minute video that highlights students, faculty, and local community partners involved in service-learning initiatives at ASU.

  • These are required for all ASU students who have not yet attended one of these sessions for a previous service-learning course at ASU. Students need to sign-up via the ACT website ( for a specific date/time and will receive a reminder of their session via email.
  • The dates/times for these sessions can also be found on the ACT website under the Announcements section on the ACT homepage -
  • Each of the 15 sessions will last 1 hour and are designed to be interactive, fun, and informative. We will NOT offer any make-up sessions.
  • We will have an electronic sign-out process for each service-learning class/section. You will receive a copy of the list of attendees from your class after we have completed all of our sessions.
  • Please encourage students be ready to discuss their previous service/volunteer experiences, as we draw upon these experiences to help them understand what they will be doing this semester.
  • These sessions are intended to complement the course specific SL information you share with them, not replace it.
  • If you have students who have attended one of these sessions for a previous class and are seeking a way to give them credit, we suggest you use the attached list of guided questions and ask them to write up a short reflection on their past SL experiences.
  • If you are teaching an SL course for the first time, we highly encourage you to attend one of these sessions so that you know what we share with your students.

Suggested Toxicology Community Partners:

Appalachian Voices/RiverKeeper: Donna Lisenby, North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, Watauga County Center: Wendy Patoprsty, Extension Agent 971 West King Street, Boone, NC 28607, Voice (828) 264-3061, Watauga High School Earth/Environmental Science faculty: David Phillips, Kevin Shaw, Tom Brown, Katherine Chesnutt, and Johnny Gailes. Contact email: National Committee for the New River (George Santucchi), Watauga River Conservation Partners (Richard DeMott) Boone Municipal Wastewater Treatment Plant (Karen Reece) - Drinking Water Stations or personal wells (Boone and Blowing Rock) Watauga County Health Department National Park Service – Blue Ridge Parkway: Bob Cherry, Watauga County Soil and Water Conservation District - Brian Chatham, Conservation Technician 971 West king Street, Boone NC, (828)264-0842 (O), 336-877-7823 (C), Local Environmental Advocates and Consulting Groups (Mountainkeepers, Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, etc)

Organization Report:

It is a good idea to prepare for your first project meeting with your CP by learning as much as you can about the organization as you can from online, written info, or calling the organization. This is to be done before you initially visit the organization so that you can ask intelligent questions as you initiate your plans to collaborate. The ACT office also has many resources to help you learn about organizations. Although this is a logical place to start, visiting and speaking to the people who run the agency are the best source of information. Cite as many sources as you can find to answer the following points.

  • Goals/mission/history/size of the organization
  • Atmosphere/environment of the organization (formal, informal, well-funded or small donor base, struggling,etc)
  • Typical clients (or areas) served by the organization
  • What types of problems does the agency/organization commonly see that they are ill equipped to handle? Or how do you think your group could aid this organization?
  • What expectations does the organization have of the student group and project outcomes?
  • Any other unexpected things you learned about them?

After you meet with your organization and fill answers for all the above questions, your group will submit your report (one per group with all members name on it). Your grade for the report will be based on how completely you answered each of these questions, as well as spelling and grammar and proper citation of sources.

Gantt Chart/Resource Assessment:

