Plastic water bottles with green plastic lids

We're looking for sustainable solutions to protect our natural world and vital marine resources from pollutants. Our interdisciplinary research explores the impact of plastic pollutants on aquatic environments by bringing together expertise from biology, earth and environmental sciences, surveying and civil engineering.

Our research

Our researchers investigate how plastic waste affects our waterways and inform water treatment strategies and management programmes by using:

  • ecological monitoring
  • molecular biology
  • microbiology
  • ecotoxicology and ecophysiology techniques
  • modelling and remote sensing

Current projects

Fate of microplastics through the wastewater treatment process

PhD student Serena Cunsolo is investigating whether wastewater treatment plants act as a source of microplastics pollution through water discharge or the application of sludge on agricultural land. Southern Water are contributing to this project by allowing us to take samples from their treatment works.


Innovations in microplastic removal from road runoff

Dr Fay Couceiro and Professor John Williams will soon embark on a research project to investigate how to reduce microplastics in road runoff. They plan to quantify microplastics coming from trunk roads, install prototype innovations and determine their effectiveness in removing microplastics. They will work in collaboration with Kier Highways with funding from Highways England.


Pathogen concentration on microplastics and associated ecotoxicity in the marine environment

A group of researchers are looking into the harmful toxicological effects of pathogen-laden microplastics on marine organisms. They're comparing the effect on oyster health of clean microplastics to those covered in bacterial film. This is a hitherto unrecognised mechanism of microplastic toxicity.


Distribution and composition of marine litter and water quality of Langstone Harbour

Southern Water have sponsored two MSc projects to determine if the source of plastic pollution in Langstone Harbour can be identified. The researchers will investigate whether bacterial colonisation of plastic as it leaves wastewater treatment facilities can be analysed to determine the origin of the plastics.

Funding and collaborations

We're supported by funding from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), InnovateUK and industrial sponsors.


Our team of researchers has broad experience in areas such as marine ecology and ecotoxicology, pollution management, sustainable drainage systems, microplastics, microbial diversity in marine environments, wastewater treatment and aquatic contaminants.

Contact Information

Alex Ford

023 284 5804