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GW4 FRESH CDT studentship: Smart Catchments: Utilising in situ sensors to monitor ecosystem health in freshwater catchments

Project Description

The project will assess different methods for measuring nutrient fractions in surface water bodies. The student will work with the diverse, multi-disciplinary supervisory team to develop a range of skills to address a real-world problem. The project will begin with the analysis of historic datasets from the field site and complementary sites in the UK (including Hampshire Avon, Wyle, Nadder, Conwy) to determine how geosmin production responds to water quality, microbiological and biogeochemical parameters. Statistical analysis of these data will determine the key parameters to be measured, and how frequently data returned in order to predict ecosystem change and associated taste and odour problems. The results of these analyses will be used to design and implement a program of in situ monitoring at the field site.In situ monitoring technologies ] will be co-installed at the field site to allow cross-validation of the different methods. These will be complemented by measurement of physical and geochemical parameters (EC, T, pH, DO) and the existing water monitoring program run by our stakeholder at Welsh Water. This includes sample collection and lab analysis for nutrients, major ions and microbiological indicators, alongside local meteorological conditions and water levels. The student will then explore the most useful methods for returning data from the field in a useable format within useful timescales (near real-time) via satellite or GSM telemetry. The student will also test how the sensors represent nutrient dynamics by comparing water samples analysed in the labs with the sensor data. In parallel with the field monitoring, the student will develop a series of laboratory experiments to determine the impact of different nutrient phases on the freshwater ecosystem microbiota responsible for the majority of taste and odour issues. Cyanobacteria will be incubated in the laboratories at Cardiff and dosed with different nitrogen compounds. Ammonia is a known trigger, but reliable in situ methods for field measurement are as yet unavailable. We will therefore explore how ammonia triggers changes in the laboratory experiments to understand how and when variables that can be sensed automatically can be used to signpost potential taste and odour issues.
Once the first datasets are assembled, the student will explore them with the supervisory team and stakeholders to determine a) which sensors are most appropriate for assessing water quality, b) how nutrient dynamics influence water quality, particularly those factors which influence taste and odour, c) on what timescales data need to be collected and returned from the site in odour to predict water quality conditions that impact taste and odour, and that could result in eutrophication and d) how sensor data can be used to represent the complex biogeochemical cycles occurring at the field site. The field site can then be used as a model for efficient monitoring of ecosystem status and water quality for other UK catchments.

Studentships will last for 3.5 years full-time or the equivalent period part-time.

The application deadline is 9am on 16th December 2019.


Applicants must apply directly to the CDT and not via Cardiff University’s online application system. Please use the below link which will take you to the relevant page to place an application to the CDT directly:

For more details on how to apply, please visit the GW4 Fresh website:

Funding Notes

Full UKRI stipend and fees to be funded for the duration of the studentship (3.5 years), plus RTSG of £11,000.

NERC-funded studentships are subject to UKRI eligibility requirements i.e. you should be a citizen of the UK or other EU country and have been residing in the UK for the last 3 years.

This project is in competition with others available across GW4 FRESH CDT; the projects which receive the best applicants will be awarded the funding. This year we are advertising 25 projects for 14 studentships.

Please note there are mandatory training activities during the first six months.

How good is research at Cardiff University in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 54.70

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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