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Designing new biological strategies to detect and deal with pesticides

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  • Full or part time
    Dr Moir
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Metaldehyde is a molluscicide used to kill slugs, thus protecting economically important crops, particularly potatoes, wheat and oil-seed rape. Following its use, metaldehyde runs off agricultural land and can accumulate in river and reservoir water, ultimately contaminating drinking water where it is recalcitrant to degradation. An EU defined maximum concentration in drinking water for this compound of 0.1 µg/L has to be achieved, yet as currently operated metaldehyde passes through most water treatment works relatively untouched. Control of metaldehyde contamination is a priority issue for Water Companies in the UK (metaldehyde was responsible for 232/253 failures in water quality tests in England in 2012). There is currently no cost effective and reliable process for metaldehyde degradation. The difficult situation is exacerbated by a reliance on laborious laboratory-based chromatographic procedures required for metaldehyde measurement.

This NERC-funded CASE studentship aims to rectify this problem by developing the application of naturally occurring microbiological degradation as a new solution for metaldehyde contamination. In a second strand of the project, we will exploit biological metaldehyde degradation mechanisms to design metaldehyde biosensors, thus leading to the creation of a new approach for field-testing of metaldehyde. A student with a background in microbiology, biotechnology and/or biochemistry who is prepared to work in an interdisciplinary way will be well equipped to take on this project, which will build upon earlier findings at York with respect to biological degradation of metaldehyde. Major objectives of the project are to: (i) improve existing bacterial isolates that can degrade metaldehyde to improve their properties for drinking water treatment, (ii) characterise the enzyme system for metaldehyde degradation to inform strain improvement and develop of sensor technology, (iii) develop electronic and optical methods for metaldehyde detection using biological components as biosensors.

This project is a collaboration between the University of York (led by Dr. James Moir in the Department of Biology, with Dr. Steven Johnson, Department of Electronics as a co-supervisor) and Thames Water and the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA Science Limited). The project will involve work at the University of York, at FERA (situated just outside York) and a significant industrial placement with Thames Water (using their water treatment research facilities in London).

Funding Notes

This is a NERC Industrial CASE studentship fully funded for 4 years and covers: (i) a tax-free stipend at the standard Research Council rate (estimated to be £14,296 for 2016-2017), (ii) research costs, and (iii) tuition fees at the UK/EU rate.

The studentship is available to UK and EU students who meet the UK residency requirements.

How good is research at University of York in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 44.37

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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