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The influence of biogeochemical iron(III) reduction on contaminant dynamics in riparian systems

Project Description

Recent research has revealed the critical role that microbial reduction of iron oxides plays in nitrogen loss from riparian wetlands, soils and sediments. Furthermore, these same mineral transformations can promote sequestration of phosphate, metal contaminants and couple to degradation of recalcitrant organic contaminants. Deeper understanding of these processes will help facilitate the sustainable management of nutrient and contaminant-rich runoff in natural riparian and engineered wetlands for the protection of freshwater ecosystems. The interdisciplinary supervisory team for this project comprises core expertise in environmental biogeochemistry, geomicrobiological community analyses and interpretation, iron mineralogy, and ecological engineering which is ideally suited to a highly impactful freshwater research project.

Students will gain project-specific skills and expertise, including the following:

- Advanced understanding and experimental expertise related to the biogeochemistry of nutrient and kinetics of contaminant transformations in anaerobic systems

- Expertise in quantitative microbial community analysis using DNA/RNA (metabarcoding and metagenomics) based approaches to investigate community diversity, and dynamics.

- Development of computing and bioinformatic expertise.

- Microbial cultivation (oxic and anoxic).

- Advanced geochemical analyses e.g. Mössbauer spectroscopy, electron microscopy and X-ray diffraction.

- Riparian management policy and practice.

- General freshwater expertise, supported by specific courses that form part of the NERC FRESH CDT. This will include policy, research techniques, contemporary issues in freshwaters and interactions with stakeholders/development of professional networks.

- Ecological engineering: Expertise in harnessing microbial ecology and biogeochemical processes to achieve sustainable protection of freshwater resources.

- Transferable scientific skills, including development of written and oral communication.

- Working closely with Arup will give the student an excellent working knowledge of habitat enhancement and restoration of riparian systems.

The student will be exposed to the competent authorities (Natural Resources Wales and Environment Agency) and will gain a understanding of the changing requirements around water quality and pollution management in the UK. Student training and development of their expertise will be directly by the supervisory team and members of their respective research groups, along with dedicated courses, where appropriate. The mix of these elements will depend upon the individual’s prior knowledge, expertise and needs, guided by a skills gap analysis. In addition to the project specific expertise, the student will benefit from the training on the extensive skills courses that are an integral part of the FRESH CDT, along with more general graduate courses such as those offered through the CU Water Research Institute, GW4 Water Security Alliance and CU’s Graduate College.


Studentships will last for 3.5 years full-time or the equivalent period part-time. Applicants must demonstrate an outstanding academic record: at least a 2:1 undergraduate degree or equivalent, or relevant masters degree.

Funding Notes

NERC-funded studentships are subject to UKRI eligibility requirements. Applicants must be a citizen of the UK or other EU country and have been residing in the UK for the last 3 years (apart from temporary or occasional absences).


Applications must be made via the GW4Fresh CDT online application form at:

In addition to this form candidates will also be required to submit an application for postgraduate study via the Cardiff University Online Application Service (sims). GW4Fresh CDT will notify you of the Cardiff University application process once they have received your application and you should complete this second stage before noon on 19th December 2019.

Further information is available at:

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