Professor Richard Handy

Professor Richard Handy


School of Biological & Marine Sciences (Faculty of Science & Engineering)


Professor of Environmental Toxicology,
Director of the Ecotoxicology Research and Innovation Centre


Academic Qualifications
BSc. (Hons) Biological Sciences (University of Birmingham)
Ph.D University of Dundee.
Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
Fellow of the Society of Biology

Professional membership

Learned Societies

Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC)
President of UK branch 2001-2003 & Council member. President UK branch, 2006-7. Past-president and council member 2007-8. Current council member.

Society for Experimental Biology (SEB)
Animal Section Committee member and session organiser for the SEB.
Secretary of the Animal Section 2005-2008.

In vitro Toxicology Society.
Fisheries Society of the British Isles

Roles on external bodies

Professor Handy has served on many international working groups and scientific committees; most recently on nanomaterials for the OECD, US NNI, and founder member of the UK Nanotechnology task force working on aspects of ecotoxicology. He also advises on animal welfare and alternative techniques, and is expert on whole animal biology. 

Teaching interests

All areas of comparative and clinical physiology, clinical and environmental toxicology. Types of modules include:-

Comparative Animal Physiology (Stages 1-3)
Toxicology and body systems physiology (Stage 1-3)
Physiology & Pathophysiology (Stage 2) 
Ecotoxicology (Stage 3)
Regulatory Toxicology and Clinical Trials (Stage 3)
Fish Toxicology (Masters level modules)

Staff serving as external examiners

Professor Handy is an experienced examiner, and for example, he has examined PhDs from countries around the world, in addition to the UK.

Research interests

LAST UP DATED 22nd August 2012

Our current research activities are focused on the following topics:

1. The eco/toxicity of nanomaterials

Nanotechnology is defined as using materials and structures with nanoscale dimensions, usually in the range 1-100 nm, although for toxicological applications we also consider larger aggregates of nanomaterials (reviews Handy and Shaw, 2007; Handy et al., 2008a; Klaine et al., 2008). Our laboratory was the first to give detailed reports of the body systems effects and organ pathologies from nanomaterial exposures in fish (Smith et al., 2007; Federici et al., 2007), and we work with a range of materials includes carbon nanotubes, fullerenes, and a range of metal nanoparticles (e.g., titanium, copper, silver, iron). Our current work includes a NERC funded project investigating the effects of nanomaterials on the brain of fishes, several projects looking at histopathology in different organs (invertebrates, fish, mammals). We also have a special interest in the uptake mechanisms of nanomaterials across the gut (fish and rodents). Our work includes very applied aspects such as developing methods for the hazard assessment of nanomaterials (Crane et al., 2008; Handy et al., 2012a,b) and the bioavailability of metal nanoparticles (review, Shaw and Handy, 2011). Our clinical work includes research into the mechanisms of intestinal absorption and ingestion hazard from nanomaterials, and also the uses of nanomaterials in dentistry. These activities are part of a strategic plan for nanoscience research at the University of Plymouth, and the broader strategy for Environment and Human Health with collaborating institutions in the region and internationally. Our researchers are therefore at the forefront of this relatively new and exciting area.