Successful group projects take planning and these two assignments will help you get your group started and improve your changes of completing your projects on time. As early in the semester as possible each group must begin planning a timetable that will keep you on track to finish the project in time. A great way to do this is by using a Gantt chart (see Wikipedia entry) and you can download a shareware copy of GanttProject to any computer from the Wikipedia site. It takes a couple minutes to figure out but will prove most helpful – it has a help file if you need a little tutorial. As a group you will need to complete an initial Gantt chart by the date on the syllabus. This should be as complete as possible and include all of the tasks through the end of the semester (that you can foresee). The more detailed you can break down each task the more help the chart will be. Work from the end of the semester backwards. For example, if you task must be done by a certain date, you have to schedule back from that date such things as when you’ll get the final revisions done, when you’ll get feedback from the agency, when you’ll do revisions when you’ll create the first draft, when you’ll brainstorm, etc. You should assign each task to the people who will be responsible for each job (people are named “resources” on a Gantt chart. This brings us the second half of this exercise – resources. The resources assessment actually has two parts. The first is two assess your group and identify what skills each person brings to the group and how those skills will best be used by the group. This will help you assign specific tasks to your members. You also need to identify missing skill sets in your groups, those that you do not yet possess but will be necessary to be successful. Turn in with this exercise a report with separate sections for each person that list their skills, as well as a final section that lists shortcomings and how you plan to resolve them (in other words, you must ask for help, or learn to do something new). The second resource assessment is to make a list of equipment, supplies, techniques, protocols, etc that you will require to complete your project as you have designed it. Although there will be a modest budget for some supplies for the class (subject to a state budget freeze!), you must be very creative and resourceful to attain all required lab equipment, field instruments, and consumables needed to conduct your projects. I would also like the group to list the equipment and resources needed to complete the work. Finally, the group will need to keep up with their Gantt chart. Someone in the group ought to keep the chart updated (hopefully on a laptop they bring to class). Your group should revisit the chart at every class or lab time to make sure the tasks are being done, add new tasks, revise existing ones, or divide up tasks into smaller sub-tasks. If you do this your group will be much more effective. A second grade will be given at the end of the semester on how detailed your Gantt chart has become.

Project experience reflections:

One of the most important aspects of Service-Learning in terms of self-assessment and measure of personal growth is to conduct in class reflection exercises. These will consist of a number of fun and/or interesting approaches that require a little time of reflection, and in the meantime you’ll be reminded of what you have learned (and what new tools are in your personal “tool box”).

Troubleshooting problems in group work and criteria to determine if project has become unviable:

In this course you will be working extensively in a group. You are expected to operate as a team, and for the most part you should handle any problems or conflict internally. As future professionals, you should conduct yourself accordingly. However, if significant problems occur in a group that you are unable to resolve on your own, you have some options.

  1. Set up a time to conference with your group, in my office, with me acting as mediator. I will facilitate a discussion aimed to resolve the problem, but you will arrive at your own decisions.
  2. Every group has the option of firing a member of that group that is not performing adequately. Usually a warning that the group is considering firing a member is enough to correct the problem. If not, the person can be fired by a majority vote of the group. The group will then inform me of the decision. The fired member is then responsible for finding another group willing to add “a fired person” to their group (get re-hired).
  3. No later than the midpoint of the semester, if a project becomes increasing mired down by red-tape, serious issues with the community partner, or lack of scientific merit, the group may conference with me and determine a new course of action (even a new project and community partner if needed).

Oral Presentation of Service-Learning Projects:

An oral presentation (constructed in Powerpoint) introducing the community partners, the development of the project, the background on the specific toxicology topic, and slides covering the major/interesting points of the topic or case study will be required. Significant researchers, experiments, models used to design the study, and pertinent outcomes should be touched on and scans of useful figures, tables, and photos should help with presentation of the information. Be creative, but maintain focus and organization. The following rubric will be used to grade each presentation Student Oral Presentation Grading Rubric: Student (Group) Name _______________________ Presentation Title________________________________________________________________________________ Please rate each of the 10 categories from 1 (poor) to 3 (outstanding) Written constructive criticism and comments for presenter are strongly encouraged. CONTENT

  1. Objectives: Was all background information relevant? Was sufficient background information given? ________
  2. Data Analysis and Conclusions: Were data and graph analysis useful and conclusions appropriate for the data presented? ________
  3. Thoroughness: Did the presentation indicate a thorough study of relevant materials? ________
  4. Creativity : Did the presenter use creative organization or presentation of materials? ________
  5. Organization: Was presentation well organized and easy to follow? ________
  6. Clarity: Were procedures, data, and concepts explained clearly and concisely? ________
  7. Delivery: Did presenter speak clearly, knowledgeably, and at an appropriate pace, avoid distracting mannerisms, and hold the audience’s attention? ________
  8. Visual Aids: Were visual aids used effectively? Were they clear and easy to read or interpret? ________
  9. Response to Questions: Did presenter respond effectively to questions from the audience? ________
  10. Timing: Did the presenter use all of the 15 minutes required for the presentation? ________

