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Mechanistic understanding of pollutant effects across species and chemicals


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  Prof David Spurgeon  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Oxford United Kingdom Ecology Ecotoxicology Genetics Pollution Soil Science

About the Project

Project Overview: The project will investigate the mechanistic “rules” that detrmine how different (invertebrate) species respond to chemical exposure. The project will work at the interface of experimental and mechanistic ecotoxicology, developing new method, all under the supervision of UK and International experts in these fields. The project will be based in Cardiff University in Year 1, but will provide opportunities to spend extended time working at UK CEH in Oxfordshire and Syngenta’s research hubs in Jealotts Hill (UK) and Basel (Switzerland).

Novelty of the Project: This project is novel because it seeks the coalescence of two different approaches to mechanistic toxicity: the biochemical/physiological approach and an ecological energetic based physiological modelling approach. Unifying these two aspects will allow the student to better understand how chemical with different “modes of action” affect different species responses to chemical exposures.

Expertise that you would develop: The student will receive cross disciplinary research and training in experimental biology, including high throughput assays using bioimaging techniques; chemical mode of action assessment using biochemical and molecular genetic approaches and physiological modelling methods. All are fields at the cutting edge of ecotoxicological research and are highly relevant to the development of the field.


This project is one of 12 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 a 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) 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. We will ensure that individuals with disabilities are provided reasonable accommodation to participate in the application process. 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 PhD’s offered under the ECORISC CDT, you should initially complete a short online application form available at:

Applications should be submitted before 1700 (British Summer Time) on 16th May. Your will be notified of the outcome of the process by 25th May.

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.

If you have any questions on the ECORISC CDT or the application process, please contact us at [Email Address Removed].

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