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Early Stage Researcher (Marie Skłodowska-Curie ITN) in Using connectivity science to determine the fate (source-pathway-interceptors) of specific agricultural derived chemicals and pathogens in the water supply chain (PhD Study Position)

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  • Full or part time
    Prof L Bracken
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Eligibility criteria

To satisfy the eligibility requirements set for an Early Stage Researcher funded by Marie Skłodowska-Curie you must be eligible to be appointed as an Early Stage Researcher in the UK - this means:

- At the time of recruitment, you must not already hold a doctorate degree and you must be in the first 4 years of your research career (measured from the date of obtaining the degree which entitles you to embark on PhD studies)
- At the time of recruitment, you must not have resided or carried out your main activity in the UK for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to your start date;
- Satisfy the eligibility requirements to enrol on a PhD degree. This includes acceptable English language requirements if English is not your first language.

The Role

An EU-funded Marie Skłodowska-Curie Early-Stage Researcher (ESR) position is available for study towards a PhD in determining the fate of agricultural derived chemicals and pathogens in our river systems in the Geography Department of Durham University, Durham, UK.

This is a full-time position (35 hours per week), fixed-term for 36 months, with a start date of 1st June 2020 and will require the successful candidate to register for the study for a PhD (NB applicants must NOT already have a PhD).

The successful applicant will carry out European Commission-funded research within the “i-CONN” network - Interdisciplinary connectivity: Understanding and managing complex systems using connectivity science - Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network (lTN) project (Grant Agreement no. 859937), which offers unique doctoral training and research opportunities, leading to the award of a PhD.

In recent years, parallel developments in disciplines as disparate as Ecology, Geomorphology, Neuroscience, Social Science and Systems Biology have focused on “connectivity”. i-CONN will exploit synergies among different conceptualisations and applications of connectivity. For example, i-CONN will evaluate statistical approaches and mathematical theories that have arisen across a range of disciplines in order that we might develop generic connectivity tools to understand better the characteristics of complex systems. i-CONN will provide interdisciplinary training integrating knowledge and methods from different disciplines and stakeholders from the public, private and NGO sectors, using a synthesis of approaches that will lead to transdisciplinarity, whereby a unity of intellectual frameworks will be created beyond the disciplinary perspectives.

The ESR will collaborate in research, attend joint training events, and contribute to workshops and conferences across the i-CONN network. The ESR will be provided with a generous stipend to cover their living costs and travel for the duration of the 3 years; PhD tuition fees will be paid for this period. The ESR will also receive funds to support their participation in i-CONNs European-wide research and training events. The network of 15 ESR/PhD students will receive training through their host institute with additional training provided by visits and secondments to other host institutes and non-academic partners in the network.

This full-time, fixed-term ESR position will involve study for a PhD degree and will be based in Durham University’s Geography Department (Durham, UK) under the supervision of Professor Louise Bracken and Dr Laura Turnbull-Lloyd. The project aims to improve our ability to identify critical nodes for sources of pollution and determine how these pollutants move through our river systems so we can evolve management practices to implement interventions to limit pollutant transfer in river systems. The research will be primarily undertaken using secondary sources of data that have been collected by project partners, but supplementary data may need to be collected from selected catchments.

The objectives of the project are to:

1) Develop a new evidence-base of sources, pathways and transmission rates for unwanted agricultural chemicals in the water-supply chain;

2) Identify critical nodes to explore the pathways of agricultural chemicals;

3) Determine (based on empirical data and simple modelling) the most effective interventions that will prevent pollutants from getting into and being transported through the water network;

4) Apply the approach developed to explore source-pathway-interceptors of pharmaceuticals in water courses.

Datasets used in this project are Environment Agency (EA) Open Source Data of agricultural chemicals and pharmaceuticals obtained by routine monitoring operations to comply with the wastewater treatment framework directive and the Water Framework Directive. Other complementary datasets from UK water companies will be made accessible via EA partners. These secondary datasets will be supplemented with empirical data collection in selected catchments.

We expect that this project will:

1) Support data integration across organisations and across urban-rural landscapes (to feed into the datathon event – month 19);

2) Develop existing tools from a range of disciplines for understanding sources, pathways and transmission of agricultural pollutants;

3) Test and apply these tools to determine the fate of agricultural derived chemicals across UK catchments and Austrian catchments, and

4) Better understand the fate of pharmaceuticals across these catchments.

