Nandini Raman

Nandini Raman MSc

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Visiting Address

Droevendaalsesteeg 10
6708 PB Wageningen

+31 (0) 317 47 34 00

The Netherlands



I believe good water quality for both humans and aquatic ecosystems is a necessity. I am currently exploring the subtle effects of therapeutic drugs on aquatic organisms to aid seeing beyond standard toxicity parameters and achieve good water quality for aquatic organisms.


 Nandini Raman took up an internship as Master student in India monitoring water quality of a densely populated city- Bangalore Urban, India. Her keen interest in the broader umbrella of water quality motivated to pursue an Erasmus Joint Master program in Groundwater and Global change jointly from  UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education, Delft, The Netherlands; Technische Universität Dresden, Germany & Instituto Superior Técnico- Lisbon, Portugal. This program along with her internship at the Institute of Groundwater Ecology (IGOE)- Helmholtz Zentrum München, Germany  channelized  Nandini's  interest towards emerging contaminants: their role in water quality & effects on aquatic organisms.  

In her current position as a PhD student at AKWA, Nandini explores the sub-lethal effects of major group of micropollutants i.e. therapeutic drugs and their role in aquatic ecosystem functioning. Along with the subtle and sub-lethal effects of micropollutants, she is also intrigued by the global discrepancy  in monitoring different groups of micropollutants and the possibilities of using citizen science as tool to monitor these group of contaminants.



PhD Student (INFODISRUPT: Sublethal Effects of Pharmaceuticals on Aquatic Food Web Functioning)


  • 2016–2018
    Erasmus Joint Master Degree:Groundwater & Global Change jointly from UNESCO-IHE, Delft, The Netherlands; Technische Universität Dresden, Germany; & Instituto Superior Técnico, Lisbon
  • 2018
    Guest Student at Institute of Groundwater Ecology, HelmholtzZentrum München, Germany
  • 2013
    Internship monitoring water quality of Bangalore Urban, India with Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore
  • 2011–2013
    Master of Science (Biotechnology)
  • 2008–2011
    Bachelor of Science (Chemistry, Zoology, Biotechnology)


Peer-reviewed publications

  • Environmental Science and Pollution Research

    Understanding the differential impacts of two antidepressants on locomotion of freshwater snails (Lymnaea stagnalis)

    Nandini Raman, Asmita Dubey, Ellen Van Donk, Eric von Elert, Miquel Lürling, Tania Vasconcelos Fernandes, Lisette de Senerpont Domis
    There is growing evidence of negative impacts of antidepressants on behavior of aquatic non-target organisms. Accurate environmental risk assessment requires an understanding of whether antidepressants with similar modes of action have consistent negative impacts. Here, we tested the effect of acute exposure to two antidepressants, fluoxetine and venlafaxine (0–50 µg/L), on the behavior of non-target organism, i.e., freshwater pond snail, Lymnaea stagnalis. As compounds interact with chemical cues in the aquatic ecosystems, we also tested whether the effects altered in the presence of bile extract containing 5α-cyprinol sulfate (5α-CPS), a characterized kairomone of a natural predator, common carp (Cyprinus carpio). Behavior was studied using automated tracking and analysis of various locomotion parameters of L. stagnalis. Our results suggest that there are differences in the effects on locomotion upon exposure to venlafaxine and fluoxetine. We found strong evidence for a non-monotonic dose response on venlafaxine exposure, whereas fluoxetine only showed weak evidence of altered locomotion for a specific concentration. Combined exposure to compounds and 5α-CPS reduced the intensity of effects observed in the absence of 5α-CPS, possibly due to reduced bioavailability of the compounds. The results highlight the need for acknowledging different mechanisms of action among antidepressants while investigating their environmental risks. In addition, our results underline the importance of reporting non-significant effects and acknowledging individual variation in behavior for environmental risk assessment.
  • Science of the Total Environment

    Monitoring contaminants of emerging concern in aquatic systems through the lens of citizen science

