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Ecotoxicology of environmental chemical discharge on marine invertebrate organisms

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  • Full or part time
    Dr H Reinardy
    Dr K Last
    Dr T Henry
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

***Funded by NERC Studentships awarded to the SUPER Doctoral Training Partnership. The SUPER DTP partner Universities are St Andrews University, Aberdeen University, Edinburgh Napier University, Heriot-Watt University, the University of the Highlands and Islands, Stirling University, University of Strathclyde and the University of the West of Scotland. Underpinning these research partners, providing additional training and projects are Marine Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, and the James Hutton Institute, among a total of 40 stakeholder organisations including industry and government agencies and international collaborators.***

Organisms in the coastal marine environment are exposed to a wide range of pollutants and contaminants, and understanding mechanisms of toxicological effects of exposure is essential for assessing potential long-term impacts on populations and ecosystems. This project seeks to focus on key contaminants of current relevance in Scottish coastal marine environments, for example contaminants entering the coastal waters from waste water treatment plants or industrial activities such as coastal aquaculture. Salmon farming has seen a rapid increase in Scotland over the last twenty years, with clear indications of investment and growth continuing in the years to come. Hydrogen peroxide will be the main target contaminant due to its use as a biofouling treatment on submarine structures as well as a chemical treatment of sealice in marine salmon farming facilities. Of particular focus will be effects on sea urchins and mussels due to their ecological roles as benthic detritivores and filter feeders and their economic value as target fisheries.
The scientific approach will be to investigate toxicological effects of environmentally relevant exposures of sea urchins and mussels to hydrogen peroxide. These experiments will characterise reproductive, developmental, and geno-toxity, and involve both adult and larval exposures. Specifically, the key aims are:

1) Genetic and epigenetic mechanisms will test the hypothesis that transgenerational effects, by transfer of altered or compromised epi- and/or genetic material, may lead to long term chronic effects that may impact population-level stability.
2) Effects will be compared by spawning exposed adults during gametogenesis (gametes exposed) as well as transgenerational effects from spawning after a complete cycle of gametogenesis (gametes unexposed).
3) Reproductive success, growth, behaviour, and development will be analysed to test the hypothesis that genetic and/or epigenetic effects have impacts on higher levels of biological organisation.

The combination of mechanistic toxicity and environmentally relevant applied experiments will provide a well-rounded training in ecotoxicological methods and issues of regulatory and industrial relevance.

Research Facilities and Environment

SAMS has excellent facilities for marine environmental research. The student will have access to computing, library, aquarium, and laboratory facilities as required. SAMS hosts approximately 40 postgraduate students who are supported by both SAMS and UHI graduate schools.

The project is in collaboration with Theodore Henry, Professor of Environmental Toxicology and Deputy Head of the School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society in the Institute of Life and Earth Sciences, Heriot-Watt University.

The start date of this project is 30th September 2019.

Applicants should normally have, or be studying for:
• A postgraduate Master’s degree from a degree-awarding body recognised by the UK government, or equivalent, or
• A first or upper second class honours degree from a degree awarding body recognised by the UK government, or equivalent, or
• Other qualifications or experience that affords sufficient evidence of an applicant’s ability to work at the academic level associated with doctoral study.
• Applicants must have an interest and/or experience in working with aquatic animals
• Applicants with experience in molecular biology, toxicology, and developmental biology are strongly encouraged to apply.

Project specific enquiries: Dr Helena Reinardy – [Email Address Removed]

General enquiries: Graduate School Office [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

The 3½ year studentships cover:
• Tuition fees each year (for 2018/19 this is currently £4,260 for full-time study)
• A maintenance grant each of around £15,000 per annum (for full-time study)
• Funding for research training
• Part-time study is an option, with a minimum of 50% of full-time effort being required.



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