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The fate of microplastics accumulating at groundwater-surface water interfaces

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  • Full or part time
    Prof S Krause
    Dr I Lynch
    Prof G Sambrook Smith
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

The transport, fate and behaviour of MPs have been studied predominantly in marine ecosystems, with severe knowledge gaps remaining in freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems (Klein et al., 2015; Wagner et al., 2014; Windsor et al., 2018). There is growing consensus that rivers represent major conduits for MPs transport. Inputs from surface runoff and rivers, to a large extend discharging MPs that are only poorly contained in wastewater treatment plants are thought to be the main sources of MPs in marine environments
Despite reasonable progress in understanding the transport and fate of microplastics in the worlds oceans, the sources, transport and fate of microplastics in freshwater environments are still critically under-researched.
In particular, the mechanisms controlling the transport and accummulation of different types of plastics are still unknown. This knowledge gap has critical consequences also for understanding how plasticisers such as Bisphenol-A (BPA) can be released from decaying microplastics in accummulation hotspots such as streambed sediments. BPA, as an endocrine disrupting substance is posing a severe thread to environmental and public health.
This project will pioneer investigations into the accummulation of microplastics at terrestrial - aquatic interfaces such as streambed environments.
It will investigate the mechanisms of potential BPA release during the physical and chemical breakdown of microplastics in freshwater environments and develop urgently needed understanding of the patterns and dynamics of microplastic accummulation and decay hotspots in freshwater systems.
PhD project benefits from supervision by two of the world’s leading research groups.
The UoB research team has been leading research into ecohydrological and biogeochemical processing in hyporheic and riparian zones, with a strong focus on the development of novel experimental technologies and modelling techniques to quantify the interplay of physical, biogeochemical and ecological processes at the interfaces between groundwater and surface water under the impact of global environmental change.
The research team of the BGS CASE partner has been at the forefront of research into the fate and transport of emerging pollutants as well as undertaking world leading studies into the occurrence of emerging contaminants in aquatic systems.
Beside the standard NERC PhD funding, the project is supported by BUFI CASE and additional contributions from the HiFreq H2020 RISE project, providing unique training and international exchange opportunities.
Further details:

Funding Notes

CENTA studentships are for 3.5 years and are funded by NERC. In addition to the full payment of their tuition fees, successful candidates will receive the following financial support:

Annual stipend, set at £14,777 for 2018/19
Research training support grant (RTSG) of £8,000


Rachid Dris, Hannes Imhof, Wilfried Sanchez, Johnny Gasperi, Francois Galgani, Bruno Tassin, Christian Laforsch. Beyond the ocean: contamination of freshwater ecosystems with (micro-)plastic particles. Environ. Chem. 12, 539 (2015).
Karen Duis, Anja Coors. Microplastics in the aquatic and terrestrial environment: sources (with a specific focus on personal care products) fate and effects. Environ Sci Eur 28 (2016).
Dafne Eerkes-Medrano, Richard C. Thompson, David C. Aldridge. Microplastics in freshwater systems: A review of the emerging threats identification of knowledge gaps and prioritisation of research needs. Water Research 75, 63–82 (2015).
S Klein, E Worch, TP Knepper. Occurrence and Spatial Distribution of Microplastics in River Shore Sediments of the Rhine-Main Area in Germany.. Environ Sci Technol49, 6070-6 (2015).
Scott Lambert, Martin Wagner. Exploring the effects of microplastics in freshwater environments. Integr Environ Assess Manag 12, 404–405 (2016).

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