2020 applicants
Research Group

Ecology and Environmental Microbiology Group

Global biodiversity and by association ecosystem functioning is rapidly changing in response to changes in environmental and climatic conditions.

Understanding the ecological mechanisms behind these changes and providing clear management and policy recommendations are among the great challenges of the 21st century.

We are actively addressing this challenge across all levels of biological organisation (from genes to ecosystems) and across taxonomic groups (from microbes to macro-organisms).

To facilitate this, our research group of core academics focuses on four broad themes: biodiversity (including microbial), climate and environmental change, biogeochemical cycling, and environmental biotechnology. This includes work via our globally reaching Coral Reef Research Unit.

Funding and Facilities

We have an extensive network of national and international collaborations through projects funded by the NERC, BBSRC, EU FP7/H2020, Earthwatch and industry.

We have also been involved in several responsive projects and many major large directed research programmes from NERC , including: Ocean Acidification, Macronutrient Cycling, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service Sustainability, Environmental Microbiology and Human Health.

Our research is supported via state-of-the-art laboratory and facilities infrastructure and continuously produces high impacting papers covering the broad range of research fields.

Working with Business

We offer many ways for you to access our expertise, including consultancy, collaborative and commissioned research and Knowledge Transfer Partnerships.

These are some of the current and recently completed projects and programmes which are collaborative with and sponsored by industry:

  • The oil industry - Oil Plus Ltd, Shell, BP, Syncrude
  • Forestry Research - Forestry Commission (Forest Research)
  • Fisheries - CEFAS, Colchester Oyster Fishery
  • UK Government - Defra and the Environment Agency
  • Waste water treatment companies - Severn Trent
  • Defence industry - BAE Systems

Master of Science (MSD) in Biological Sciences

Our research group has several exciting opportunities for research projects towards a Master of Science by Dissertation (MSD) in the School of Life Sciences.

These are one-year postgraduate degrees that typically start in October but other start times can be negotiated with the project supervisor(s) (overseas applicants should allow additional time for visa processing). These opportunities do not come with any funding. Further information on fees and funding is available here.

To start the process, browse our list of titles and supervisors below, then email your CV to the supervisors directly or email the postgraduate administrator Ms Emma Revill (ecrix@essex.ac.uk) to suggest another project within the area of interest of one of our groups or members of staff.

MSD titles and supervisors

"The effect of metal and metal oxide nanoparticles on plant and soil microbial processes", Dr Corinne Whitby and Prof Ian Colbeck

"Effect of oxidative stress on the biochemistry of dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP)-lyase enzymes in tropical reef organisms", Dr Michael Steinke, Dr Mike Hough, Dr Jonathan Worrall

"Pollution mitigation by microbes in urban soils", Dr Terry McGenity, Dr Corinne Whitby

"Understanding how microbes survive inside salt", Dr Terry McGenity

"Biogenic gases from extremely saline environments – how can they inform us about life elsewhere in the Solar System", Dr Michael Steinke, Dr Terry McGenity

"Impacts of thermal adaptation and warming on predator-prey interactions", Dr Eoin O'Gorman

"Stylasteridae habitat suitability modelling", Dr Michelle Taylor

"Effect of microplastics on microbial communities and their processes in the environment", Dr Corinne Whitby and Dr Philippe Laissue

"Impacts of conventional and biodegradable plastics on community structure and biogeochemical cycling", Dr Eoin O'Gorman, Dr Boyd McKew, Dr Corinne Whitby, Prof Terry McGenity.

"The Role of Phosphorus in RIverbed Nitrogen Cycling", Dr Boyd McKew, Dr Corinne Whitby, and Dr Philippe Laissue

"High-resolution imaging of biofilms and hot-spots in riverbed sediments", Dr Philippe Laissue, Dr Corinne Whitby, and Dr Boyd McKew

"Larval settlement and adhesion of the biofouling hydrozoan, Clytia hemisphaerica", Dr Nick Aldred

"Trophic control of ecosystems: top predator effects on microbial-driven carbon and nitrogen cycles in northern boreal forest lakes", Dr Tom Cameron, Dr Natalie Hicks, Dr Corinne Whitby.

"Investigating if natural drinking water biofilms (DWB) have the potential to degrade unwanted organic micro-pollutants (e.g. plasticizers, phenols, pesticides etc) from our drinking water", Dr Corinne Whitby, in collaboration with Dr Torben Lund Skovhus, and Dr Ditte Andreasen Søborg (VIA University College and Aarhus Water, Denmark).

"Demographics and behaviour in wild birds – research masters in field ornithology with a range of options to work on hirundines, corn buntings, nightingale or waterfowl", Dr Tom Cameron, Dr Kim Wallis (Essex & Suffolk Water) & Dr Chas Holt (BTO)

"Shifting ecological and trophic status in managed freshwater reservoirs in SE England", Dr Tom Cameron, and Dr Kim Wallis (Essex & Suffolk Water)

"Do functional traits of restored shellfish habitats lead to ecosystem services", Dr Tom Cameron and Dr Corinne Whitby, in collaboration with Zoological Society London

"Modelling the global peaks of microbial biodiversity", Prof Alex Dumbrell and Dr Dave Clark

"Mining microbial metagenomes to understand environmental change", Prof Alex Dumbrell and Dr Rob Ferguson

"Revealing the  environmental drivers of antimicrobial resistance hidden in metagenome data", Dr Rob Ferguson and Prof Alex Dumbrell

"Geodiversity-biodiversity relationships in microbial communities", Dr Dave Clark and Prof Alex Dumbrell

"Modeling the New Zealand strontium isoscape to track fish migrations and responses to environmental change", Dr Anna Sturrock

"Anthropogenic influences on salmon phenotype and genotype in California", Dr Anna Sturrock

"Recombinant production of a barnacle lysyl oxidase for development of bio-inspired adhesives", Dr Nick Aldred and Dr Phil Reeves

Contact us
Liz Lee Reynolds Research Manager