2. Dietary exposure to metals and other contaminants.

This is a long standing theme of our research, and our philosophy is to understand the mechanisms of how toxic metals cross the gut epithelium of vertebrate animals (fish, rats, humans). We have produced several important reviews on metal uptake and toxicity in the gut of fish (Handy, 1996; Handy, 2005a;b), and more recently on nano metals (above). Our approach includes in vivo investigations of whole animal physiology to understand the integrated responses of animals to dietary exposure. We have used fish models to detail everything from biochemistry and organ pathologies to animal behaviour. These include the first reports detailing the disruption of biological rhythms and aggressive behaviours in trout exposed to excess dietary Cu (Campbell et al., 2002; 2005) and the underlying neuropathology and endocrine disruption causing these effects (Handy, 1992). We have also investigated adverse effects of copper or mercury on nutritional performance, osmoregulation and oxidative stress in vivo, and in a range of freshwater fish (trout, nile tilapia, and African walking catfish, e.g. Handy and Shaw 2006; Hoyle et al., 2007).  Fish are becoming increasingly important models in toxicology, and this work also includes studies on the genes involved in metal uptake. Our work has enabled quantitative risk calculations in relation to food safety and dietary exposure of humans to contaminated fish, as well as the risks to the fish themselves from contaminated aquafeeds (e.g. Hoyle et al., 2007; Glover et al., 2007). We have also explored life style effects (chronic high fat and high protein diets) on the immunotoxicity of pesticides, and in a rodent model, show that these life style factors can make pesticide pathologies much worse (Handy et al., 2002a).


3. Alternative Techniques: Perfused Organ Systems

We also recognise the ethical concerns about whole animal physiology and toxicology, and the needs for reduction, refinement and replacement (the 3Rs). Our laboratory has long standing expertise in the use of organ perfusion systems for metal research. We have pioneered improvements to the perfused gill preparation (Campbell et al., 1999), and used the perfused intestine to give the first detailed pharmacological description of Cu uptake in the intestine (Handy et al., 2000b; 2002). We have also described how the vertebrate intestinal cells absorb mercury (Hoyle et al., 2005). We have also used the perfused rat heart to understand novel mechanisms of carbon monoxide toxicity (Patel et al., 2004) and the regulation of magnesium in the heart (Ödblom and Handy., 1999). Our laboratory has a range of other perfused organ and cell culture methods for fish and mammalian cells. Professor Handy has cultured gill, intestine, liver, and spleen cells from fish, and similar cells from rodents, and cardiac myocytes.


4. Body systems toxicology

Our approach of understanding mechanisms inevitably also has a body system focus. We therefore have looked at some systems in great detail including;

  • Immunotoxicity of metals and pesticides (invertebrates, fish, rodents).
  • Gastro-intestinal physiology and pathology of metals (fish, rats, humans)
  • Cardiotoxicity of metals, and more recently, nanomaterials (rats, fish).

These include in vivo and in vitro experiments using the tools and techniques outlined above. These studies are supported mainly by PhD Studentships. All of the above work includes some detailed oxidative stress chemistry in these organ systems, and this is a core theme in the wider research group. Professor Handy also has a special interest in histological techniques.


5. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBO therapy)

This work reflects our interest in physiological mechanisms, and has a particular focus on finding out the details of why HBO therapy is beneficial to a wide range of patients. We have shown the therapy to be safe and effective with patients receiving multiple HBO treatments (Handy et al., 2005c). We have also used in vitro models to explore the mechanism involved and potential cellular basis of concerns such as oxygen toxicity (e.g., Yuan et al., 2009). Our biochemical evidence does not support overt oxidative stress during HBO therapy in real patients (Shaw et al., 2005). Our most recent work, supported by the diving diseases research centre (DDRC, and the University of Plymouth has explored oxygen effects on angiogenesis and the integrity of DNA in endothelial cells (e.g., Yuan et al., 2011).

Other research

Consultancy via the University of Plymouth
Professor Handy is an expert on the technical details of hazard assessment, and on risk assessment for the environment. He has had consultancy work in this area from government departments, the EU commission and chemical companies.

Prof. Handy has broad interests in comparative aspects of toxicology and the interface between biology and medicine. He is a member of the anaesthesiology research group at the Penninsula Medical School, and is keen to collaborate actively on clinical topics.

Recent Publications: Last Updated 22nd August 2012.

1.       Eddy, F. B. and Handy, R. D. (2012) Ecological and Environmental Physiology of Fishes. Oxford University Press. For more details of this text book see

2.       Griffin, R., Pearce, B. and Handy, R. D. (2012) Dietary preference and feeding selectivity of common dragonet Callionymus lyra in U.K. Journal of Fish Biology, in press.

