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Exploring urban rivers and canals to halt the global rise in methane emissions (GTA eligible project)


Department of Geography and Planning

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Dr J Dean , Prof A Plater , Dr Caitlin Robinson No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)
Liverpool United Kingdom Climate Science Ecotoxicology Environmental Engineering Hydrology Marine Sciences Meteorology Geography Geology Soil Science

About the Project

Methane is a greenhouse gas with 86 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. To meet international climate targets, we need to reduce methane emissions resulting from human activity. Three key challenges stand in the way of this goal:

1) How do we accurately measure methane emissions?

2) Where do methane emissions originate?

3) How do we reduce methane emissions?

The aim of this PhD studentship is to investigate technical solutions to address these challenges. These techniques will be deployed in urban waterways (rivers and canals) because a) they are potential hotspots of methane emissions, receiving inputs from a wide range of urban infrastructure, b) this range of methane inputs provides a realistic testbed to apply techniques for measuring methane emissions and origins in non-perfect conditions, and c) the unique ecology of urban waterways is poorly studied, allowing novel exploration of how spatial and temporal methane patterns, influenced by human activity, impact methane consumption (oxidation). The fellowship will focus on urban waterways in the UK, with the potential to extend into Europe, the USA, China and Bangladesh.

By 2030, more than 60% of the global population (or more than 5 billion people) will live in cities. All major cities rely to some degree on waterways for consumption, sanitation, trade, climate regulation and public well-being. However, we have virtually no data on the role waterways play in urban greenhouse gas emissions. Studying the dynamics of urban waterway emissions could reveal opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the city scale. For example, London and Birmingham account for 18% of the UK’s carbon emissions and have substantial canal and river networks – Birmingham alone has over 100 miles of canals, more than Venice.

The core objectives of the studentship are to:

1) Determine the magnitude of city-scale waterway greenhouse gas emissions at high spatial resolutions.

2) Distinguish the origin and controls of methane emissions from urban waterways.

3) Explore the potential to harness these controls to reduce methane emissions.

These objectives will contribute to producing a toolbox for research, industry and policy end-users that can be applied to find methane leaks in urban environments, determine their magnitude and origin, and provide strategies to prevent the emission of leaking methane to the atmosphere (e.g. methane leaking from underground gas pipes). This will include deploying a state-of-the-art greenhouse gas analyser (Los Gatos Inc.) to directly measure methane and carbon dioxide gas emissions from urban waterways, measuring the radio- and stable isotopes of urban waterway methane to determine its origin, and exploring biogeochemical indicators in these waterways for detecting methane leaks, particularly leaks hidden underground. The studentship will work with end-users in industry and local government to help reduce city-scale methane emissions by delivering capabilities to detect methane leaks and identifying the conditions under which waterways are methane sinks or sources (i.e. can waterways reduce total city methane emissions).

The studentship will be supported by additional funding and training through the UKRI National Environmental Isotope Facility, the Manchester Geographical Society, microbial analyses at Radboud University in the Netherlands, and the NERC Global Partnership Seedcorn grant “CONFLUENCE – Disentangling the role of rivers as greenhouse gas conduits”. The candidate will also gain comprehensive training in greenhouse gas measurements, hydrology, statistical modelling in R, and geospatial data analysis.

This PhD topic is one of eight eligible for funding support through the recruitment of two Graduate Teaching Assistants within Geography & Planning and Earth Sciences at 0.5 FTE over a five-year period. The expectation is that no less than 50% of your time will be made available for the pursuit of your PhD or MPhil studies. In addition to your application for the PhD (detailed here), you are also required to apply for the 0.5 FTE University Teacher Salary: (£29,177 - £33,797 pa – at 0.5FTE pro rata) ensure that, in the funding section of the PGR application form, you mark your application ‘GTA SoES Post’. 

For any enquiries please contact: Dr Joshua Dean on: [Email Address Removed]

To apply please visit: https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/study/postgraduate-research/how-to-apply/


Funding Notes

Funding for the PhD includes tuition fees and a research support budget £1,000 per year.


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