Dr Trevor Tolhurst (School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia)
Professor Pennie Lindeque (Plymouth Marine Laboratory)
Microplastic debris is a prolific environmental contaminant identified in marine ecosystems across the globe. Plastic debris can have adverse impacts on marine biota, and the repercussions for ecosystems and socio-economic wellbeing have an estimated economic cost of $3300–$33,000 per tonne of marine plastic per year. Stemming the inputs of microplastic debris into the marine environment is a key societal challenge. This project will explore whether mussels and macrophytes could be used as part of a nature-based solution to stem the flow of microplastics from source to sea.
Key Research Questions:
- Can mussels efficiently remove waterborne microplastics from polluted waters without causing harm to the organism and local environment?
- Do macrophtyes (e.g. saltmarshes, seagrasses) promote microplastic deposition without causing harm to the local ecosystem?
- How could these biological systems be incorporated into an effective nature-based solution to microplastics?
You will use a custom-designed flume tank and our recently refurbished laboratories to design, test and optimise different set-ups using both mussels and macrophytes for removing waterborne microplastics. Promising designs will be field-tested to evaluate their efficacy, practicality, and environmental impact. As project partner, The Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation will provide the opportunity to investigate the role seagrasses play in microplastic retention in the field and support their marine plastic research programme. Throughout the PhD you will be supported by an interdisciplinary supervisory team with expertise in microplastics, marine ecology, ecotoxicology, sedimentology and coastal processes. You will have access to workshops and in-house training, covering microplastic extraction and characterisation, experimental design, benthic analyses, scientific writing and statistics, and be encouraged to publish and present your work at international conferences.
This studentship will be based at the Plymouth Marine Laboratory, and registered at the University of East Anglia.
The project would suit an exemplary candidate with a degree in biosciences, environmental science or oceanography. We seek an enthusiastic, dynamic and engaged candidate with a passion for conducting high quality research both in the field and laboratory. The successful candidate will join the microplastics research group at PML and undertake research placements with UEA and in Greece.