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From Water Fleas to Elephants: Multispecies Extrapolation of Pesticide Toxicity Using High-Throughput Testing Methods and Dynamic Energy Budgeting

   Department of Environment and Geography

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  Dr Brett Sallach  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

York United Kingdom Biochemistry Biodiversity Ecotoxicology Environmental Biology Hydrology Marine Biology Pollution

About the Project

Partner Organisation: Bayer

Current standard pesticide ecotoxicity tests used for ecological risk assessments (ERA) may not be fit for purpose as the chemical exposure regimes, select species, and life stage do not fully represent the actual environmental exposures they aim to protect. Dynamic Energy Budgeting (DEB) allows for a more comprehensive evaluation of the sublethal effects of pesticide exposure but requires significant data inputs in order to determine subtle ecological impacts. Under the supervision of an energetic and dynamic team of experts from academia and industry, this project aims to develop and utilise high-throughput testing methods in order to develop DEB models and see if these models can be extrapolated across a variety of species that are not included in traditional pesticide ERAs. The results of this project provides the opportunity to ensure that future ERAs are protective of natural ecosystems and the services they provide.

The automated high-throughput methods developed will allow for DEB models to be fully developed and validated. This project will test the bounds of the DEB theory to determine how far results of one species can be translated to others. The extrapolation of the models across a variety of species offers the potential for ERAs to consider a more comprehensive accounting of ecosystem biodiversity.

The student will develop expertise in the development of novel methods for aquatic toxicology including the use of high-throughput technologies such as automated spheroid counters and analytical mass spectrometry. Training with the stakeholder partner, they will develop industry level skills in ecotoxicological modelling including DEB and toxicokinetic-toxicodynamic (TK-TD) models.


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:

Funding Notes

Fully funded studentship at UKRI rates. Funding available for Home and International candidates. Tuition fees at UK rate and stipend (currently £15,609 a year)
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