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Lloyd’s Register Foundation PhD studentship: Understanding the fate of nano and microplastics in aquatic environments.

Project Description

Nano and microplastics are entering the aquatic environment from numerous sources and have been found throughout the aquatic environment in both fresh and marine waters and sediment. In order to predict their dispersion and behaviour and ultimately understand their impact on ecological and human health, it is important to understand how they are transported. Due to their low density, it has been assumed that they behave as buoyant particles being transported over very long distances from catchment to coast with the marine environment as their ultimate sink. However, they are likely to associate with organic (e.g. microbiota) and inorganic (e.g, silt and clay particles) matter in suspension and form suspended sediment aggregates (or ‘flocs’) significantly modifying transport behaviour such as settling velocity. However, this has received little attention.

The aim of this PhD is to understand the association between micro/nano plastics and natural suspended sediment aggregates and the potential impact on both plastic and sediment fate. We will use state of the art correlative 3-dimensional tomography techniques (Focussed ion beam nanotomography and X-ray computed microtomography) to capture, observe and characterise the plastic-sediment suspended aggregates formed. Coupled to a settling column and floc camera system we will also quantify the impact on microplastic and sediment settling behaviour. We will explore both traditional and biodegradeable microplastics.

This PhD position is one of four projects in a mini Centre for Doctoral Training on ‘BIOdegradable Plastics as emerging Environmental Pollutants (BioPEP). This is a multidisciplinary consortium of 6 Queen Mary academics from three schools (SBCS, SEMS and Geography) partnered with 7 non-academic teams and 1 European team, that aims to evaluate the potential environmental impact of biodegradable plastics.

Supervisors: Prof Kate Spencer, Prof Andy Bushby and Dr Ozge Eyce

Deadline for applications: March 06 2020.

For informal inquiries you are encouraged to contact Kate Spencer prior to application.

How to apply: To apply, please click here:

Funding Notes

Eligibility: This studentship is open to UK and international students. Applicants should have an understanding of sediment and/or pollutant characteristics and behaviour. Knowledge of FIBnt, FIBSEM or X-ray computed tomography and experience of 2D or 3D geo-computing techniques would be an advantage, but is not essential. Ideally we are seeking applicants with a background in earth, environmental or oceanographic science and related disciplines.

Funding: This project is funded by the Lloyd’s Register Foundation and industrial partners HR Wallingford (View Website). Funding includes tuition fees and a stipend of £17000 per year for 3.5 years.

How good is research at Queen Mary University of London in Geography, Environmental Studies and Archaeology?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 31.35

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

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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