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Comparison of natural and plastic microfibres in rivers

Faculty of Environment

Dr Paul Kay , Tuesday, January 05, 2021 Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Microplastics are the latest emerging pollutant to be studied in the environment although most work has focused on marine locations rather than freshwaters. Over the last few years research has begun to look at microplastics in river catchments although there remain many unanswered questions and our understanding of the issue is poor (Blair et al., 2017). There have already been a number of major suppositions which recent work indicates to be inaccurate. Some published research (Stanton et al., 2019) as well as ongoing work at the University of Leeds (Hiscoe et al., unpublished) has suggested that natural fibres (NFs) are actually much more prevalent in the environment than plastic ones and that our research focus should include these. This PhD will determine relative concentrations of natural and plastic fibres in the environment, investigate different sources of these and look at their environmental fate characteristics.
The overall aim of this project is to better understand the presence, sources and fate of natural and plastic fibres in river catchments. The specific objectives are to:
1. Measure concentrations of microfibres in river catchments.
2. Investigate the release of natural and plastic fibres from various sources.
3. Determine the environmental fate of microfibres.
The successful candidate will benefit from inter-disciplinary training in pollutant fate and analysis, wider water management skills, and textiles production as part of the Schools of Geography and Design as well as water@leeds. Training at Leeds deals fully with the elements described in the Joint Research Centre statement on skills training for research students. PhD students take modules provided by the staff development unit (e.g. starting your PhD, small group teaching) and a 15-week faculty-training course (covering elements such as planning, critical reading and writing, oral presentations, writing research papers). Students present results and receive constructive feedback from peers in a Research Support Group, from colleagues in water@leeds, and at a university postgraduate research day. An additional important part of the training will be to attend national and international conferences to present results and gain feedback. The student will be encouraged to write and submit papers for publication during the project.

Funding Notes

3.5 years studentships including fees and stipend at the UKRI rate plus a training grant. Awards are for UK nationals who meet the normal residency requirements; EU applicants who have settled status or pre-settled status in the UK; and those who have Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK. We can offer a small number of studentships to international candidates including EEA nationals although applicants will need to find the difference in fees of £19,200pa for 3.5 years from another source (eg, overseas government, industry, self-fund) – please speak with project supervisor if you are in the international fees category.

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