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Pollution tolerant marine communities: detecting impacts and understanding ecological mechanisms (GRANTU16SF)

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  • Full or part time
    Prof A Grant
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

Species vary in their sensitivity to pollutants. When a mixed community is exposed to pollution, sensitive species decrease in abundance and more tolerant species increase. The resulting “pollution induced community tolerance” can be quantified by carrying out a toxicity test on the whole community rather than on individual species. This has proved to be a very sensitive way of detecting impacts of toxins in the field (Grant, 2010; Ogilvie and Grant, 2008; Millward and Grant, 2000).

The project will quantify differences in pollution tolerance of communities of either nematodes or micro-organisms along estuarine or marine contamination gradients, then carry out experiments in which contaminants are added to laboratory microcosms to identify the changes in community composition that underlie these differences in tolerance. Combining this information with measurements of the sensitivity of individual species to the contaminant concerned will yield powerful insights into the mechanisms that lie behind the changes in community composition that are detected by widely used ecological monitoring techniques.

The PhD project will provide training in ecotoxicology, community ecology and chemical analysis of contaminants in environmental samples.

Funding Notes

This PhD project is offered on a self-funding basis. It is open to applicants with funding or those applying to funding sources. Details of tuition fees can be found at

A bench fee is also payable on top of the tuition fee to cover specialist equipment or laboratory costs required for the research. The amount charged annually will vary considerably depending on the nature of the project and applicants should contact the primary supervisor for further information about the fee associated with the project.


i) Grant, A., 2010. Detecting ecological effects of pollutants in the aquatic environment. Pp. 147-161, In: Batty, L.C. and Hallberg, K. (eds) Ecology of Industrial Pollution. Cambridge University Press, UK.
ii) Turner, T.R., K. Ramakrishnan, J. Walshaw, D. Heavens, M. Alston, D. Swarbreck, A. Osbourn, A. Grant and P.S. Poole. 2013. Comparative metatranscriptomics reveals kingdom level changes in the rhizosphere microbiome of plants. ISME Journal 7:2248-2258
iii) Ogilvie, L.A. and A. Grant, 2008 Linking pollution induced community tolerance (PICT) and microbial community structure in chronically metal polluted estuarine sediments. Marine Environmental Research, 65(2):187-198.
iv) Millward, R.N and A. Grant, 2000. Pollution induced tolerance to copper of nematode communities in the severely contaminated Restronguet Creek and adjacent estuaries. Environmental Toxiciology and Chemistry 19: 454-461
v) Tkacz, A., Cheema, J., Chandra, G., Grant, A. & Poole, 2015. Stability and succession of the rhizosphere microbiota depends upon plant type and soil composition. The ISME Journal, In Press. doi:10.1038/ismej.2015.41

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