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ONE Planet DTP - Microplastics in Soils: impact, detection and quantification (Ref: OP20247)

Project Description

Project Description:
Microplastic pollution is seemingly everywhere. From a human perspective, microplastic particles have been detected in our food and drink – potentially affecting our health. Similarly, there is growing global concern about the environmental impact of microplastics for ecosystem health in both marine and terrestrial environments. This project will focus on microplastics in terrestrial environments, where studies are revealing potential impacts to soil organisms, soil structure and function, as well as plant growth (e.g. Hodson et al 2017, Env Sci Tech 51:4714-4721; Prendergast-Miller et al 2019 Env Poll 251:453-459). Sewage sludge is a by-product of wastewater treatment plants, which can be applied to agricultural land as a soil amendment. This practice is a potential primary source of microplastic and microfibre particles to soils. Currently, research is limited by our ability to accurately and rapidly detect microplastics in soil and sewage sludge in order to assess their risk and impact on food production, now and in the future.
This multidisciplinary project will provide opportunities for training in state-of-the-art techniques in soil science and ecology (led by Dr Miranda Prendergast-Miller, NU), ecotoxicology (led by Dr Karen Thorpe, FERA Science Ltd.), high-throughput sequencing technologies (Nanopore technology) (led by Dr Maria.del Carmen Montero-Calasanz, NCL), image analysis and machine learning (led by Dr Li Zhang, NU) and wastewater treatment technologies (led by Prof Tom Curtis, NCL). The aim is to develop microplastic detection and quantification tools to improve our understanding of microplastic pollution in terrestrial habitats and its impact on ecosystem services, such as nutrient cycling and carbon storage, biodiversity, water quality and food production.
Combining research in microplastic detection and its fate in the environment will strengthen our ability to determine the level of risk posed by terrestrial microplastic pollution.
Prerequisites: Applicants must meet eligibility criteria of the One Planet DTP: The project is suitable for a student with a background in ecology or environmental science. Experience in image processing/ bioinformatics/ molecular microbial ecology/ soil science is desirable.
For more information, please contact Dr Miranda Prendergast-Miller ().

Eligibility and How to Apply:
Please note eligibility requirement:
• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
• Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. OP.....) will not be considered.

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality.

Funding Notes

We have a minimum of 12 (3.5 year) PhD fully funded studentship awards available for October 2020 entry. Each award includes fees (Home / EU), an annual living allowance (for 2019/20 this is £15,009) and a Research Training Support Grant (for travel, consumables, as required).

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