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Biological Sciences Profiles

Peter van den Hurk

Associate Professor
Environmental Toxicology Graduate Program Coordinator
Biological Sciences Department

Office: 237 Long Hall
Phone: 864-656-3594
Vita: Download CV


 Educational Background

Ph.D. Marine science
College of William & Mary 1998

M.S. Zoology/Marine Biology
University of Amsterdam 1988

B.S. Geology
State University Groningen 1983

B.S. Biology
State University Groningen 1983

 Courses Taught

ETOX 4300/6300, Principles of Toxicology
ETOX 4370/6370, Fundamentals of Ecotoxicology
ETOX 8310/8311, Biomarkers in Environmental Toxicology
ETOX 8610, Seminar series
ETOX 8630, Critical Literature review
BIOL 2000, Biology in the News
BIOL 4910, Undergraduate Research Experience
BIOL 4930, Senior Seminar
ETOX 8600, Graduate Seminar in Environmental Toxicology
BIOL 2110, Introduction to Toxicology
BIOL 4940/4941, Creative Inquiry; Pharmaco-toxicology of wildlife species


Dr. Peter van den Hurk is currently Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Clemson University, and serves as Program Coordinator for the interdepartmental Graduate Program in Environmental Toxicology. After earning his MS degree in Zoology/Marine Biology at the University of Amsterdam, he worked for 7 years for several environmental consultants companies in the Netherlands, and was mostly involved with projects investigating the environmental toxicity of contaminated marine sediments on native benthic species, through the development and evaluation of sediment toxicity bioassays. The techniques he introduced in the Netherlands are still being used by national and regional water quality management organizations, and were incorporated in assessment strategies like the Sediment Quality Triad. In 1994 he started his dissertation project on the interactive effects of benzo[a]pyrene and cadmium in a model fish species (Fundulus heteroclitus) at the School of Marine Science of the College of William and Mary, VA. Interactive effects were investigated at whole animal level, in isolated primary hepatocyte cultures and at subcellular biochemical level by measuring the formation of BaP metabolites under different cadmium concentrations. He also investigated if reactive BaP metabolites might interfere with the cadmium detoxification capability of metallothioneins. During his post-doctoral research period at the College of Pharmacy, University of Florida, he kept working on BaP metabolism as model for detoxification pathways. For this project he was interested to investigate the effects that hydroxylated polychlorinated biphenyl compounds (PCBs) have on the conjugation of BaP metabolites by phase 2 enzymes. Working as an environmental toxicologist in a pharmaceutical research environment was a very enriching experience and provided another perspective on looking at the broader field of toxicology. During his tenure as faculty member at Clemson University, he kept working on the toxicology of environmental pollutants, and especially on the detoxification pathways that different organisms have to deal with these pollutants. He conducted a variety of CYP1A induction studies and bile fluorescence analyses as biomarkers for PAH exposure and effects, both in field collected animals from polluted rivers in the upstate of South Carolina, and in controlled lab experiments. In addition, there is strong interest in the fate of endocrine disrupting compounds in aquatic organisms. The main focus is to investigate species differences in biotransformation pathways, especially phase 2 enzymes, and to explain those differences as a reflection of evolutionary history. Because phase 1 and phase 2 enzymes are often used as biomarkers in field exposed animals, a wide spectrum of biomarker studies was performed by a variety of undergraduate and graduate students in his lab. Dr. van den Hurk is an active reviewer for leading toxicological journals, is involved in NSF grant proposal reviews and is Associate Member of the Graduate Faculty of the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC. Latest research projects involve the potential effects of estrogenic compounds on the formation of gall stones in humans, and the underlying mechanisms of acetaminophen toxicity in snakes and other reptilians. A Creative Inquiry project investigates if the invasive lionfish (Pterois volitans) can be used as a biomonitoring species for the effects of oil pollution events.

