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H2O Pollution: holistic approach and nature based solutions

Learn, strengthen or extend your knowledge and understanding of new approaches to detect pollutants, environmental risk evaluation, and nature based solutions.

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CIVIS focus area
Climate, environment and energy
Open to
  • Master's
  • PhD
Field of studies
  • Engineering & Technology
  • Environment & Agriculture
  • Medicine and Health
  • Natural Sciences and Mathematics
  • Environmental sciences, Urbanism, Geography
  • Blended Intensive Programmes (BIP)
Course dates
20 January - 14 February 2025

This transnational and transdisciplinary course will focus on two key sustainability challenges of today's societies - clean water and energy supply. The programme will bring together a European team of experts in ecology, microbiology, environmental chemistry, pollution assessment, environmental and health risk assessment, bioremediation, and waste-to-energy bioprocesses.

The course is framed by the European Commission’s Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability, which sets out Europe’s zero pollution ambition, to better protect citizens, animals and the environment from harmful substances. Upon completion of this course, students will be able to demonstrate a holistic understanding and approach of water pollution, and apply nature-based solutions to real-life problems.

The course will involve both virtual and face-to-face activities, including field trips and laboratory work. Hands-on class will be central for the students’ training.

Main topics addressed

  • Water, energy, and climate change
  • Chemicals strategy for sustainability
  • Water quality standards
  • New ecological approaches to assess water quality
  • New chemical approaches to assess water quality
  • Green and nature-based solutions for pollution remediation including bioenergy production from biowaste

Learning outcomes

This Blended Intensive Programme will equip Master's and PhD students with the knowledge and skills required to address the pressures that anthropogenic chemicals pose to aquatic systems on the path to 2030 and beyond, according to the Green Deal objectives and the UN 2030 Agenda. This will be achieved by adopting challenge-based approaches in order to address current societal challenges.

Students will be able to understand and apply innovative approaches to assess the source and fate of pollutants, their risks for ecosystems and human health, and remediation capabilities of natural microbial communities. They will acquire skills in the main principles of chemical, biotechnological and microbiological waste-to-energy processes.

Thanks to hands-on-learning activities and a strong interaction with fellow students and teachers, the students will be able to:

  • critically discuss literature data,
  • suggest suitable monitoring and bioremediation strategies for different case studies,
  • design site- and pollutant-specific protocols for the assessment and recovery of polluted waters using ecological and multidisciplinary approaches.

They will also understand updated concepts and methodologies to address major environmental challenges, acquiring the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve sustainable development goals. Moreover, enhanced opportunities for international exchange will be achieved.

Dates: 20 January - 14 February 2025 Total workload: 90 hours
Format: Blended ECTS: 3*
Locations: Rome, Italy Language: English (B2)

*Recognition of ECTS depends on your home university.

Physical mobility

This Blended Intensive Programme involves a 5-day physical mobility to Sapienza Università di Roma, which will include the following:

1. Practical lectures addressing the themes of the programme:

  • Water quality evaluation and remediation/bioremediation, Nature Based Solutions
  • Energy valorisation of waste

  • Case Studies/examples

2. Workshops and practical classes on research design

3. Students’ group-work

4. Stakeholder seminars (and visits)

5. Field trips

6. Field and Laboratory activities

7. City tour – water exploitation at the ancient Romans’ times

Lectures and applications:

New ecological approaches to assess water quality

  • Isotope fingerprints to track pollution sources and environmental changes over space and time
  • Detection of Microcystin-producing cyanobacteria and naturally-occurring biodegrading bacterial community using qPCR
  • Ecotoxicology testing adapted for detection of Microcystins
  • Identification of antibiotic resistant bacteria and genes
  • Ecotoxicology testing with macro-invertebrates
  • Behavioural studies with organisms
  • Non-animal alternatives (NAMS etc.)
  • Identification of microbiological indicators of depollution by molecular methods
  • Ecotoxicological tests in water mixtures to support chemical analysis
  • Degradation tests under anaerobic conditions

 New chemical approaches to assess water quality

  • Sources, occurrence and health impacts of emerging contaminants and methods for their identification
  • Sensors to monitor water quality 
  • Digital PCR for monitoring using molecular markers
  • Non-target screening and targeted analysis

