2020 applicants
Postgraduate Research Opportunity

Persistent chemical threats in the estuarine environment: sources and solutions to marine water quality challenges in the Native European Oyster


Title: Persistent chemical threats in the estuarine environment: sources and solutions to marine water quality challenges in the Native European Oyster

Funding: Full time Home/EU fees and a stipend of £15,009 p.a. (terms & conditions), international applicants will need to provide evidence of finances to cover the additional international fees.

Application deadline: 15 March 2020

Start date: April 2020

Duration: 3 years (full time)

Location: Colchester Campus

Based in: School of Life Sciences

This opportunity has now closed. View our open opportunities.


Scientific background

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are ubiquitous and persistent environmental pollutants, which can enter the marine environment from many natural and anthropogenic sources.

Many PAHs are classified as ‘hazardous priority pollutants’ as they have toxic, mutagenic and carcinogenic properties. Bivalves can be used as sentinel species in monitoring programmes as they bioaccumulate PAHs, and stringent regulatory limits for PAHs within all foods are in place.

Oysters are important species both ecologically’, as ‘ecosystem engineers’, and commercially as high-value seafood and the European oyster is included in the OSLO-PARIS-Convention´s List of Threatened/Declining Species and is protected under the EU Habitats Directive.


This PhD will focus on determining the distribution, type, abundance and source of PAHs in the Blackwater, Crouch, Roach and Colne Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) in Essex, UK.

Importantly the project will determine whether the distribution of PAHs in the sediments, water and catchment infrastructure impact wild shellfish beds, and particularly protected native oyster beds in the MCZ.

Research Methodology

The student will use state-of-the-art triple quadrupole GC-MS/MS to measure PAH pollutants in water and sediments from terrestrial, freshwater and wastewater infrastructure sites, and sediment and shellfish samples from within the MCZ.

There will be exciting opportunities to develop methodology and experiments to determine whether PAH pollutants affect shellfish physiology, function, growth and survival, using the Aquatic Sciences centre at Essex.


The award consists of a full Home/EU fee waiver or equivalent fee discount for overseas students (further fee details), a doctoral stipend equivalent to the Research Councils UK National Minimum Doctoral Stipend (£15,009 in 2019-20), plus £2,500 training bursary via Proficio funding, which may be used to cover the cost of advanced skills training including conference attendance and travel.


We are looking for a candidate enthusiastic about environmental science, marine conservation and water management with at least an undergraduate bachelor of Science (2:1 or equivalent) degree in biology, chemistry, biochemistry, microbial biology or environmental sciences.

Candidates with experience in aquatic fieldwork and working with stakeholders are desirable.

A driving licence is essential.

How to apply

To apply for this opportunity please email Emma Revill (ecrix@essex.ac.uk) with the following documents:

  • 2 page CV
  • cover letter detailing why they are the best candidate for this position and when you will be able start
  • degree transcripts
  • references to contact (not needed up front)
  • confirmation of full valid driving licence to allow driving in the UK.

If you have any informal queries about this opportunity please email the lead supervisor, Dr Corinne Whitby (cwhitby@essex.ac.uk).