 Research Interests

My research interest can be summarized as a basic curiosity to find out how animals, including humans, deal with environmental contaminants and endogenous waste materials. Animals have developed mechanisms to deal with unwanted compounds in their internal environment. Even before the human population explosion and the industrial revolution caused significant environmental pollution, animals were exposed to harmful "natural" compounds in their environment and diet, and detoxification pathways have evolved to neutralize and excrete these compounds. I am very interested in the mechanisms of these detoxification pathways in different species, and how they have evolved. Measurements of enzymes and their metabolic products in detoxification pathways can be used as biomarkers for exposure to and effects of toxicants. One major route of excretion is through bile, and therefore a major part of our research focuses on processes in the liver that are involved in bile production and excretion of biotransformation products through bile.


Van den Hurk P, Kerkkamp HMI. (2019) Phylogenetic origins for severe acetaminophen toxicity in snake species compared to other vertebrate taxa. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, Part C, 215:18-24. doi:10.1016/j.cbpc.2018.09.003

Linard EN, Apul OG, Karanfil T, Van den Hurk P. (2017) Bioavailability of carbon nanomaterial-adsorbed polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons to P. promelas: influence of adsorbate molecular size and configuration. Environmental Science and Technology. 51:9288-9296 doi: 10.1021/acs.est.7b02164

Van den Hurk P, Gerzel L, Calomiris P, Haney DC. (2017) Phylogenetic signals in detoxification pathways in Cyprinid and Centrarchid species in relation to sensitivity to environmental pollutants. Aquatic Toxicology 118:20-25 doi: 10.1016/j.aquatox.2017.04.004

Van den Hurk P, Haney DC (2017) Biochemical effects of pollutant exposure in fish species from urban creeks in Greenville, SC. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 189(5): 211-226 doi: 10.1007/s10661-017-5918-2

Au SY, Lee CM, Weinstein JE, van den Hurk P, Klaine SJ (2017) Trophic transfer of microplastics in aquatic ecosystems: Identifying critical research needs. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management 13(3):505-509 doi: 10.1002/ieam.1907

Bisesi JH Jr, Sweet LE, van den Hurk P, Klaine SJ. (2016) Effects of an antidepressant mixture on the brain serotonin and predation behavior of hybrid striped bass. Environ Toxicol Chem 35(4):938-45

Linard EN, Van den Hurk P, Karanfil T, Apul OG, Klaine SJ (2015) Influence of carbon nanotubes on the bioavailability of fluoranthene. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 34(3): 658-666.

Marko PB, Nance HA, van den Hurk P (2014) Seafood Substitutions Obscure Patterns of Mercury Contamination in Patagonian Toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides) or “Chilean Sea Bass”. PLoS ONE 9(8):e104140. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0104140

Mierzejewski J, Haney DC, Van den Hurk P. (2014) Biomarker Responses in Sunfish and Bass from the Saluda River, SC. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety 110: 8-15.

Mwaanga P, Carraway, ER, Van den Hurk P. (2014). The Induction of Biochemical Changes in Daphnia magna by CuO and ZnO Nanoparticles. Aquatic Toxicology 150: 201-209

McNaughton, A, E. Baldwin, A. Jeffers, P. van den Hurk, and D.C. Haney (2012). The effects of legacy and current land use on stream biota in the Piedmont region near Greenville, South Carolina. Southeastern Biology, 59(3), p. 53.

Van den Hurk, P., Mierzejewski, J., Gerzel, L., Haney, D.C. (2012). Fish health in the Reedy-Saluda watershed, as measured through biochemical markers. Proceedings of the 2012 South Carolina Water Resources Conference. SCWRC, Clemson, SC. USA.

Otter, R.R., Schreiber, E.A., van den Hurk, P., Klaine, S.J. (2012). Assessment of heavy metal and PAH exposure in largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) in the Reedy River watershed, South Carolina, USA: a multi-season assessment of metallothionein and bile fluorescence. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 31(12):2763-70

Truman, P.A., Van den Hurk, P. (2010). A biomarker approach examining xenoestrogen exposure in bluegill in the Reedy River watershed, SC, USA. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 58(1):165-75

Schlenk D, Celander M, Gallagher E, George S, James M, Kullman S, Van den Hurk P, Willett K. (2008). Biotransformation in Fishes. In: Toxicology of fishes. D. Hinton, R. DiGiulio (eds). CRC Press, Boca Raton, Fl. pp 153-234