Dr Richard Cooper, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia
Dr Andy Rees, Plymouth Marine Laboratory
Nature-based solutions to environmental pressures are increasingly attractive as they also provide multi-functional benefits. In rural areas, sewage effluent discharges from wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) are widely recognised as a driver of eutrophication and failure to meet environmental quality standards. Small rural WWTPs have no regulatory requirement to reduce nutrient concentrations in effluent prior to discharge and, in this regard, integrated constructed wetlands (ICWs) have emerged as an alternative, nature-based solution for effluent treatment. Initial studies indicate ICWs could provide an environmentally sustainable and cost-effective form of nutrient mitigation, but major research questions remain concerning their seasonal effectiveness and long-term ability to capture and cycle nutrients to reliably replace conventional treatment.
Integrating hydrological, biogeochemical and analytical sciences, the research will provide a comprehensive evidence base with which to assess the effectiveness of ICWs at mitigating nutrient pollution released from small WWTPs. Initially focusing upon two ICWs installed at Anglian Water WWTPs in north Norfolk, the project design includes an 18-month field and laboratory campaign, analysing water, sediment, vegetation and gas samples collected at hourly-to-monthly resolution from across the ICWs. The data will be used to compile a complete nutrient balance for dissolved, particulate, organic and gaseous phases of nitrogen and phosphorus to improve understanding of pollutant mobilisation and fate. The spatial and temporal dynamics of nutrient concentrations and loads through the ICWs will be assessed to determine their capability to attenuate the impact of nutrient concentrations in downstream surface water courses.
The successful individual will gain extensive field and laboratory experience, including training in the operation of automatic water samplers, a range of laboratory methods for the analysis of nutrient species and dissolved gases and the use of programming software to interrogate biogeochemical datasets. Collaboration with Anglian Water will embed this exciting studentship within water resources management and policy and provide opportunities for public engagement with catchment partnerships.
We seek an enthusiastic individual with a degree in Physical Geography, Environmental Sciences, Environmental Chemistry or a related subject who has a keen interest in Catchment Science with a passion for field and laboratory work.