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Transport, fate and aquatic ecological impact of airport de-icers: a collaborative research project with Heathrow Airport


Project Description

CENTA2 is a consortium of research intensive Universities and research institutes that are working together to provide excellence in doctoral research training. Cranfield University is proud to be working alongside these partners to create the next generation of scientific leaders in environmental science.

This project is an exciting opportunity to conduct scientific research on water quality in collaboration with Heathrow Airport. This project proposes an interesting combination of field research, laboratory experiments, and pollution transport modelling to answer fundamental questions about pollutant transport and ecological impact that will have immediate, real-world impact. The student will be based at the Cranfield campus at Cranfield in Bedfordshire https://www.cranfield.ac.uk/About/How-to-find-Cranfield

Project Highlights:

1. The PhD research student will work with project partner Heathrow Airport to generate new scientific evidence on de-icer transport and impact to inform pollution mitigation measures.
2. S(he) will conduct fieldwork on and around the airport, laboratory experiments and process-based modelling, developing strong research and transferable skills through the project.
3. The topic is ideal for those with chemistry, engineering or ecology backgrounds who would like their research to be directly applicable to current environmental problems.

Overview

This project is an exciting opportunity to conduct scientific research on water quality in collaboration with Heathrow Airport. Millions of litres of de-icers are sprayed on aircraft each winter at airports worldwide. However, a more detailed scientific understanding of de-icers, their transport from airports to surrounding waterbodies and the mechanisms of impact to aquatic ecological communities is required to inform airfield operations and pollution mitigation. This project proposes an interesting combination of field research, laboratory experiments, and pollution transport modelling to answer fundamental questions about pollutant transport and ecological impact that will have immediate, real-world impact.

Aircraft de-icers are widely recognised as pollutants of surface waters, and strict guidelines exist in many countries to limit their discharge to rivers, lakes and wetlands. But even when these guidelines are respected, biological organisms indicative of poor water quality are still observed in waterbodies around and downstream of airports during winter months. This ecological effect is most strikingly represented by benthic biofilm growth on riverbeds. These biofilms are known commonly as sewage fungus, though are primarily composed of filamentous bacteria. Previous studies have suggested that the organic content of the active ingredient (e.g. glycol) is fueling the growth of biofilms, but more research is needed on the individual and interaction effects of water quality and ecological parameters on biofilm growth.

With better knowledge of how de-icers are driving the poor ecological status of rivers around airports, opportunities arise to alter airport operations or introduce new pollution mitigation measures. However, to maximise the water quality reduction benefits of these potential measures, the transport, transformation and fate of the pollutants as they travel through the airport drainage networks and treatment systems must be investigated and quantified.

De-icing is necessary for the safe operation of aircraft during cold weather. Through this co-designed project with Heathrow Airport, new scientific evidence will be generated on the physical, chemical, biological and ecological processes controlling de-icer transport and impact. The PhD student will gain essential research skills and work in close partnership with Heathrow Airport to help them further reduce their environmental impact.

For full project description please visit: http://www.centa.org.uk/themes/organisms-and-ecosystems/c11/

Key dates
• Application deadline – 21st January 2019
• Interviews (to be conducted via Skype) – w/c 11th February 2019
• Selection panel – 21st February 2019
• Universal acceptance date – 20th March 2019

How to apply -
To apply for one of the Cranfield University projects you will need to complete our online application form.

1. Please state the name of the project you will to apply for
2. When asked how you intend to fund your postgraduate studies please state that you wish to apply for a NERC CENTA2 studentship.
3. You will also be required to complete and submit the CENTA2 studentship application form and attach it to the application form.

Funding Notes

CENTA2 studentships are for 3.5 years and are funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (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
Further guidance about eligibility is available at RCUK Terms & Conditions

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