- Perform high quality research in the bespoke research project under the guidance of the supervisory team.
- Assist with the development of research goals and objectives.
- Develop and test new hypotheses, analysing scientific data from a variety of sources, assessing, and refining working hypotheses as appropriate.
- Meet the members of the supervisory team to discuss their research on a regular basis.
- Widen their personal knowledge in the research area and undertake complementary training.
- Directly contribute ideas to the direction of the research project supported by detailed and critical reference to previously published literature and knowledge exchange through the i-CONN network.
- Keep comprehensive, accessible, secure records of all experimental and modelling work, data, and analyses.
- Prepare regular research reports and participate in scheduled face-to-face and online meetings including presentation of research results.
- Liaise effectively with all members of the local and international research team.
- Participate in the activities of the Network as specified in the Grant Agreement and/or required by the node coordinator, including secondments in other network nodes and taking part in the network meetings and in the training activities.
- Write up the results of the research activity and present research papers and publications at meetings and conferences, as advised by the supervisors, and contribute to the overall goals of the network.
- Keep records of the activities, such as research, training, secondments, visits, and leave of absence.
- Be prepared to undertake some aspects of undergraduate student teaching, which may include small-group teaching (workshops and tutorials) or laboratory class demonstrating.

The Requirements

- A Master’s degree (MSc) or equivalent in a physical geography, environmental science, ecology or a related field.
- A keen interest in pursuing research in the development of Connectivity Science and in the area of research: ecology, geomorphology and climate change in dryland environments.
- Experience in the quantitative study of environmental processes using for example field-based study, data synthesis and modelling-based approaches.
- Good computational skills including use of software such as R.
- The ability to work independently and as a member of a research team.
- Excellent interpersonal and communication skills, and a willingness to interact cooperatively with academic and support staff.
- A good command of English language, with excellent oral and written skills.
- Well-organised and highly-motivated with good time-management skills and the ability to focus on project objectives.
- Willingness to assist with day-to-day operation of the research group, to assume a share of group responsibilities, and to contribute to impact reports, dissemination and outreach activities, including updates of the i-CONN project website, secondment and training event reports, posters, etc.
- Excellent written and verbal communication skills in English. It is a requirement that applicants can demonstrate that their ability to understand and express themselves in both written and spoken English is sufficient for them to derive the full benefit from the network training, and to embark on a PhD at Durham University.
- Willingness to travel internationally for training events, secondments and conferences.
- Willingness to re-locate to reside within a reasonable distance of Durham University (or seconded institution) for the duration of the post.

Any or combination of the following will be a clear advantage.
- A demonstrable ability or potential to produce research published in peer-reviewed journals.
- A good strategic fit with existing research expertise in the host institution and the i-CONN network

There are strict eligibility and residency requirements that must be met by applicants for this position. Applicants must be either European citizens (from EU Member States or Associated Countries, but not residents of the UK), or from Other Third Countries (i.e. USA, Canada, Australia, Japan, India, China, etc.).

How to Apply

For informal enquiries please contact Professor Louise Bracken ([Email Address Removed]). All enquiries will be treated in the strictest confidence.

More information about the i-CONN network, the open positions and host organizations is available on the project’s dedicated website: If you are interested in being considered for other PhD positions in this network, please indicate this on your application letter (see How to Apply).

Applications should be made online via the Durham University Vacancies Site at:

Applications are particularly welcome from women and black and minority ethnic candidates, who are under-represented in academic posts in the University.

Funding Notes

Salary range: £37,000 to £44,000
The EC funding for this position provides for a remuneration starting from £37,000. Actual salary will depend on employer deductions, personal circumstances and the exchange rate applicable to the fellowship. This amount includes an annual living allowance and a mobility allowance (to cover the expenses associated with working in a different country).

Allowance eligibility depends on the personal circumstances of the fellow:

Living Allowance: total amount €54,857.52 per year. This figure is inclusive of the country coefficient of 139.80%.

Mobility Allowance: total amount €7,200 per year.
Family allowance: total amount €6,000 per year (eligibility depends on supporting evidence that at the time the ESR position starts the ESR is married, in a partnership equivalent to marriage in the country it was formalised or have dependent children).

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