3.       Kadar, E., Dyson, O.,  Al-Subiai, S.N. & Handy, R. D., (2012) Are reproduction impairments of free spawning marine invertebrates exposed to zero-valent nano-iron associated with dissolution of nanoparticles? Nanotoxicology, DOI: 10.3109/17435390.2011.647927

4.       Handy, R. D. (2012) FSBI Briefing paper: Nanotechnology in Fisheries and Aquaculture. Fisheries Society of the British Isles, Available at:

5.       Shaw, B. J., Al-Bairuty, G. and Handy, R. D. (2012) Effects of waterborne copper nanoparticles and copper sulphate on rainbow trout, (Oncorhynchus mykiss): Physiology and accumulation. Aquatic Toxicology, 116-117, 90-101.

6.       Van der Ploeg, M. J. C., Handy, R. D., Heckmann, L-H., Van der Hout, A., Van den Brink, N. W. (2012) C60 exposure induced tissue damage and gene expression alterations in the earthworm Lumbricus rubellus. Nanotoxicology, in press.

7.       Kirsten M. Windeatt, K. M. and Handy, R. D. (2012) Effect of nanomaterials on the compound action potential of the Shore Crab, Carcinus maenas. Nanotoxicology, In press.

8.       Handy, R. D., van den Brink, N., Chappell, M., Mühling, M., Behra, R., Dušinská, M., Simpson, P., Ahtiainen, J., Jha, A. N., Seiter, J., Bednar, A., Kennedy, A., Fernandes, T. F. and Riediker, M. (2012) Practical considerations for conducting ecotoxicity test methods with manufactured nanomaterials: What have we learnt so far? Ecotoxicology, 21, 933-72.

9.       Klaine,S. J., Koelmans, A. A., Horne, N., Carley, S., Handy, R. D., Kapustka, L., Nowack, B. and von der Kammer, F. (2012) Paradigms to assess the environmental impact of manufactured nanomaterials. Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry, 31, 3-14.

10.    Handy, R. D.,Cornelis, G., Fernandes, T., Tsyusko, O., Decho, A., Sabo-Attwood, T., Metcalfe, C., Steevens, J. A., Klaine, S. J., Koelmans, A. A. and Horne, N. (2012) Ecotoxicity test methods for engineered nanomaterials: practical experiences and recommendations from the bench. Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry, 31, 15-31.

11.    Handy, R. D., Al-Bairuty, G., Al-Jubory, A., Ramsden, C. S., Boyle D., Shaw, B. J. and Henry, T. B. (2011) Effects of manufactured nanomaterials on fishes: A target organ and body systems physiology approach. Journal of Fish Biology,79, 821–853.

12.    Shaw, B. J. and Handy, R. D. (2011) Physiological effects of nanoparticles on fish: A comparison of nanometals versus metal ions. Environment International, 37,1083–1097.

13.    Newman, S. P., Handy, R. D. and Gruber, S. H. (2011) Ontogenetic diet shifts and prey selection in nursery bound lemon sharks, Negaprion brevirostris, indicate a flexible foraging tactic. Environmental Biology of Fishes, in press.

14.    Pettitt-Wade, H., Newman, S. P., Parsons, K. T., Gruber, S. H. and Handy, R. D. (2011) Dietary metal and macro-nutrient intakes of juvenile lemon sharks determined from the nutritional composition of prey items. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 433: 245–260.

15.    Yuan J., Handy, R. D., Moody, A. J., Smerdon, G., Bryson, P. (2011) Limited DNA damage in human endothelial cells after hyperbaric oxygen treatment and protection from subsequent hydrogen peroxide exposure. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 1810, 526–531.

16.    Velasco-Santamaría, Y. M., Handy, R. D., and Sloman, K. A. (2011) Endosulfan affects health variables in adult zebrafish (Danio rerio) and induces alterations in larvae development. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, Part C, 153, 372–380.

