Marine Risk Assessment of High Technology Metals in the Context of Climate Change (MARTECH)

CASE award with Scymaris Limited (HUTCHINSON_P20ARIES)

Marine Risk Assessment of High Technology Metals in the Context of Climate Change (MARTECH)

CASE award with Scymaris Limited (HUTCHINSON_P20ARIES)

Project Description


Prof Tom Hutchinson, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Plymouth

Dr Nova Mieszkowska, Marine Biological Association (MBA)

Dr Manuela Truebano, School of Biological and Marine Sciences, University of Plymouth

Prof Alastair Grant, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia


Scientific Background

Around the world, investment is growing in the electrical economy for communication, transport and renewable energy systems. From smart phones to electric cars, a new generation of High Technology Metals (e.g. gallium, gadolinium & lanthanum) are required, with consequent risks of electronic waste or mine drainage causing coastal pollution. In contrast to copper and other metals widely used historically, there is a lack of knowledge regarding the health impacts of HT metals in marine organisms.  Our cause for concern reflects recent evidence for the harmful effects of these metals in freshwater organisms.  It is also known that hypoxia and other environmental factors associated with climate change increase the bioavailability and toxicity of metals to marine invertebrates.  This exciting project will address urgent knowledge gaps on the interactions between HT metals, hypoxia and other environmental factors and their combined impacts on marine invertebrates.

Research Methodology

Laboratory and field experiments will measure bioaccumulation of HT metals in marine crustaceans and molluscs, together with laboratory exposures to metals and hypoxia.  Amphipods and molluscs will be of primary interest as their different respiratory physiology may lead to important differences in biological responses of HT metals under the influence of hypoxia.  Additional experimental work with our neighbouring industry partner will focus on mysids since they represent key species in marine food webs and are widely used for marine risk assessment. Biological response measurements will include molecular, physiological and reproductive health parameters, optimised for each organism.  These data will be integrated with population modelling using the globally important OECD Adverse Outcome Pathway framework for decision making and environmental protection.


The student will join a vibrant research team of international recognized scientists at the forefront of marine conservation.  Training will be provided in the marine invertebrate biology, analytical chemistry, molecular biology, physiological techniques, population modelling and quantitative risk assessment.

Person Specification

Applicants should have a minimum 2.1 BSc degree in Marine Biology or an equivalent academic qualification including some experience of marine science. The successful applicant will have excellent skills in data analysis and science communication, together with an aptitude for practical work.


  • Hutchinson et al., (2013) Evaluating legacy contaminants and emerging chemicals in marine environments using adverse outcome pathways and biological effects-directed analysis. Mar. Poll. Bull. 74: 517-525
  • Mieszkowska et al., (2019) Multinational, integrated approaches to forecasting and managing the impacts of climate change on intertidal species. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 613: 247-252
  • Pinto et al., (2019) Ecotoxicological effects of lanthanum in Mytilus galloprovincialis: biochemical and histopathological impacts. Aquat. Toxicol. 211: 181-192
  • Rogowska et al., (2018) Gadolinium as a new emerging contaminant of aquatic environments. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 37: 1523-1534
  • Truebano et al., (2018) Short-term acclimation in adults does not predict offspring acclimation potential to hypoxia. Scientific Reports 8: 3174

Key Information

  • This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, and will involve attendance at mandatory training events throughout the course of the PhD.
  • Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship - UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a full award.
  • Excellent applicants from quantitative disciplines with limited experience in environmental sciences may be considered for an additional 3-month stipend to take advanced-level courses in the subject area (see
  • This studentship will start on 1st October 2020, and the closing date for applications is 23:59 on 15th January 2020.
  • Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 18/19 February 2020.
  • For further information, please contact the supervisor.
  • Please note that the joint NERC-ESRC ARIES-SeNSS studentship projects have different deadlines and funding arrangements. For full details please visit, or contact

Studentship Open for Applications

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