    Nandini Raman, Asmita Dubey, Edward Millar, Veronica Nava, Barbara Leoni, Irene Gallego
    Global urbanization trends have led to the widespread increasing occurrence of contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) such as pharmaceuticals, personal care products, pesticides, and micro- and nano-plastics in aquatic systems. Even at low concentrations, these contaminants pose a threat to aquatic ecosystems. To better understand the effects of CECs on aquatic ecosystems, it is important to measure concentrations of these contaminants present in these systems. Currently, there is an imbalance in CEC monitoring, with more attention to some categories of CECs, and a lack of data about environmental concentrations of other types of CECs. Citizen science is a potential tool for improving CEC monitoring and to establish their environmental concentrations. However, incorporating citizen participation in the monitoring of CECs poses some challenges and questions. In this literature review, we explore the landscape of citizen science and community science projects which monitor different groups of CECs in freshwater and marine ecosystems. We also identify the benefits and drawbacks of using citizen science to monitor CECs to provide recommendations for sampling and analytical methods. Our results highlight an existing disparity in frequency of monitoring different groups of CECs with implementing citizen science. Specifically, volunteer participation in microplastic monitoring programs is higher than volunteer participation in pharmaceutical, pesticide, and personal care product programs. These differences, however, do not necessarily imply that fewer sampling and analytical methods are available. Finally, our proposed roadmap provides guidance on which methods can be used to improve monitoring of all groups of CECs through citizen science.
  • Aquatic Toxicology

    Moving beyond standard toxicological metrics: the effect of diclofenac on planktonic host-parasite interactions

    Nandini Raman, Alena Gsell, Themistoklis Voulgarellis, Nico W. van den Brink, Lisette de Senerpont Domis
    Pharmaceuticals are increasingly released into surface waters and therefore ubiquitous in aquatic systems. While pharmaceuticals are known to influence species interactions, their effect on host-parasite interactions is still underexplored despite potential ecosystem-level consequences. Here, we ask whether diclofenac, a widely used non-steroid anti-inflammatory drug, affects the interaction between a phytoplankton host (Staurastrum sp.; green alga) and its obligate fungal parasite (Staurastromyces oculus; chytrid fungus). We hypothesized that the effect of increasing diclofenac concentration on the host-parasite system depends on parasite exposure. We assessed acute and chronic effects of a wide range of diclofenac concentrations (0–150 mg/L) on host and parasite performance using a replicated long gradient design in batch cultures. Overall system response summarizing parameters related to all biotic components in an experimental unit i.e., number of bacteria and phytoplankton host cells along with photosynthetic yield (a measure of algal cell fitness), depended on diclofenac concentration and presence/absence of parasite. While host standing biomass decreased at diclofenac concentrations >10 mg/L in non-parasite-exposed treatments, it increased at ≥10 mg/L in parasite-exposed treatments since losses due to infection declined. During acute phase (0–48 h), diclofenac concentrations <0.1 mg/L had no effect on host net-production neither in parasite-exposed nor non-parasite-exposed treatments, but parasite infection ceased at 10 mg/L. During chronic phase (0–216 h), host net-production declined only at concentrations >10 mg/L in non-parasite-exposed cultures, while it was overall close to zero in parasite-exposed cultures. Our results suggest that chytrid parasites are more sensitive to diclofenac than their host, allowing a window of opportunity for growth of phytoplankton hosts, despite exposure to a parasite. Our work provides a first understanding about effects of a pharmaceutical on a host-parasite interaction beyond those defined by standard toxicological metrics.
  • Water Research

    Making waves: Lessons learned from the COVID-19 anthropause in the Netherlands on urban aquatic ecosystem services provisioning and management

    Maggie Armstrong, Hazal Aksu Bahçeci, Ellen Van Donk, Asmita Dubey, Thijs Frenken, Berte Mekonen Belay, Alena Gsell, Tom S. Heuts, Lilith Kramer, Miquel Lürling, Maarten Ouboter, Laura Seelen, Sven Teurlincx, Nandini Raman, Qing Zhan, Lisette de Senerpont Domis


    As human mobility decreased in 2020, the interaction between humans and nature changed significantly. On one hand, water clarity improved in the Amsterdam canals because boat traffic was reduced. On the other hand increased use of fishing water and national parks formed potential threats to the aquatic ecosystems. It is important to use these experiences to foster a more eco-centric mindset, building up to handling handling climate change and future pandemics.