Green and nature-based solutions for pollution remediation including bioenergy production

  • Green chemistry solutions for water pollution problems
  • Nature based solutions for pollution remediation
  • Bioremediation of emerging contaminants, phyto-assisted bioremediation
  • Energetic valorisation of human activities’ residual products including: pharmaceuticals and other emerging contaminants
  • Bioelectrochemical systems (BES), microbial fuel cells (MFCs), microbial electrolysis cells and anaerobic digestion in bioremediation, wastewater treatment, biofuel and biochemical production

Contamination lab - Students’ group-work

  • Students with different backgrounds and nationalities (European and African) will be divided into small multidisciplinary groups (to simulate team work) to develop a project focusing on one of the specific issues addressed during the course and to propose practical activities/solutions for sustainable water management.

Virtual part

The virtual part will be running from 20 January to 14 February 2025. The course will comprise two phases of virtual teaching activities:

1. Before the physical mobility, from 20 to 25 January 2025, online meetings will be held in order to:

  • describe the structure of the winter school, its main objectives and the groups, including students and professors presentation;

  • describe the general issues of water pollution and sustainable energy production, with a focus on human and ecosystem health and climate change;

  • evaluate the students’ background on basic topics and concepts and discuss the students’ motivation letter contents. Students will undergo a preliminary online questionnaire;
  • establish transnational and transdisciplinary teams (students + coordinating professors + stakeholders) that will operate during the 5-days mobility;
  • provide a common transdisciplinary background on innovative approaches for effective detection and removal of pollutants in sustainable water management, which will be consolidated with both theoretical and practical knowledge during the 5-day mobility;
  • undertake introductory lectures:

Prof. Michelle Bloor, UofG

  • Chemical Policy (Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability)
  • Chemicals and sustainability

Prof. Delia Popescu, UNIBUC

  • Introduction to sources, properties, occurrence, and health impacts of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) and endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) on water quality

Prof. Carmen Chifiriuc, Ilda Barbu, Irina Gheorghe-Barbu, UNIBUC

  • Antimicrobial resistance from the clinical to aquatic reservoirs

Prof. Reahab El-Shehawy, SU

  • Cyanobacteria and Cyanotoxins as emerging contaminants: Microcystin issue /cyanobacteria detection; Microbiome in Ecotoxicology

Anna Barra Caracciolo, IRSA

  • Emerging contaminants and One Health approach

  • Introduction to Nature Based Solutions for pollution remediation

Prof. Antonella Marone and Giulia Massini, ENEA

  • Application of Microbial Electrochemical Technologies (METs) for wastewater treatment and energy recovery
  • Biodegradation of pharmaceuticals and other emerging contaminants during energy valorisation of waste (Hydrogen and biogas)

Lectures & seminars held by invited speakers and Ella C. Longiso (Wits)
Q&A sessions after each lecture/ seminar

2. After the physical mobility, online meetings will be held in order to finalise and discuss the projects to be evaluated in a conclusive online meeting.


This course is open to Master's, and PhD students at CIVIS member universities, with background-related fields in biology, ecology, environmental sciences, microbiology, chemistry, biotechnology, and/ or interest in environmental issues and solutions.

Participants should have not only a good level of written and spoken English (B2) but also critical thinking, data analysis, problem solving, teamwork, communication abilities and ability to use knowledge in real-life problems. 

NB: Visiting Students - Erasmus Funding Eligibility

To be eligible for your selected CIVIS programme, you must be a fully enrolled student at your CIVIS home university at the time you will be undertaking the programme. Click here to learn more about the eligibility criteria.

Students from CIVIS’ strategic partner universities in Africa cannot apply for participation in this course.

Application process

Send your application by filling in the online application form by 28 April 2024. Don't forget to also include:

  • CV

  • Motivation Letter

All applications will be evaluatedd based on their CV and the quality and clarity of the motivation letter.

Apply now


Students will present and discuss their case study projects with fellow students and their teachers. The presentations will take place post-mobility, during the final online session.

Over the course, participation in on-line and face-to-face activities will also be evaluated.

Blended Intensive Programme

This CIVIS course is a Blended Intensive Programme (BIP): a new format of Erasmus+ mobility which combines online teaching with a short trip to another campus to learn alongside students and professors across Europe. Click here to learn more about CIVIS BIPs.