TOTAL (30 pts. max.) ________

Environmental Toxicology Service-Learning Project Final Report (50 pts):

This semester you will be writing up manuscript style reports for your service-learning projects. One of the reasons for this assignment is that in doing it you must learn to organize your thoughts and express them clearly, accurately, and concisely in the style and format required of scientific writing. This handout gives a brief description of this unique writing style with an emphasis on various details that will be stressed in this class. For a more complete discussion of effective scientific reporting, it is highly recommended that you supplement this information by read¬ing the following paperback book which can be bought in the ASU bookstore. A copy of the book may be available in the laboratory.Writing Papers in the Biological Sciences, 3rd Ed.Victoria E. McMillan, Bedford/St. Martin's Press, 2001.

  • Keep a loose leaf notebook into which you can keep your lab protocols, notes from lab, and handouts. It would be very helpful if this notebook contained some sort of pocket where you can store (temporarily) any data printouts that you obtain from your experiments. This guards against accidental loss of your data in some obscure place.
  • Write your report as soon after the experiment as your schedule will allow. It is easier to remember exactly what you did, and the writing will be easier.
  • Reread the report writing handout before you write your report (found on the course ASULearn site)

Scientific Paper Discussions (Graduate students only):

After conferring with the instructor for an appropriate scientific paper to present, graduate students will thoroughly read, criticize, summarize and prepare a discussion of a recent manuscript relevant to the course content. At least one week prior to each presentation, all students will be provided with a copy of the article to be presented. Students should read the article before each presentation and will be expected to participate in the discussions led by their classmates. Discussion leaders should be prepared to stimulate discussions for about 45-60 minutes. Objectives: The presentation topics will provide the student with the opportunity to become familiar with some of the important experimental techniques and advances in environmental toxicology. At the same time, the presentation topics will introduce the student to critically reading current scientific primary literature. Format: Each student must choose a primary research journal article taken from a high impact primary scientific journal (Science, Nature, ET&C, etc) to present. This choice must be made and approved by the professor. Presentations will be expected to be approximately one hour in length and should encourage discussion during and after the presentation. The presentation should be prepared as if the student is teaching this particular subject matter to their peers in the class (NOT to the professor). At least one third of the presentation should be of a background nature. This background should include a summary of the article’s introduction, the background and state of knowledge leading up to the publication of this article and the answer to the question: “Why is this study important?” The methods used in this study should be outlined and explained in a general way, with special attention paid to any crucial experiment(s) that may have given this work its significance. The results and discussion of the paper should be discussed, as should the implications for further research and for a greater general understanding of the area. Two weeks prior to each presentation each student will be required to choose their papers. At one week out they will have submitted an outline of their presentation to the professor, and discussed the format of the discussion. This outline will be graded and returned to the student with suggestions for the presentation. The due date for choosing the journal article to present and the outline will be strictly enforced – for each day past due 10 points will be deducted from the final score of the presentation.

Graduate Student Environmental Toxicology Journal Article Presentation Evaluation:

Presenter: ______________________ Choice Of Article (10 max) _______ Outline (20 max) _______ Instructors’ Evaluations Scale: Poor - 1 - 6 - Excellent Purpose/Objective- The objectives were clearly explained and understandable. _______ Organization- There was evidence of planning and presentation was well organized. _______ Enthusiasm- Evidence of a high degree of excitement and motivation. _______ Knowledge- Subject knowledge was highly evident. _______ Materials/Strategies- Several techniques and a variety of materials were used. _______ Total (30 max) _______ Peer Evaluations (Averaged) Scale: Poor- 1 - 2 - 3 -Excellent Purpose/Objective- The objectives were clearly explained and understandable. _______ Organization- There was evidence of planning and presentation was well organized. _______ Enthusiasm- Evidence of a high degree of excitement and motivation. _______ Knowledge- Subject knowledge was highly evident. _______ Materials/Strategies- Several techniques and a variety of materials were used. _______ Total (15 max) _______ Participation (25 max) _______ Total Grade (100 max) _______

