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Cornelis A. M. (Kees) van Gestel is Emeritus Professor of Ecotoxicology of Soil Ecosystems within the Amsterdam Institute for Life and Environment (A-LIFE), section Ecology & Evolution, Faculty of Science of the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam. He studied Environmental Sciences at Wageningen University, and started his career in 1981 as a scientific advisor on pesticide risk assessment at the Dutch National Institute of Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). At RIVM he also started his research in soil ecotoxicology. He obtained his PhD from Utrecht University (1991), and moved to the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam in 1992. He officially retired on 27th October 2022, but is still connected to the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam as emeritus professor.


In soil, the bioavailability of chemicals is highly dependent on their interaction with soil particles and the resulting concentrations in the soil pore water. Organisms may affect their exposure by the way they interact with the soil, with some organisms literally eating themselves through the soil while others just walk on it or feed on leaf litter. In soil, pollution rarely is restricted to single chemicals. And life in soil is dynamic, asking for a dynamic approach when assessing the bioaccumulation and effects of chemicals in soil organisms. Finally, effects on single species may have consequences for the soil community and its role in important ecological processes (ecosystem services) like decomposition and nutrient cycling. My research focuses on aspects like bioavailability, routes of exposure, toxicokinetics and toxicodynamics, and mixture toxicity, but also aims at addressing effects at different levels of biological organization. I am studying metals, pesticides, nanoparticles and microplastics, using earthworms, enchytraeids, springtails, oribatid mites and isopods as the test organisms. I am interested in the application of our results in the risk assessment of new and existing chemicals. In addition, I am interested in using ecotoxicological test methods for the effect-based assessment of (contaminated) soils and other substrates.


Kees van Gestel was teaching biology, ecology and (eco)toxicology at the Vrije Universiteit, and PhD courses on ecotoxicology and chemical risk assessment at the national and international level. He has been supervising over 40 PhD students and many more undergraduate students. He is winner of the SETAC Europe/Noack-Laboratorien Environmental Education Award 2015.

Ancillary activities

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Ancillary activities

  • Chair of the SETAC Europe Certified Risk Assessor programme

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land

Academic qualification

Ecotoxicology, PhD, Earthworms in Ecotoxicology, Universiteit Utrecht

Award Date: 12 Jun 1991

Environmental Sciences, Master, Wageningen University

Award Date: 23 Jan 1981

User created Keywords

  • ecotoxicology
  • mixture toxicity
  • toxicokinetics
  • bioavailability


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