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  Linking Oceanographical Connectivity pathways and Environmental Pollution Pressures to the Genetic Structure of Planktonic Biota in Coastal Embayments


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  Dr Nicolas Touzet, Dr Roisin Nash, Dr Fiona Kavanagh  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This PhD project is part of the Postgraduate Research Training Programme COASTAL CONNECTIVITY, which offers 12 PhD research scholarships to commence in 2024. Each project will include an enterprise placement of minimum 12 weeks duration and a bespoke training package in coastal management and research skills.

Various biological resources and ecosystem services are provided by coastal embayments. These have been impacted by growing human populations, overexploitation, habitat transformation and pollution associated with urban developments and agricultural practices. These pressures may be further exacerbated by climate change driven events. The monitoring of such pressures is enforced via several statutory instruments in the context of, for instance, water quality, waste discharge management or aquaculture practises.

There is a multidimensional connectivity element to managing coastal environments, which needs to integrate the transport of water masses along the continental shelf (eg. coastal density driven jets, meteorological physical forcing) and a land-to-sea differential gradient of environmental pressures, including invasive species, harmful algal blooms, microbial and viral contamination in terms of biological risk, or fertilisers, pesticides, microplastics or pharmaceutical and personal care products in terms of chemical pollutants.

Sustainable management is key to safeguarding the exploitation of various marine biological resources and increasing the ecological status of the coastal environment. Delivering on this requires the conduct of diversity and stock assessments as well as the implementation of conservation measures or mitigation strategies.

Objectives of the research project (≤ 100 words):

Within the context of preserving and protecting the environment, and promoting resource efficiency, this study will focus on assessing the genetic diversity of planktonic organisms from several trophic levels (eg. fish, zooplankton, phytoplankton) in coastal embayments of the west of Ireland in relation to their ecological status and relevant environmental pressures. Specifically, the following aims will be considered:

  1. Characterising the genetic diversity of (sub)populations of species from distinct trophic levels
  2. Identifying whether discrete subgroups can be geographically delineated or rather exist as a continuum associated with regional oceanographic transport
  3. Assessing seasonal patterns of diversity-abundance in community structure using molecular fingerprinting

A minimum of 2.1 honours degree (Level 8) in a relevant discipline.

Project Duration:

48 months (PhD)

Preferred Location:

ATU Sligo, Campus


Application Form / Terms of Conditions can be obtained on the website:

The closing date for receipt of applications is 5pm, (GMT) Monday 29th April, 2024.

Only selected applicants will be called for an online interview (shortlisting may apply).

Environmental Sciences (13)

Funding Notes

TU RISE is co-financed by the Government of Ireland and the European Union through the ERDF Southern, Eastern & Midland Regional Programme 2021- 27 and the Northern & Western Regional Programme 2021-27.
Funding for this Project includes:
• A student stipend (usually tax-exempt) valued at €22,000 per annum
• Annual waivers of postgraduate tuition fee
• Extensive research training programme
• Support for travel, consumables and dissemination expenses