Lecture Sequence (MWF 11-11:50pm, RSW 157)

Chapter Topic Text Reading (pages):

1 Introduction to course. Plans and expectations for Service-Learning projects. SL Orientation session schedule, View Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore 1-37 2 A framework for environmental toxicity, chemical 9-20 properties, mechanisms of action Physiological and Ecosystems Effects, SL Agreement Form is Due 3 Toxicity Testing (theoretical) 21-50 Dose-response, types of tests, data analysis, single-species and multispecies tests. Appropriate animal models for testing. Service-Learning Organizational Reports Due, In class personal reflection exercise on challenges of the projects 4 Toxicity Testing (practical) 55-92 Conditions and organism care EXAM 1 5 Exposure and mechanism of action 93-130 Supplement: Organochlorine compounds and pyrethroids Rachel Carson/DDT Legislative Hearing reenactment Gantt Chart/Resource Assessments Due, In class group reflection exercise on the important social issues surrounding their projects. 6 Extrinsic factors and metabolism, environmental 131-152 factors, interaction of pollutants Supplement: Ionizing radiation Biological factors, nutritional factors 7 Inorganic gaseous pollutants, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, 153-176 ozone, carbon monoxide, fluoride Supplement: hydrocarbons (alkanes, benzene, ethylene glycols, ketones, alcohols, halogenated aromatic compounds) In class personal reflection exercise on development of a more sophisticated professional vocabulary 8 Heavy metals (lead, cadmium, mercury) 177-190 Supplement: Arsenic EXAM 2 9 Biotransformation, detoxification, resistance development, biodegradation. Metabolism, microbes, bioremediation, 191-224 bioengineering 10 Measurement and interpretation of the ecological effects 225-278 Biomarkers, sentinel organisms, and assessment of effects at multiple levels of biological organization (population vs community) In class group reflection exercise to connect course content to service project 11 Risk Assessment 287-29 Final service-learning reports and presentations ACT, Self/Peer and Agency Evaluations Final Exam: Friday, April 29, 2011 from 3:00 PM - 5:30 PM

Lab Schedule (Thursday 1pm-4pm, RSN 203)

Week#/ Date/  Topic/ Where to meet 1 1/13 Case Study #1: Heavy Metals RSN 203, Discussion of the Kingston, TN TVA Coal Fired Power Plant spill of 12/22/08 2 1/20 Digestions/Quantification of As and Pb by Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometry and ICP 3 1/27 Data Reduction/Risk Assessment Analyses RSW 294 Computer lab last hr Case Study #2: Insect EPT field testing (Winklers Cr/ Hodges Creek/Boone Creek) 4 2/3 Insect Keys and Stream Assessment Activity RSN 203/RSW 294 computer lab 5 2/10 IC quantification of Nitrogen and Phosphates 6 2/17 Case Study #3: PCB toxicity (Fox River Case Study). Setup PCB exposures for plants and animals in lab. RSW 294 computer lab, then RSN 203 7 2/24 Extract/quantify PCBs using ASE system and GC-MS. RSN 203 8 3/3 Data Reduction/Risk Assessment Analyses RSW 294 computer lab 9 3/10 Spring Break – No Lab 10 3/17 Case Study #4: Endocrine Disruption and view The Estrogen Effect: Assault on the Male DVD (53min) Shrimp/fish exposures to insecticides/metals. Week long toxicity tests RSW 157 11 3/24 Endocrine Disruption: sampling, extractions and ELISA of ecdysteroids. Also take samples for HSP and metallothionein western blots (see week # 13) 12 3/31 Field Collections of fish/blood draws, Tour of WWTP RSN 203 13 4/7 Electrophoresis setup and run of fish blood samples RSN 203 14 4/14 Western Blots of Vt, HSP, Metallothionein RSN 203 15 4/21 EcoChallenge Risk Assessment game RSN 203 16 4/28 Final Student/Group Presentations and Community Partner Appreciation Party (Groups make “thank you” cards) RSW 157