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The role of trophic transfer of plastics from prey to predator species in the Clyde Sea benthic environment

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  • Full or part time
    Dr D Morritt
    Dr P Cowie
    Dr P Clark
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Recent comparative work carried out between the River Thames estuary and the Clyde Sea has demonstrated the existence of plastic fragments and fibres in the guts of a range of fish species. Percentage occurrence in benthic fish species is consistently higher when compared to pelagic species. This may be a reflection of the feeding habit of bottom-dwelling fish and accumulation of plastics in sediments. An additional, currently poorly studied, aspect to this highly topical environmental issue is the potential role of trophic transfer of plastics from prey to predator species. This project will focus on the benthic environment and incorporate field sampling and manipulative experiments to examine the potential for trophic transfer including processing of plastics in a range of benthic invertebrate and fish species. The project takes advantage of the well-established working relationship between the School of Biological Sciences (RHUL), the Natural History Museum and Field Studies Council (FSC) Millport, Scotland. Tuition fees, a stipend and some research expenses, are supported by the Sheina Marshall Fund of the University of London. The student will be registered for a PhD at RHUL and have access to vessel-based sampling, aquarium and ROV facilities at FSC Millport where it is anticipated much of the fieldwork will be completed. But there is also scope for carrying out some fieldwork at established sites in the Thames estuary to assess the potential for plastic accumulation by higher trophic level organisms.


Johnstone, K.M., Rainbow, P.S., Clark, P.F., Smith B.D. & Morritt, D. (2016) Trace metal bioavailabilities in the Thames estuary: continuing decline in the 21st century. J. Mar. Biol. Assoc. UK. 96: 205–216
McGoran, A.R., Clark, P.F. & Morritt, D. (2017) Presence of microplastic in the digestive tracts of European flounder, Platichthys flesus, and European smelt, Osmerus eperlanus, from the River Thames. Environmental Pollution 220: 744–751
Morritt, D., Stefanoudis, P.V., Pearce, D., Crimmen, O.A. & Clark, P.F. (2014) Plastic in the Thames: a river runs through it. Marine Pollution Bulletin 78: 196–200
Murray F., Cowie P.R. (2011) Plastic contamination in the decapod crustacean Nephrops norvegicus (Linnaeus, 1758). Marine Pollution Bulletin 62: 1207–1217.
Welden, N.A., Cowie, P.R (2016).Environment and Gut Morphology influence microplastic retention in langoustine, Nephrops norvegicus. Environmental Pollution. 214:859-65

How good is research at Royal Holloway, University of London in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 24.00

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