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ECORISC CDT - Impacts of Climate-Driven Changes in Fish Distributions on Contaminants Exposure and Accumulation in Marine Food Webs


   School of Biosciences

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  Dr T Webb  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Sheffield United Kingdom Biodiversity Ecology Ecotoxicology Environmental Biology Pollution

About the Project

Project Outline

Marine fish play a vital role in marine food webs, linking lower trophic levels with iconic top predators such as marine mammals and seabirds. They are also exposed to a wide range of contaminants, and may accumulate these and transfer them to their predators. This project will investigate how the relative risk of exposure to contaminants will vary as fish species distributions are driven polewards with changing climate, and what the implications are on the wider food web. The supervisory team at the Universities of Sheffield and Exeter, and the partner organisation Cefas, combines the required expertise in marine macroecology and biodiversity data science with extensive knowledge of ecotoxicology in aquatic environments.

This project is a novel collaboration between marine macroecology and ecotoxicology, to address how changes in the distributions of fish species at regional scales – driven by climate and by other factors such as fishing – will impact the risk of exposure of fish communities to contaminants and the potential consequences of this across marine food webs. The focus will be on the North East Atlantic, where we know that there are large-scale gradients in the concentration of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in the environment and as well as in the lipid content of marine organisms, and we also have good evidence of climate-driven poleward shifts in fish distributions. This project will test the extent to which these factors will contribute to increasing exposure, trophic transfer, and bio-magnification of POPs through marine food webs as the climate changes. 

The student will gain expertise in the macroecology of marine fish, including their role in marine food webs. They will develop skills in the handling of big data, linking biological, environmental and chemical data, as well as in-depth knowledge of ecotoxicology in marine environments in a risk-assessment framework, and of translation of research into management and policy.

Supervisor: Tom Webb

Host organisation: University of Sheffield

Partner Organisation: Cefas

The ECORISC CDT

This project is one of 22 projects being advertised by the NERC-funded ECORISC (Ecotoxicological Risk Assessment Towards Sustainable Chemical Use) Centre for Doctoral Training programme. More information on the CDT can be found at: https://www.york.ac.uk/environment/postgraduate/ecorisc/. Funding will be provided for 3 years and 10 months. During this time you will work on your research project but will also receive unique and outstanding training in pollution science and transferrable skills. 

Over the first two years of their PhD programme, you will receive subject-specific training, in: i) ecotoxicology; ii) environmental chemistry; iii) ecology; and iv) risk assessment; and v) the core skills required for an environmental specialist. Successful completion of this training will result in the award of phase 1 of the Certified Environmental Risk Assessor qualification from the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. The formal training programme will be complemented by yearly residential challenge events, ECORISC annual conferences and tailored specialist skills training conducted as group and individual exercises.

ECORISC students will also be required to undertake two workplace experiences based with our business, policy and regulation, third sector, and research organisation partners. 

An inclusive CDT programme

Inclusivity is at the heart of the ECORISC programme. We strongly encourage applications from under-represented groups and are employing a number of mechanisms, such as the possibility of part-time working, to ensure the programme is open to all. If you have any questions, then please don’t hesitate to contact us at [Email Address Removed].

Eligibility and Application process

The studentships are open to highly motivated UK and international/EU applicants with at least an upper second class Honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject. Successful applicants will be passionate about environmental pollution science and want their science to make a difference. 

To be considered for this and other PhDs offered under the ECORISC CDT, you should initially complete a short online application form available at: https://cardiff.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/ecorisc-cdt-student-application-202122-2. Applications should be submitted before 17:00 GMT on Monday 3rd January 2022. You will be notified of the outcome of your initial application by Monday 17th January 2022.

Successful applicants will be provided with an opportunity to meet with supervisory teams and then be invited to submit a project-specific application form which will be used to shortlist candidates for an interview.

ECORISC open afternoon

We are running an online ‘open afternoon’ for you to learn more about the CDT or to ask questions on the programme or the application process. This event will run from 1400-1630 GMT on the 9th December 2021 and booking details can be found on our website at: https://www.york.ac.uk/environment/postgraduate/ecorisc/

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