17.    Fraser, T. W. K., Reinardy, H. C., Shaw, B. J., Henry, T. B., Handy, R. D. (2010) Dietary toxicity of single-walled carbon nanotubes and fullerenes (C60) in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). Nanotoxicology, 5 (1), 98-108.

18.    Zheng, D. Kille, P., Feeney, G. P., Cunningham, P., Handy, R. D. and Hogstrand, C. (2010) Dynamic transcriptomic profiles of zebrafish gills in response to zinc supplementation. BMC Genomics, 11:553.

19.    Zheng, D. Kille, P., Feeney, G. P., Cunningham, P., Handy, R. D. and Hogstrand, C. (2010) Dynamic transcriptomic profiles of zebrafish gills in response to zinc depletion. BMC Genomics, 11:548.

20.    Bouskill, N. J., Barker-Finkel, J., Galloway, T. S., Handy, R. D. and Ford T. E. (2010) Temporal bacterial diversity associated with metal-contaminated river sediments. Ecotoxicology, 19, 317-28.

21.    Sheir, S. K., Handy, R. D. and Galloway, T. S. (2010) Tissue injury and cellular immune responses to mercuric chloride exposure in the common mussel Mytilus edulis: Modulation by lipopolysaccharide. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 73,1338–1344.

22.    Sheir, S. K. and Handy, R. D. (2010) Tissue injury and cellular immune responses to cadmium chloride exposure in the common mussel Mytilus edulis: Modulation by lipopolysaccharide. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, 59(4)602-613.

23.    Berntssen, M.H.G., Tollefsen, K-E., Handy, R. D., Julshamn, K., Aasen K., Helland, E., Petri, D. (2010) Assessing sensitivity of Atlantic salmon post-smolt to dietary endosulfan using histology and markers of endocrine disruption, oxidative stress, and biotransformation. Aquaculture 303, 86–93.

24.    Newman, S. P., Handy, R. D. and Gruber, S. H. (2010) Diet and prey preference of juvenile lemon sharks, Negaprion brevirostris. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 398, 221–234.

25.    Stone, V., Nowack, B., Baun, A., van den Brink, N., von der Kammer, F., Dusinska, M., Handy, R., Hankin, S., Hassellöv, M., Joner, E., Fernandes, T. F. (2010) Nanomaterials for environmental studies: Classification, reference material issues, and strategies for physico-chemical characterisation. Science of the Total Environment, 408, 1745-1754.

26.    Handy, R. D., Maycock, D. and Jha, A. N. (2009) An Evaluation of the UK Skills Base for Toxicologists and Ecotoxicologists, with Focus on Current and Future Requirements, Particularly with Regard to the Skills Required for the Hazard Assessment of Chemical Substances including Nanomaterials. Peer reviewed report to Defra. Available at:

27.    Reeve. A., Handy, R. D. and Gruber, S. H. (2009) Prey selection and functional response of juvenile lemon sharks Negaprion brevirostris. Journal of Fish Biology 75, 276–281.

28.    Bury, N. C. and Handy, R. D. (2010) Copper and iron uptake in teleost fish. In: Surface Chemistry, Bioavailability and Metal Homeostasis in Aquatic Organisms: An integrated approach. (Editors: N. Bury and R. D. Handy). Essential Reviews in Experimental Biology, vol. 2, Society for Experimental Biology Press, London, p. 107-127.

29.    Mühling, M., Bradford, A., Readman, J. W., Somerfield, P. J. and Handy, R. D. (2009) An investigation into the effects of silver nanoparticles on antibiotic resistance of naturally occurring bacteria in an estuarine sediment. Marine Environmental Research, 68(5):278-83.

30.    Ramsden, C. S., Smith, T. J., Shaw, B. J., and Handy, R. D. (2009) Dietary exposure to titanium dioxide nanoparticles in rainbow trout, (Oncorhynchus mykiss): No effect on growth, but subtle biochemical disturbances in the brain. Ecotoxicology: 18, 939-951.

