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  NERC RED-ALERT CDT: Information sharing and public perception of water quality and value

   Cardiff School of Earth and Environmental Sciences

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  Dr Rupert Perkins, Dr Aurelie Charles, Prof Peter Kille, Dr Dimitrios Xenias  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project


The Natural Environment Research Council funded RED ALERT Centre for Doctoral Training will provide training in water-based early warning systems for environmental and public health protection focused around 4 UK and 3 international Living Labs aimed to provide the in-depth knowledge and enable a step-change in managing environmental and public health.

Freshwater ecosystem health is critical for the aquatic system itself, as well as for recreational users; and for Water Companies that use this resource to produce drinking water. A healthy ecosystem increases enjoyment and decreases burden to users/other ecosystems downstream as well as Water Companies supplying high quality drinking water. Ecosystem health monitoring allows early action to prevent deterioration, and increases transparency, which helps improve perceptions and build trust between water managers and users. Perceptions and trust regularly manifest their importance through e.g. public outcry on pollution incidents, determining the fate of a reservoir (e.g. Llanishen, Cardiff) or burdening water companies with complaints on discoloured or poor taste and odour -on otherwise safe- tap water.

Collecting and sharing water quality data among water resource managers and users enables action, increases transparency and if done correctly, improves trust. At the same time, we know little about citizens’ understanding of water quality indicators, e.g. bacterial vs sediment vs nutrients, and how these shape perceptions of water quality or health risk. Such perceptions can be very influential on local authorities, regulators and policy makers, as we have recently witnessed e.g. in the River Wye. 

Project aims and methods

This Doctoral project aims to understand: 1) How do recreational users of Lisvane and Llanishen Reservoir/ Cardiff Bay/ Pontsticill Reservoir (e.g. the Outdoor Activities Centre that utilises this site) understand the ecosystem service value of clean fresh water? 2) How do they understand metrics of water quality? 3) Would these metrics influence users’ perception of water safety, drinking quality, or their decision to engage in water sports? 4) Does citizen interaction with fresh water and exposure to quality information improve their mental model of the Taff/Ely river system, water cycle and human impact on fresh water ecosystems?

The project will build on existing networks between Cardiff and Bath University and Welsh Water, identify gaps in water quality information flow among stakeholders, and provide a test bed for data sharing from parallel Red- Alert projects. Project outcomes can expand to the wider water industry and water managing bodies.

Candidate requirements

Candidates wishing to apply should have a background in one or more of the following areas: environmental psychology (incl. methods), freshwater biology, aquatic biochemistry. Candidates will need to demonstrate a sound knowledge in one of these fields and a good level of knowledge in the others. Candidates should also demonstrate a wider knowledge of the importance of water quality monitoring data and its uses, and a keen interest in working on information provision/sharing. Candidates should also evidence ability to disseminate research findings or a keen interest in publishing their work.

Project partners

The successful candidate will join a vibrant research community across three Schools at Cardiff University, Psychology, Biosciences, Earth Sciences, and project partners Bath University and Welsh Water. The project combines award winning research by Perkins (NERC Impact Award 2023; Citizen Science water quality monitoring) and Xenias (Low-Carbon Lifestyles and Behavioural Spillover Group-CASPI; Water Research Institute). During the project, training will be given through the Water RI Early Career Researcher Training involving both academic and social events; Training within the Post Graduate Schools of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Psychology and Biosciences; water quality metrics and measurement; short term placements within Dwr Cymru Welsh Water.

Entry requirements

Candidates should have a minimum of an upper second class (2.1) Degree in a related subject and preferably have a Masters qualification or relevant experience.


In order to formally apply for the PhD you will need to go to the following web page:

In the black box on the right of the page please select the following options:

Doctor of Philosophy

Full or Part Time

1st October 2024 (or relevant start date)

Click on ‘Apply now’

Please ensure that you include the ‘Project Title’ you are applying for and supervisor, and that you add ‘source of funding’ under source of funding.

Biological Sciences (4) Environmental Sciences (13) Psychology (31)

Funding Notes

The successful candidate will receive a minimum stipend of £19,237 per year for living costs, which is paid in regular instalments, and financial support for tuition fees (minimum £4,786 per year) paid directly to the host institution.


-Haley AL, Lemieux TA, Piczak ML, Karau S, D’Addario A, Irvine RL, Beaudoin C, Bennett JR, Cooke SJ. 2023. On the effectiveness of public awareness campaigns for the management of invasive species. Environ Conserv. 50(4):202–211.
-McCumber A, Sullivan A, Houser MK, Muthukrishnan R. 2023. Are lakes a public good or exclusive resource? Towards value-based management for aquatic invasive species. Environ Sci Policy. 139:130– 138.
-Slovic P. 2016. Understanding Perceived Risk: 1978–2015. Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development. 58(1):25–29.
-Tversky A, Kahneman D. 1974. Judgment under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases. Science. 185(4157):1124–31.

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