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Microfibres in soils: detection, degradation and impact (OP2233)

   Faculty of Science, Agriculture and Engineering

   Monday, January 24, 2022  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Newcastle United Kingdom Ecology Environmental Chemistry Geochemistry Pollution Soil Science

About the Project

Project Description:

Microplastic pollution is rightly a global concern. One of the major sources of microplastic pollution has been shown to be clothing and other textile items comprised from synthetic microfibres. Much emphasis has been placed on the release of vast quantities of microfibres into our oceans through laundering. However, recent research has revealed the extent to which microplastics are naturally shed from clothing and become incorporated into sewage sludge through waste water treatment. This a clear potential pathway to microfibre pollution of terrestrial environments (e.g. De Falco et al., 2020; Sheridan et al., 2020), with consequences for keystone species such as earthworms (Prendergast-Miller et al., 2019). Moreover, a focus on synthetic microfibres overlooks the abundance of naturally occurring microfibres in the environment e.g. cotton and wool, which outweigh that of synthetic microfibres. Although such microfibres are naturally occurring, they are often dyed with synthetic dyes and finished with chemical additives. Through degradation and chemical release, natural microfibres may detrimentally impact the environment and its ecosystems. In this study we will attempt to determine the effects of microfibre pollution in soil environments.

 This multidisciplinary project will provide opportunities for skills training in state-of-the-art techniques bringing together expertise in microfibre/dye analysis (Dr Kelly Sheridan, Northumbria University), pollution degradation (Dr Anh Phan, Newcastle University), biogeochemistry/mass spectrometry (Dr Geoff Abbott, Newcastle University) and soil science and ecology (Dr Miranda Prendergast-Miller, Northumbria University). The student will have the opportunity to work closely with Case Partner Natural England who will provide access to soil samples collected across England as part of the England Ecosystem Survey within Defra’s Natural Capital and Ecosystem Assessment programme, with opportunities for the research to contribute to national pollution monitoring and policy development. Combining research in microfibre detection and its fate in the environment will strengthen our ability to determine the level of risk posed by terrestrial microfibre pollution.

Funding Notes

This project is part of the NERC ONE Planet DTP. Each of our studentship awards include 3.5 years of fees (Home/EU), an annual living allowance (£15,650) and a Research Training Support Grant (for travel, consumables, etc).
Home and International applicants (inc. EU) are welcome to apply. Following the UKRI announcement regarding their new 30% UKRI international recruitment policy (to take effect from September 2021) both Newcastle University, and Northumbria University, have agreed to pay the international fee difference for all International applicants (inc. EU) who are awarded a DTP studentship. Interviews will take place in February 2022.
How to apply: View Website

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