31.    Yuan J., Handy, R.D., Moody, A.J., Bryson, P. (2009) Response of blood vessels in vitro to hyperbaric oxygen (HBO): Modulation of VEGF and NOx release by external lactate or arginine. Biochem Biophys Acta-Bioenergetics,1787 (2009) 828–834. (Special issue on Radical Species, Mitochondria, and Cardiac Function, Tota, B., Handy, R. D., and Cerra, M. C. eds.).

32.    Handy, R. D. and Maunder, R. J. (2009) The biological roles of mucus: Importance for osmoregulation and osmoregulatory disorders of fish health. In: Osmoregulation and Ion Transport: Integrating Physiological, Molecular and Environmental Aspects (Editors: R. D. Handy, N. Bury and G. Flik). Essential Reviews in Experimental Biology, Vol 1, Society for Experimental Biology Press, London, 203-235.

33.    Rocks, S. A., Pollard, S. J., Dorey, R. A., Harrison P. T. C., Levy, L. S., Handy, R. D., Garrod, J. F. and Owen, R. (2009) Risk Assessment of Manufactured Nanomaterials. In: Environmental and Human Health Impacts of Nanotechnology (J. R. Lead and E. Smith, editors), Blackwell Publishing, Ltd pp. 389-421.

34.    Bradford, A., Handy, R. D., Readman, J. W., Atfield, A. and Muhling, M. (2009) Impact of silver nanoparticle contamination on the genetic diversity of natural bacterial assemblages in estuarine sediments. Environmental Science and Technology, 43 (12), 4530–4536.

35.    Klaine, S. J., Alvarez, P. J. J., Batley, G. E., Fernandes, T. F., Handy, R. D., Lyon, D. Y., Mahendra, S., McLaughlin, M. J. and Lead, J. R. (2008) Nanomaterials in the environment, behaviour, fate, bioavailability and effects. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, Vol. 27, No. 9,1825-1851.

36.    Owen, R., Crane, M., Grieger, K., Handy, R., Linkov, I., Depledge, M. (2009). Strategic approaches for the management of environmental risk uncertainties posed by nanomaterials. In Nanomaterials: Risks and Benefits NATO Publications Series, NATO Science for Peace and Security Series C - Environmental Security, pp. 369-384.

37.    Patel, P., Jones, P., Handy, R., Harrington, C., Marshall, P., Evans, E.H. (2008) Isotopic labelling of peptides and isotope ratio analysis using LC–ICP–MS: a preliminary study. Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, 390, 61-65.

38.    Rocks, S., Pollard, S., Dorey, R., Levy, L., Harrison, P., Handy, R. (2008) Comparison of risk assessment approaches for manufactured nanomaterials. Technical report to Defra, available at:

39.    Compton, R., Goodwin, L., Handy, R. and Abbott, V. (2008) A critical examination of worldwide guidelines for minimising the disturbance to marine mammals during seismic surveys. Marine Policy 32, 255–262.

40.    Crane, M., Handy, R. D., Garrod J., and Owen R.  (2008) Ecotoxicity test methods and environmental hazard assessment for engineered nanoparticles. Ecotoxicology (2008) 17, 421–437.

41.    Schlenk, D., Handy, R., Steinert, S., Depledge, M. H. and Benson, W. (2008) Biomarkers. In The Toxicology of Fishes (R. T. Di Giulio and D. E. Hinton editors). CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, pp. 683-731.

42.   Handy, R.D., Owen, R., Valsami-Jones, E. (2008) The ecotoxicology of nanoparticles and nanomaterials: Current status, knowledge gaps, challenges, and future needs. Ecotoxicology, 17, 315-325.

43.   Handy, R.D., Henry, T. B., Scown, T. M., Johnstone, B. D., and Tyler, C. R. (2008) Manufactured nanoparticles: Their uptake and effects on fish – A mechanistic analysis. Ecotoxicology, 17, 396–409.

