Environmental Forensics 1
PHA 6935 Environmental Forensics 1


This is a 3-credit course.


This course will introduce students to principles of environmental forensic science. In particular, you will learn about the transport and fate of chemicals in the environment. The environmental “crime scene,” where pollution first occurs, is often hundreds of kilometers away from the area most impacted by the pollution. Along the way, pollutants undergo changes as they interact with the environment. Linking a pollutant to its source involves understanding and quantifying these changes.

NOTE: This course requires some basic knowledge of mathematics and chemistry to a first-year university level. Some of the concepts in this course will be illustrated through the use of spreadsheets. You will need to have a copy of the spreadsheet program Microsoft Excel (2003 or later) on your computer to open these spreadsheets. You will be directed how to download these files. Some of the spreadsheets run sub-programs called “Macros”. When you open these files, you may see a message warning you that the program contains Macros. You will be asked to either Disable Macros or Enable Macros. Make sure you choose Enable Macros.

This course is taught by Western Sydney University as part of a collaborative venture between the University of Florida and Western Sydney University, Australia.


Please review our recommended course order.

Table Caption

Module Topic
Section 1 Introduction
Module 1 What is Environmental Forensic Science?
Section 2 Environmental pollutants
Module 2 Toxicity of environmental contaminants
Module 3 Oil contamination: Hydrocarbon fingerprinting
Section 3 Fate of chemicals in the environment
Module 4 Environmental partitioning
Module 5 Biological transformations
Section 4 Contaminant transport by groundwater
Module 6 Environmental Transport Models
Module 7 Groundwater Transport
Section 4 Transport of Atmospheric pollutants
Module 8 Atmospheric Dispersion

At the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Describe what an environmental forensic scientist does
  • Describe legal processes involving environmental forensic science
  • Understand the relationship between dose and toxicity
  • Formulate measures of toxicity
  • Perform calculations related to toxicity
  • Understand the concepts of bioconcentration, bio-accumulation and biomagnification
  • Describe various classes of toxic compounds
  • Understand how the genesis of crude oil relates to its composition
  • Interpret oil “fingerprints” from gas chromatography (GC) and mass spectrometry (MS)
  • Apply biomarker metrics to identify hydrocarbons
  • Describe the principles of chemical partitioning in the environment
  • Describe the types of biological transformations that impact on organic compounds in the environment
  • Understand the basic principles of analytical and numerical environmental transport models
  • Understand the process of groundwater contamination
  • Describe analytical and numerical models used for groundwater contamination
  • Understand the principles of atmospheric dispersion of pollutants
  • Describe models of atmospheric pollution

Recommended Materials

The following text is recommended but not compulsory. You will be able to complete the course without it, but it is a good companion.

Introduction to Environmental Forensics
Brian L. Murphy & Robert D. Morrison
Elsevier (Academic Press): 3rd edition (2015)
ISBN: 9780124046962 (print)
ISBN: 9780124047075 (ebook)

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