The course offers an overview of problems related to the degradation and pollution of terrestrial ecosystems with an emphasis on soil and water. Students will learn concepts related to soil and plant sciences, microbiology, water management, and environmental conservation strategies. Practical aspects of remediation of degraded environments will be addressed and analyzed in detail. In particular, we will explore the ecological and technical basis of green technologies, i.e., biological remediation methods. These bio-based methods comprise the use of solar-driven processes and organisms, such as plants and microorganisms, to remove and neutralize contaminants and to sustain ecosystem resilience and health. These methods have gained acceptance in the past 20 years as a cost-effective, non-invasive alternative or complementary technology to engineering-based pollution remediation methods. In this course, besides studying the technical aspects related to biology and chemistry, we will discuss the advantages and limitations of these green technologies, including their ecosystem services, regulatory requirements, and public acceptance issues.
This course is suited to both students with and without a background in science because the focus is on concepts rather than technical matters alone.