GDPR Consent

The CIVIS alliance and its member universities will treat the information you provide with respect. Please refer to our privacy policy for more information on our privacy practices. By applying to this course you agree that we may process your information in accordance with these terms.

Sapienza Università di Roma

  • Maria Letizia Costantini is an Associate Professor of Ecology at Sapienza Università di Roma. The main focus of her research is the relationship between biodiversity and functioning in aquatic ecosystems. Currently the research interests are food webs in Mediterranean and Polar habitats, impact of alien species, use of stable isotopes for environmental monitoring. She was proponent and President of the Master Course in Ecobiology at Sapienza University. She is member of the Steering committee of the PhD programme in Environmental and Evolutionary Biology. She teaches Ecology and Applied ecology in Bachelor and Master Courses.
  • Edoardo Calizza is an Associate Professor of Ecology at Sapienza Università di Roma. He is particularly interested in the study of species interactions in ecological communities through stable isotope analyses. The research experience includes the Mediterranean region and the polar areas. Here, the research focuses on the effects of climate change on food webs and the ecosystem services they provide. The general aim of his research work is to better understand mechanisms of biodiversity organization along natural and anthropic gradients of disturbance, in order to predict how changes in biodiversity may affect the structure and functioning of ecosystems.
  • Giulio Careddu is a Researcher of Ecology at Sapienza Università di Roma. His research interests include the study of trophic interactions in aquatic systems to understand the impact of anthropogenic activities and climate change on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. He has many years of experience in the study of polar ecosystems, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. He is also interested in understanding the ecological mechanisms underlying the invasion success of alien species and in monitoring nitrogen inputs into aquatic systems through stable isotope analysis. He is a member of the Italian Society of Ecology (SItE) and the British Ecological Society.
  • Giulia Massini is senior researcher at the Department of Energy Technologies of ENEA, Laboratory of Biotechnological Processes for Energy and Industry. She is also a Lecturer at the Master in Ecobiology, teaching Bioremediation of contaminated aquatic and terrestrial environments at Sapienza Università di Roma. She has experience in ecology, microbial ecology and ecology applied to the study of fermentation, anaerobic digestion and biogeochemical cycles. She currently carries out research in the field of energy valorisation of waste biomass with the production of biogas, biomethane and biohydrogen. She studies innovative strategies for improving energy yields and decontaminating waste biomass through bioaugmentation and biostimulation techniques.
  • Anna Barra Caracciolo, PhD in Ecology. She is Head of Research of the Soil and Water Ecology lab at the Water Research Institute of the National Research Council (Rome). Her main research field is the study of the fate of organic contaminants with particular regard to the role of natural microbial communities in degrading and removing chemicals and bioremediation strategies. She has taught for 6 years Bioremediation at the Ecology Master Course at Sapienza Università di Roma. She is the tutor of several Master and PhD students. She is member of the SETAC Europe, of the EcotoxicoMic Network and of the NORMAN Network.
  • Antonella Marone is an environmental biotechnologist. She is the Head of the Laboratory of Biotechnological Processes for Energy and Industry (PBE), Department of Energy Technologies at ENEA. Her research activities in Environmental Biotechnology encompass all mixed-culture bioprocesses applied to treatment of solid and liquid waste and products recovery (renewable energy and chemicals): bioelectrochemical systems, fermentation, anaerobic digestion and designing biorefineries. She was awarded with an EU Marie Curie Grant to join the Laboratory of Environmental Biotechnology of INRA (France) and with a Beatriu de Pinos fellowship to join the GENECOV research group at UAB (Spain).