    The anomalous past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic have been a test of human response to global crisis management as typical human activities were significantly altered. The COVID-instigated anthropause has illustrated the influence that humans and the biosphere have on each other, especially given the variety of national mobility interventions that have been implemented globally. These local COVID-19-era restrictions influenced human-ecosystem interactions through changes in accessibility of water systems and changes in ecosystem service demand. Four urban aquatic case studies in the Netherlands demonstrated shifts in human demand during the anthropause. For instance, reduced boat traffic in Amsterdam canals led to improved water clarity. In comparison, ongoing service exploitation from increased recreational fishing, use of bathing waters and national parks visitation are heightening concerns about potential ecosystem degradation. We distilled management lessons from both the case studies as well as from recent literature pertaining to ecological intactness and social relevance. Equally important to the lessons themselves, however, is the pace at which informed management practices are established after the pandemic ends, particularly as many communities currently recognize the importance of aquatic ecosystems and are amenable to their protection.
  • Science of the Total Environment

    Towards climate-robust water quality management: Testing the efficacy of different eutrophication control measures during a heatwave in an urban canal

    Qing Zhan, Sven Teurlincx, Frank van Herpen, Nandini Raman, Miquel Lürling, Guido W. A. M. Waajen, Lisette de Senerpont Domis
    Harmful algal blooms are symptomatic of eutrophication and lead to deterioration of water quality and ecosystem services. Extreme climatic events could enhance eutrophication resulting in more severe nuisance algal blooms, while they also may hamper current restoration efforts aimed to reduce nutrient loads. Evaluation of restoration measures on their efficacy under climate change is essential for effective water management. We conducted a two-month mesocosm experiment in a hypertrophic urban canal focussing on the reduction of sediment phosphorus (P)-release. We tested the efficacy of four interventions, measuring phytoplankton biomass, nutrients in water and sediment. The measures included sediment dredging, water column aeration and application of P-sorbents (lanthanum-modified bentonite - Phoslock® and iron-lime sludge, a by-product from drinking water production). An extreme heatwave (with the highest daily maximum air temperature up to 40.7 °C) was recorded in the middle of our experiment. This extreme heatwave was used for the evaluation of heatwave-induced impacts. Dredging and lanthanum modified bentonite exhibited the largest efficacy in reducing phytoplankton and cyanobacteria biomass and improving water clarity, followed by iron-lime sludge, whereas aeration did not show an effect. The heatwave negatively impacted all four measures, with increased nutrient releases and consequently increased phytoplankton biomass and decreased water clarity compared to the pre-heatwave phase. We propose a conceptual model suggesting that the heatwave locks nutrients within the biological P loop, which is the exchange between labile P and organic P, while the P fraction in the chemical P loop will be decreased. As a consequence, the efficacy of chemical agents targeting P-reduction by chemical binding will be hampered by heatwaves. Our study indicates that current restoration measures might be challenged in a future with more frequent and intense heatwaves.

Projects & collaborations


  • Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network-GLEON projects

    Project 2011–Present
    At the AKWA group we are involved in numerous GLEON projects
  • Sublethal Effects of Pharmaceuticals on Aquatic Food Web Functioning (Infodisrupt)

    Project 2019–2023
    Pharmaceuticals are therapeutic agents contaminating aquatic systems and hence included in the Water Framework Directive’s watch list of Contaminants of Emerging Concern. High global consumption of pharmaceuticals has led to their increased occurrence in aquatic systems. As they are designed to be therapeutically active at ng/L to μg/L concentrations, pharmaceuticals can affect non-target organisms in aquatic system exhibiting sub-lethal effects. Sub-lethal effects caused by pharmaceuticals can be direct when there are similarities in the mode of action. Indirect effects triggered by pharmaceuticals can be density-mediated and/or trait-mediated including the once caused by the disruption and/or mimicking of infochemicals involved in chemical communication between organisms.
    In this project, we explore the sub-lethal effects of pharmaceuticals on aquatic food web functioning. Firstly, by understanding the impact of sub-lethal concentrations of pharmaceuticals on trophic interactions. Secondly, we assess the significance of these sub-lethal effects on aquatic food web functioning. Therapeutic drugs with high global occurrence, environmental relevance and persistence are used for all the experiments. The observations and findings of this project will inform the water managers about the significance of considering the sub-lethal effects of environmental concentrations of pharmaceuticals on aquatic ecosystems while determining their environmental risk limits.