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ECORISC CDT - Impacts of Toxic Mining Pollution on Birds in Sub-Saharan Africa

   School of Biosciences

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  Prof D Edwards  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Sheffield United Kingdom Biodiversity Climate Science Ecology Ecotoxicology Environmental Biology Pollution

About the Project

Project Outline

This PhD tackles the key question of the severity of risk that toxic mine tailing ponds pose to resident and Afro-palearctic migrant birds. It will uniquely identify species diversity and environmental drivers of tailing pond use (exposure risk), detect bioaccumulation of toxic chemicals in birds visiting ponds, and use these data to quantify the spatio-temporal risks posed across sub-Saharan Africa.

Birds are known to visit mining tailing ponds, sometimes resulting in mass mortality including of threatened species, yet we lack understanding of the diversity of species using these ponds, the concentrations of toxic compounds that are ingested, and the potential for widespread bioaccumulation. This PhD will fill these core knowledge gaps to quantify the biodiversity risks of mining pollution.

You will have a core interest in applying scientific knowledge to address major global challenges, with a background in ecology, conservation, and/or ecotoxicology. You will develop expertise in managing an international programme of fieldwork, avifaunal field sampling (including mist-netting), laboratory-based ecotoxicology assessments, and data analyses and spatial mapping.

Supervisor: David Edwards

Host organisation: University of Sheffield

Partner Organisation: JNCC


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: 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: 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:

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