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Dr Paul Behrens and Dr Thijs Boskers introduce themselves and their institutes.

Meet the team Instructors Thijs en Paul

Paul Behrens

Paul Behrens (UK) is an Associate Professor in Environmental Science at Leiden University in the Netherlands. He teaches courses in Physics, Energy Science, Alternative Energy Strategies and Sustainability.

His professional background includes studies in physics and astronomy (University of Sheffield, UK), and a PhD in Wind Energy (University of Auckland) – completed in New Zealand, before he stopped flying! He then worked for the Royal Society of New Zealand giving policy advice to Government before moving to Leiden University.

Paul’s research on food, energy and climate change has appeared in leading scientific journals, and he was awarded Leiden University’s Discoverer of the Year (2018). His popular science book, The Best of Times, The Worst of Times: Futures from the Frontiers of Climate Science (Indigo Press, 2020) describes humanity’s current trajectory and possible futures in paired chapters of pessimism and hope. Topics include the economy, energy, land and food. His research and writing has appeared in media outlets such as the BBC (on diets), Thomson Reuters (on energy), and Politico (on climate change). Among other research he has worked on climate action through changing diets, the resource requirements of buildings and their climate emissions, and the impact of climate change on water use in Energy systems.

Paul is at his happiest exploring mountains on his gravel bike and listening to audiobooks.


Thijs Bosker

Thijs Bosker (the Netherlands) is an Associate Professor in Environmental Science at Leiden University in the Netherlands, where he teaches courses in Ecotoxicology, Environmental Science, Marine Biology, Field Methods and Sustainability.

He studied plant science and sustainable agriculture at Wageningen University. Afterwards Thijs worked for an NGO where he focused on reducing pesticide emissions to the environment. In 2005 he moved to Canada to complete a PhD in aquatic toxicology at the University of New Brunswick. He continued as a postdoctoral fellow at the Canadian Rivers Institute and became an Assistant Professor at the University of Connecticut (USA).

His research uses laboratory and field techniques to study impacts of contaminants on ecosystem health. Thijs has worked on a variety of environmental issues, including oil spills, industrial effluents, and plastic pollution. He focuses on a wide range of organisms, from plants to fish, and from invertebrates to whales. He conducted a citizen science project on microplastics on European beaches, did research on microplastics in whales, and published the first ever study on the impact of nano- and microplastics on plants. Thijs is passionate about outreach, and developed a website for teachers that includes instructional material on plastic pollution:

In his free time Thijs loves to spend time outdoors: be it hiking in the Norwegian mountains or windsurfing in the Netherlands.


They both work and teach at the Institute of Environmental Sciences and Leiden University College. Thijs and Paul have worked together on many projects and publications, including a textbook on Food and Sustainability (Oxford University Press), measuring microplastics in the environment, and the environmental impacts of diets.

The Institute of Environmental Sciences at Leiden University

The Institute of Environmental Sciences is an institute of the Faculty of Science of Leiden University. The main area of work is research and education in the multidisciplinary field of environmental sciences. Research is conducted on sustainable management of natural resources, environmental quality and biodiversity in a strategic multidisciplinary manner. Two distinct research programmes are offered: Environmental Biology and Industrial Ecology. Both address the relations between human activities and the physical and natural environment.

Leiden University College

Leiden University College The Hague (LUC) was founded in 2010 as the international Honours College of Leiden University. It offers a unique, innovative Liberal Arts & Sciences undergraduate programme that provides students with great opportunities to create their own learning pathways. The programme begins by introducing the four Global Challenges: Peace and Justice, Sustainability, Prosperity, and Diversity. These themes are covered in an inter-disciplinary way, presenting students with a wide variety of perspectives on current-day issues. From there, they choose one of six Majors to concentrate on in their second year. Their degree is completed by a capstone project in their final year.

Leiden University

Leiden University is one of Europe’s foremost research universities. This prominent position gives graduates a leading edge and prepares them for careers both within and outside of academia. Leiden University is the oldest university in the Netherlands, founded in 1575. Its motto is: Praesidium Libertatis (Bastion of Liberty): Freedom of spirit, thought and expression.

Leiden University has a campus in Leiden and The Hague, with 7 faculties, 47 Bachelor Programmes, 81 Master Programmes and over 34,000 students. Leiden University academic staff have won 16 Nobel prizes.

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The Great Sustainability Transition: Global Challenges, Local Actions

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