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GW4 FRESH CDT studentship: The mysterious microbial ecosystem beneath our feet: Unravelling the groundwater microbiology archive

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, December 16, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Groundwater constitutes 99% of all accessible freshwater on the planet and is a vital resource for public water supply in the UK. It contains a little-studied indigenous microbial ecosystem responsible for the cycling of nutrients and a food-source for blind subterranean macroinvertebrates. These ecosystems are increasingly under pressure due to population growth, urbanisation, and climate change, which can all modify the ecosystem assemblage. This project seeks to explore:
• The abundance of subterranean archaeal, prokaryotic and eukaryotic microbes and their activity within our UK aquifers;
• Investigate the range of microbial diversity; and
• Understand environmental controls on both bacterial abundance and diversity.

The student, in collaboration with the project partner (Thames Water) and a range of other UK water utility companies, will collect samples from a representative range of public and private water supplies across the country. Groundwater samples will be analysed using flow cytometry to determine bacterial cell abundance and activity. High throughout sequencing of the 16S and 18S rRNA genes will be used to characterise the molecular diversity of archaea, bacteria and eukaryotic microbes. Linkages to environmental variables will be assessed using existing national groundwater hydrochemical datasets and analysis of new samples. Groundwater age will also be investigated as an environmental control as we have groundwater ranging from modern to many thousands of years old in the UK.

The research student will be registered for PhD at Cardiff University (CU) and integrated into the BGS/CEH/Cardiff University research teams. The project will be based at BGS/CEH Wallingford, Oxfordshire where the student will work alongside a broad spectrum of scientists and other students, have access to excellent research infrastructure, and be eligible for UKRI training opportunities. In addition, the student will spend time in the University supervisor’s research group at Cardiff School of Biosciences (Organisms & Environment Division), and progression though PhD will be monitored by CU. Student training will be directed by the supervisory team and will also involve members of their respective research groups, along with dedicated courses, where appropriate. The mix of elements will depend upon the individual’s prior knowledge, expertise and needs, guided by a skills gap analysis. In addition to the project specific expertise, the student will benefit from the training though extensive skills courses that are an integral part of the FRESH CDT, along with more general graduate courses, such as those offered by through the Cardiff University Water Research Institute, GW4 Water Security Alliance and CU’s Graduate College.

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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