Summary

I'm a Senior Research Fellow in Biogeochemistry in School of Civil Engineering and Surveying at the University of Portsmouth.

I'm an expert in pollution. The primary purpose of my research is to define the sources and fates of pollutants in the environment and develop interventions to prevent or mitigate their impact. I investigate many types of pollution including nutrients, metals, combustion products (from coal, wood, petrol and oil), plastic and organic pollutants.

I work in collaboration with industry partners to work out how to remove pollution from the environment using interventions and new technologies. I’ve worked with a number of companies in the water sector including THA Aquatic, WPL and Southern Water.

I'm interested in developing a circular economy and exploring ways to transform waste into a useful resource. For example, I worked with Gallagher Aggregates Ltd looking at air pollution control residue (the leftover ash when we incinerate waste for energy). This toxic residue is typically sent to landfill but the company now combine it with quarry waste to make a safe aggregate, which they plan to supply the building trade.

I’m also involved with research into the health impacts of pollution. I’m working with the Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, investigating the presence of microplastics in the lungs of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma patients.

I recently made a successful proposal to the University of Portsmouth to purchase a micro-raman – a specialist microscope that can reveal tiny pieces of plastic below 1 micrometre in size and determine their polymer type. This significant investment will enhance our research as we’ll be able to identify microplastics in the air and potentially those with the ability to enter the bloodstream. Only a handful of UK universities have this specialist equipment.

I peer review academic papers for a number of scientific journals including Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science and Environmental Science and Pollution Research. I'm also on the EU Reviewers Panel for Marie Curie research fellowships.

Biography

After completing a BSc in Marine Biology from Queen's University Belfast, I gained funding for a biogeochemistry PhD project to determine the significance of intertidal sediments on nutrient dynamics in Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland. I later moved to the University of Plymouth where I worked as part of an inter-disciplinary team investigating sediment dynamics and associated contaminant transport in estuaries.

I joined the University of Portsmouth as Senior Research Assistant in 2008. I was involved in a number of aquatic post-doctoral projects funded by the Natural Environment Research Council. I became a Senior Research Follow in the School of Civil Engineering and Surveying in 2014.

While my early career focused on identifying pollution, my research now involves engineering solutions to resolve pollution issues. I have substantial experience in method development and experimental design, which facilitated my transition from pure science to civil and environmental engineering.

Throughout my career I’ve been involved in school outreach programmes to promote STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). I’m currently involved with the University of Portsmouth’s Million Dreams project, run by the Royal Academy of Engineering, which explains what engineers do to primary school children.

I was the South East regional representative for the UK Research Staff Association for approximately four years until 2018. I was on the external panel to accredit universities in the UK with the European Commission HR Excellence in Research award, an accolade which the University of Portsmouth holds.

Research Interests

My primary research interests are contaminants, their fate and interventions to mitigate their impact. This includes: 

  • Excess nutrients in aquatic systems and the role of sediments in their availability under differing environmental conditions, particularly climate change
  • Microplastics and their impact on the natural environment and human health
  • Heavy metals
  • Organic pollutants such as pesticides and Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), particularly those released from fossil fuels

I supervise MSc research and Phd projects. I welcome enquiries and applications from students wishing to be supervised in PhD projects broadly within the area of pollution studies.

Media Availability

I am happy to take calls and emails from the media on my research, and am aware of the need to respond to journalists in a timely manner. Please contact Dr Fay Couceiro on either fay.couceiro@port.ac.uk  or 02392842399.

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