University of Bucharest

  • Carmen Chifiriuc is a microbiologist, Full Professor at the University of Bucharest, Faculty of Biology, Department of Microbiology, corresponding member of the Romania Academy, vice-chancellor for research (2020-2023), the coordinator of the Research Institute of the University of Bucharest, member of the taskforce for research within CIVIS (WP4) and member in RIS4CIVIS. Fields of expertise: investigation by phenotypic and genotypic approaches of resistance and virulence in bacterial strains isolated from clinical sources and from the aquatic environment, and of the complex pathogen-host interrelation, evaluation of novel antimicrobial and anti-virulence strategies, i.e., novel chemicals, (nano)materials, probiotics, prebiotics, postbiotics, symbiotics, plant extracts.
  • Delia-Laura Popescu is a Senior Lecturer in Chemistry in the Department of Inorganic and Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry and Catalysis, and Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Chemistry, University of Bucharest. She has earned MSc in chemistry and PhD in green chemistry and homogeneous catalysis from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), Pittsburgh, USA. She was a Teaching Fellow at Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence, CMU. She has extensive teaching experience at bachelor and master levels in a variety of courses across diverse disciplines. Her current research focuses on porous materials with environmental applications, supramolecular hybrid metal-organic materials, and coordination systems with biological properties.
  • Irina Gheorghe-Barbu is Associated Professor at the Department of Botany and Microbiology, University of Bucharest. She started her research carrier in 2011 in the field of AR during her PhD studies. She has acquired a background on the AR phenomenon in strains belonging to GNNF, mediated by mobile genetic elements (plasmids, integrons and transposons) and she has optimized a series of protocols working techniques (PFGE, MLST, Mapping PCR, Southern Blot hybridisation) during mobility fellowships in China and Portugal Universities and national projects.
  • Ilda Barbu is a Lecturer at the Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Biology, University of Bucharest, where she teaches Resistance mechanisms to antimicrobial and antiviral compounds, General Microbiology, Applied Microbiology, Microbial Ecology, Clinical Bacteriology, Clinical Virology. She has earned a PhD degree in Biology at the University of Bucharest and has acquired a background in Bioinformatics, Biology and molecular epidemiology of antibiotic resistance, Microbiology, Genetics, Genomics in West China and Portugal research centres.

University of Glasgow

  • Michelle Bloor is a Senior Lecturer of Environmental Science and Risk at the School of Social and Environmental Sustainability, University of Glasgow and the Research Director for Scotland’s National Centre for Resilience. She is a Senior Fellow of the UofG’s Centre for Public Policy, Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry and Chair of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry’s (SETAC) Advisory Panel on Chemicals Management. She is a member of the United Nations Environmental Programme’s (UNEP) Roster of Experts, Sherpa to the European Commission’s High-Level Round Table for the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability, PIANOFORTE partnership’s Advisory Board member, and UK Government Chemicals Stakeholder Forum member. She is the Editor-In-Chief of Sustainable Environment journal, Editor of the book series Issues on Environmental Science and Technology (Royal Society of Chemistry) and UK Science Media Centre expert on chemicals, waste and pollution.

Stockhom University

  • Ann-Kristin E Wiklund holds a PhD in Ecotoxicology and Docent (Associate Professor) in Environmental Science focusing on Ecotoxicology at Stockholm University. She has an extensive experience in experimental ecotoxicology in both laboratory and field environments. She has been working with both legacy contaminants (metals, PAH:s, and PCB:s) as well as emerging contaminants (pharmaceuticals, microplastics, and artificial sweeteners). As a scientist she has been working close to agencies developing environmental monitoring indicators and risk assessment schemes. In addition, she is Head of Education (Bachelor, Master, and PhD, currently 60 PhD students).
  • Rehab El-Shehawy holds a PhD in Microbiology and Docent (Associate Professor) in Environmental Microbiology at Stockholm University. Her research is focused on cyanobacteria-zooplankton predators and their microbiomes; host-microbiome and microbe-microbe interactions, cyanoHABs; bloom formation and toxin production under current and future climate change, bacterial biodegradation of cyanotoxins; functional diversity, pathways, and genetics, water-borne toxins in freshwater and their health effects in developing countries.

University of the Witwatersrand (SA)

  • Ella Linganiso is a Senior Instrument Scientist at the Microscopy and Microanalysis Unit of the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits). She is also an Associate Researcher of the School of Chemistry at Wits and at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University (SMU). She holds a PhD in Materials Chemistry with a special focus on green chemistry approaches for semiconductor nanomaterial synthesis. Her current research focuses on creating high value products from waste biomass as well as addressing environmental pollution and renewable energy. Her current work involves the training of postgraduate researchers on the use of electron microscopes (TEM and SEM), X-ray diffraction, and atomic force microscope. She oversees MSc and PhD candidates at Wits and SMU.