Professor Kevin Hiscock, University of East Anglia, School of Environmental Sciences
Dr Rosalind Bark, University of East Anglia, School of Environmental Sciences
The EU Water Framework Directive had an ambitious target to ensure all freshwater bodies achieved ‘good’ chemical status by 2015. However, by 2020, just 38% of rivers across the EU and 0% in England achieved this goal, due primarily to the presence of ubiquitous, persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic substances (uPBTs). Derived from products including plastics, flame retardants and waterproof coatings, of greatest concern are the “forever chemicals”, which primarily enter rivers through wastewater treatment works. Despite ecotoxicological evidence of the deleterious impacts of these long-lived hazardous substances upon both human health and aquatic organisms, sampling and analytical constraints mean environmental monitoring remains restricted to larger urban catchments and little is known about their occurrence in rural headwaters and the solutions available to mitigate their impact.
Focusing upon the rural River Wensum catchment, this project will integrate hydrological and analytical sciences to develop a novel quantitative evidence base on ‘forever chemicals’ in headwater environments. Collaborating with an established citizen scientist network, the candidate will conduct an extensive field and laboratory campaign to ascertain the abundance and composition of ‘forever chemicals’ in water, sediment and macrophyte samples collected across sites with contrasting wastewater pressures. This dataset will be coupled with a pioneering citizen science riverfly database to enhance understanding of the relationships between ‘forever chemicals’ and this key indicator of ecological health. Having ascertained the extent of the problem, the candidate will explore potential nature-based solutions, with a particular focus on the role constructed wetlands could play in mitigating ‘forever chemicals’ released from rural sewage treatment works.
Working with the Broadland Catchment Partnership and River Wensum citizen scientist network, candidate learning will be embedded within applied water resources management and provide exciting opportunities for engagement with the water industry, environmental regulators and NGOs. The candidate will gain extensive field and laboratory experience, whilst developing skills in coding and GIS for data analysis and evidence dissemination.
Suitable candidates will have a degree in Environmental Sciences or related subject, have a keen interest in Catchment Science and a passion for field and laboratory work.