Dr Matthew Cole, Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML)
Dr Trevor Tolhurst, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia
Prof Pennie Lindeque, Plymouth Marine Laboratory
Microplastic debris is a prolific environmental contaminant, impacting on marine ecosystems across the globe. New government policies aim to limit plastic waste generated from cosmetics and single-use bottles and bags, but further effort is required to identify other types of plastic that pose the greatest challenge to the marine environment. Stemming the inputs of microplastic debris into the marine environment is a key challenge; our research group is currently exploring whether biological remediation could mitigate the flow of microplastics from source to sea.
You will investigate whether bioremediation could be successfully employed to reduce the flux of microplastics into the marine environment. Key research questions include:
- Which plastics are most harmful to the marine environment, and to what extent could policy intervention or bioremediation limit their entry into our seas?
- Can biogenic reefs (e.g. 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?
Research methodology and training.
You will design, test and optimise different remedial approaches by conducting experimental work in our mesocosms and flume tanks, and evaluate the environmental impact and efficacy of solutions through fieldwork in the UK and Greece (in collaboration with the Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation). Throughout the PhD you will be supported by an interdisciplinary supervisory team with expertise in microplastics, marine ecology, ecotoxicology, conservation, sedimentology, coastal processes, and environmental psychology. 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.
The project would suit an exemplary student with a degree in biosciences, environmental science or oceanography. We seek an enthusiastic, dynamic and engaged student with a passion for conducting high quality research both in the field and laboratory. The successful student will join the microplastics research group at PML and undertake research placements with UEA and in Greece.
The successful candidate will be hosted at the Plymouth Marine Laboratory.