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  Adapting the Biological Quality Elements (BQE) to Irish Benthic Coastal and Transitional Habitats


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  Dr Roisin Nash, Dr Nicolas Touzet  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This PhD project is part of the Postgraduate Research Training Programme COASTAL CONNECTIVITY, which offers 12 PhD research scholarships to commence in 2024. Each project will include an enterprise placement of minimum 12 weeks duration and a bespoke training package in coastal management and research skills.

Project title (COAST 11): Adapting the Biological Quality Elements (BQE) to Irish Benthic Coastal and Transitional Habitats (COAST 11)

The EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) was adopted in October 2000 and is one of the most important pieces of legislation in relation to water quality in EU member states. The aim of the WFD is to protect and monitor all water bodies including surface waters (rivers, lakes, estuaries (transitional waters) and coastal waters) and groundwaters to achieve good water quality for these habitats. Water quality is monitored through the assessment of a variety of proxies or Quality Elements such as benthic invertebrates, phytoplankton, and water nutrient concentrations.

This research will investigate the relationship between benthic macroinvertebrates and (i) Ecological Status of waterbodies, (ii) other BQE’s (Biological Quality Elements) with a particular focus on adapting the benthic BQEs to better reflect a wider range of habitats as currently they are restricted to fine sands and muds and/or the effect extreme events have on the water quality scores reported. In particular, the project will focus on the Infaunal Quality Index (IQI), a multimetric index, that expresses the ecological health of benthic macroinvertebrate (infauna) assemblages. Within the parameters of this metric the project will assess potential relationships between the benthic phytoplankton dormant stages present at time of sampling and the BQEs.

Objectives of the research project 

1. To adapt the current Infaunal Quality Index (IQI) to be more inclusive and reflective of Irish habitat types.

2. To investigate the correlation between extreme weather events and WFD reporting.

3. To explore the potential for benthic phytoplankton dormant stages to be incorporated as a Biological Quality Elements (BQE).

A minimum of 2.1 honours degree (Level 8) in a relevant discipline.

Project Duration:

48 months (PhD)

Preferred Location:

ATU Galway Campus


Application Form / Terms of Conditions can be obtained on the website:

The closing date for receipt of applications is 5pm, (GMT) Monday 29th April, 2024.

Only selected applicants will be called for an online interview (shortlisting may apply).

Biological Sciences (4) Environmental Sciences (13)

Funding Notes

TU RISE is co-financed by the Government of Ireland and the European Union through the ERDF Southern, Eastern & Midland Regional Programme 2021- 27 and the Northern & Western Regional Programme 2021-27.
Funding for this Project includes:
• A student stipend (usually tax-exempt) valued at €22,000 per annum
• Annual waivers of postgraduate tuition fee
• Extensive research training programme
• Support for travel, consumables and dissemination expenses
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