44.   Handy, R. D., Kammer, F. v. d., Lead, J. R., Hassellöv, M., Owen, R. and Crane, M. (2008) The ecotoxicology and chemistry of manufactured nanoparticles. Ecotoxicology, 17, 287-314 (invited review).

45.    Handy, R. D. (2008) Systems Toxicology: Using the systems biology approach to assess chemical pollutants in the environment. In: Comparative Toxicogenomics (C. Hogstrand and P. Kille, eds.). Advances in Experimental Biology, 2, 249-281.

46.    Crane, M., Handy, R. D. (2007) An assessment of regulatory testing strategies and methods for characterizing the ecotoxicological hazards of nanomaterials, Report for Defra, London, UK. Available at:

47.    Glover, C. N., Petri, D., Tollefsen K-E, Jørum N., Handy, R. D., Berntssen, M. H. G. (2007) Assessing the sensitivity of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) to dietary endosulfan exposure using tissue biochemistry and histology. Aquatic Toxicology 84, 346 - 355.

48.    Federici, G., Shaw, B. J. and Handy, R. D. (2007) Toxicity of Titanium Dioxide Nanoparticles to Rainbow Trout, (Oncorhynchus mykiss): Gill Injury, Oxidative Stress, and Other Physiological Effects. Aquatic Toxicology, 84, 415-430.

49.    Hoyle, I., Shaw, B. J., and Handy, R. D. (2007) Dietary copper exposure in the African walking catfish, Clarias gariepinus: Transient osmoregulatory disturbances and oxidative stress. Aquatic Toxicology 83, 62–72.

50.    Handy, R. D. and Shaw, B. J. (2007) Ecotoxicity of nanomaterials to fish: Challenges for ecotoxicity testing. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management, 3(3), 458-460.

51.    Owen, R. and Handy, R. D. (2007) Formulating the problems for environmental risk assessment of nanomaterials. Environmental Science & Technology, 41 (16): 5582-5588.

52.    Smith, C. J., Shaw, B. J. and Handy, R. D. (2007) Toxicity of single walled carbon nanotubes on rainbow trout, (Oncorhynchus mykiss): Respiratory toxicity, organ pathologies, and other physiological effects. Aquatic Toxicology, 82, 94-109.

53.    Watts, T. J. and Handy, R.D. (2007) The haemolytic effect of verapamil on erythrocytes exposed to varying osmolarity. Toxicology In Vitro, 21, 835-839.

54.    Bouskill, N. J., Barnhart, E. P., Galloway, T. S., Handy, R. D. and Ford, T. E. (2007) Quantification of changing Pseudomonas aeruginosa SodA, HtpX and M t gene abundance in response to trace metal toxicity: a potential in situ biomarker of environmental health. FEMS Microbiology Ecology, 60, 276-286.

55.    Handy, R. D. and Shaw, B. J. (2007) Toxic effects of nanoparticles and nanomaterials: Implications for public health, risk assessment and the public perception of nanotechnology. Health, Risk and Society, 9(2), 125-144.

56.    Newman, S. P., Handy, R. D. and Gruber, S. H. (2007) Spatial and temporal variation in mangrove and seagrass faunal communities at Bimini, Bahamas. Bulletin of Marine Science, 80 (3), 529-553.

Reports & invited lectures

Professor Handy has had numerous personal invitations to speak at international meetings and has headed a variety of working groups. The key themes have been:-

Ecotoxicity of nanomaterials
Risk assessment and test methods for nanomaterials
Dietary toxicity of metals
In vitro methods and the 3Rs
Education and training of scientists

Other academic activities

In addition to committees, societies, technical working groups etc. Professor Handy also edits for several journals including the following:-

Ecotoxicology (Reviews and Special Issues editor)

Journal of Fish Biology (Editor, physiology section)

Aquaculture Nutrition (Editorial Board Member)

Essential Reviews in Experimental Biology (founder member of the Editorial Board).


Ecotoxicology Research and Innovation Centre

Society of Experimental Biology

Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry