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One health & sustainable socio-emotional development


One health & sustainable socio-emotional development

Ornella Abollino (Lecturer)
Carmen Aina (Lecturer)
Silvia Bonetta (Lecturer)
Olga Dal Monte (Lecturer)
Enrico Ferrero (Lecturer)
Claudio Forte (Lecturer)
Cristina Giacoma (Lecturer)
Francesca Marucco (Lecturer)
Alberto Salomone (Lecturer)
Deborah Traversi (Lecturer)
3rd year
Teaching period
First semester
Course disciplinary sector (SSD)
AGR/19 - animal science
BIO/05 - zoology
CHIM/01 - analytical chemistry
FIS/06 - physics of the Earth and of the circumterrestrial medium
M-PSI/02 - psychobiology and physiological psychology
MED/42 - hygiene and public health
SECS-P/02 - economic policy
Formal authority
Type of examination
Written and oral

Sommario del corso


Course objectives

Recognizing that human, animal and ecosystem health are inextricably linked, the purpose of this course is to provide strategies able to promote, improve, and defend the health and well-being of all species by enhancing cooperation and collaboration between physicians, veterinarians, comparative psychologists, biologists, economists, chemists, environmental scientists and other scientific health professionals in the light of social sustainability.

The objectives of the course are to provide the following competencies:

  1. knowledge on some behavioural repertoire of animal species and human populations, understanding of culturally diverse contexts, and exploration of the best possible solutions for environmental, social, and economic problems
  2. knowledge necessary for the assessment of animal welfare and for the implementation of corrective actions aimed at increasing its levels, taking into consideration both livestock and companion animals, with references also to wild species
  3. ability to understand and manage the relationships within animal social networks, between animal and plant biodiversity, between food-chain and human nutrition, and within ecosystems. Ability to exploit such relationships to valorise local resources as a common good
  4. advanced theoretical and methodological knowledge on state-of-the-art research around the neuroscience of social behaviour
  5. development of a holistic evaluation of complex biological systems
  6. knowledge of: i) indicators of sustainability, such as risk of toxicity for humans, animals and plants in terms of chemical contaminants, and well-being in the workplace; ii) indicators of environmental quality associated with human risk in relationship with microbiological contamination; iii) indicators of microbiota modulation in relation to human exposure and/or health risk; iv) neuro-ethological and hormonal markers of affective states in animal and human social settings
  7. capacity to build a quantitative model that combines standard economic-demographic and climate datasets.

Results of learning outcomes

Doctoral students will acquire the abilities to: 

  1. analyse complex global issues impacting social and natural environments
  2. use scientific methods to design and test strategies to cope with the related problems
  3. collect, build and analyse datasets from different sources and research fields
  4. draw informed conclusions and make informed decisions regarding the planet’s fate
  5. communicate complex issues in a way that is intelligible to diverse audiences, including key stakeholders and politicians.


The course will take place over 80 hours during the academic year and will be based on room lectures, field visits and practical activities. These core activities will be completed with seminars with invited speakers.

The course will focus on the following themes:

  1. animal welfare assessment. The most up-to-date methods for welfare assessment will be presented through the study and practical compilation of dedicated checklists. Links of animal welfare with drugs consumption and resistance, food quality, environmental sustainability, circular economy, and consumer/citizen science will be explored 
  2. behavioural repertoire of human populations, in culturally diverse contexts
  3. relationships within animal Social Networks. Social behaviours are reward-driven, whether their motivating factors are physical rewards or more abstract rewards. Investigating how the brain computes social relationships, social status, and social decisions can offer an ecologically valid and efficient way to understand the social brain and behaviour
  4. structure of complex biological systems: overview of the complex connection among demography, population genetics, and ecosystem dynamics to be considered for the sustainable management of wildlife species
  5. overview on plant biodiversity, ecosystem structure and evolution, food chain and nutrition
  6. overview on environmental, social, and economic problems impacting health and socio-economic development. Strategies to build a safe workplace; diffusion of alcohol and substances of abuse: ethical and legal aspects. Use of local resources to deal with such problems
  7. Indicators of sustainability: i) residues of chemical contaminants (e.g. heavy metals, pesticides, antibiotics), taking into account: sources, effects on environment and humans, tolerable concentrations (according to UE legislation and WHO); ii) microbiological contamination (e.g. antibiotic resistance bacteria, emerging pathogens); iii) environment and human microbiota interaction (e.g early effect biomarkers development for human health risk assessment); iv) neuro-ethological and hormonal markers of affective states in animal and human social settings (e.g. stress, attachment). In particular, studying how the brain computes social information and the contribution of specific hormones (i.e., oxytocin, cortisol), during dynamic and contingent interactions will likely reveal novel insights into the neural mechanisms underlying social behaviour
  8. The effects of climate change on socio-economic indicators. Analysis of the relationship of weather conditions and extreme events with socio-economic indicators, such as natality, fertility, crime rates, etc. Description of the recommended statistics techniques to study these phenomena.

Course delivery

The course will take place over 80 hours distributed throughout the academic year. Members of the PhD board will use a combination of frontal teaching (online and/or in presence), student/teamwork presentations, laboratory/field practicals. These core activities will be complemented by a cycle of “SUSTNET seminars” with invited speakers from partner institutions and collaborators.


Learning assessment methods

At the end of the course, students will carry out an interdisciplinary literature review, prepare and deliver a 40-minute presentation on a topic of their choice, integrating a minimum of two of the themes from the programme.

Suggested readings and bibliography


Scientific papers and books will be recommended during the lectures.

Here is a selection of useful preliminary readings:

Hsiang, S. (2016). Climate Econometrics. Annual Review of Resource Economics, 8:1, 43-75.

Stearns, S.C., Koella, J.C. ( 2021) Evolution in Health and Disease 2nd Edition. Oxford University Press.

Stearns, S.C., Medzhitov, R. (2015). Evolutionary Medicine. Sunderland: Sinauer Associates (Oxford University Press).



ERC sectors:

LS4 - Physiology in Health, Disease and Ageing (LS4_6 Microbiome and host physiology)

LS7 - Prevention, Diagnosis and Treatment of Human Diseases

LS8 - Environmental Biology, Ecology and Evolution

LS9 - Biotechnology and Biosystems Engineering

PE4 - Physical and Analytical Chemical Sciences

PE 10 - Earth System Science

SH3 - The Social World and Its Diversity

Last update: 02/11/2022 10:44
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