Prof. Leo Posthuma is an expert in the field of environmental risks and sustainable development at the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). Since 2016 he is also Professor by special appointment Sustainability and Environmental Risks at Radboud University Nijmegen, Faculty of Science, Department of Environmental Sciences.

Man and environment are closely associated. Ecosystems deliver us a substantial variety and magnitude of services. It is clever to recognize that and utilize those services within the limits posed by the natural systems themselves. A classical and vital approach is to protect the environment, and acknowledge its natural boundaries. We aim to stay away from risks. But sustainable development support paving the way towards which direction to choose. Two sides of the same coin. Choosing a solution-focused paradigm provides the pathway to couple sustainability and risks. The environment can be the pathway for risks, but also offers the management perspectives to counteract them.

Leo Posthuma studied biology at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. In 1987 he graduated cum laude, with specialisations in animal ecology, plant ecology, phytopathology and population genetics, including a first-degree in teaching natural sciences. His study was followed by a six-months assignment as assistant-researcher at the Vrije Universiteit, focusing on long-term effects of mixtures of chemical substances on ecosystems, aiming to answer questions on the occurrence of inheritable tolerance evolution to metal exposures. In his subsequent PhD research, this work was continued at the same university.

Directly after his PhD, Leo Posthuma started working at RIVM, in various units subsequently named Laboratory for Ecotoxicology (ECO), Laboratory for Ecotoxicological Risk Assessment (LER), and the Centre for Sustainability, Environment and Health (DMG). He is concerned with scientific support for decision-making under uncertainty, especially geared towards providing scientific support to recognize and help solving complex (‘wicked’) environmental problems. Keywords are environmental risks, sustainable development, and solution-focused and practical approaches and methodologies. At LER he acted as head of the Department of Soil.

Leo Posthuma acts as expert and project leader in projects on risks and sustainability ranging from local to global scales. His key interest lie in the provision of strategic goals, to provide universally applicable and validated knowledge, data and approaches. But also on application of such knowledge to current problems. His contributions to the latter range from solving problems with slightly contaminated soil, water and sediments up till the design and operationalization of a method for a swift disaster assessment and evaluation approach for the United Nations field teams.

As expert and professor, Leo Posthuma focuses on the transposition of environmental problems into sustainable solutions.

Areas of expertise

  • Soil and water quality
  • Biodiversity
  • Risk assessment
  • Sustainability
  • Ecology