Project code


Start dates

February and October

Application deadline

Applications accepted all year round

This is a self-funded, 3 year full-time or 6 year part-time PhD studentship, to commence in October or February.

The project is supervised by Dr. Michelle HaleProf Jim Smith and Dr. Mike Bowes

UK water companies regularly suffer problems with blooms caused by algae and cyanobacteria. Algal blooms can contaminate water supplies with toxins, cause taste and odour problems, and impact on the effectiveness of the equipment used for water treatment.

It's estimated that eutrophication costs the UK more than £114 million per year, and the problem of excessive algal growth is predicted to get worse under future climate change scenarios.

You'll investigate the novel application of Fast Repetition Rate Fluorometry (Frrf) to measure quantum yield (Fv/Fm), an indicator of algal 'health', to better understand and predict algal blooms.

The water industry is particularly interested in the potential of FRRf, together with easily-measurable environmental variables such as light, temperature, flow and nutrients, to provide an early warning system for bloom development.

The work will include:

  • working closely with CEH, you'll monitor sites on the River Thames, which often suffer from eutrophication problems, leading to problem causing algal blooms
  • high-frequency (hourly) monitoring of nutrient concentrations, temperature, dissolved oxygen, light and flow, alongside sub-daily biological data from flow cytometry and FRRf (blue and red PhytoFlash), to produce a truly unique dataset that will allow us to better understand the timing, duration and magnitude of blooms in rivers
  • analysing data from a pilot study of Frrf on the River Thames, using time series analysis, determining whether changes in Fv/Fm can provide an early warning system for algal blooms

Initial results suggest that FRRf can provide powerful new insights into phytoplankton dynamics in rivers and allow water companies to rapidly intervene to prevent bloom formation.

Fees and funding

Visit the research subject area page for fees and funding information for this project.

Funding availability: Self-funded PhD students only. 

PhD full-time and part-time courses are eligible for the UK Government Doctoral Loan (UK and EU students only).

Bench fees

Some PhD projects may include additional fees – known as bench fees – for equipment and other consumables, and these will be added to your standard tuition fee. Speak to the supervisory team during your interview about any additional fees you may have to pay. Please note, bench fees are not eligible for discounts and are non-refundable.

Entry Requirements

Entry Requirements

  • A good honours degree or equivalent in a relevant subject or a master’s degree in an appropriate subject.
  • Exceptionally, equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications will be considered. All applicants are subject to interview.
  • English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

Make an enquiry

For administrative and admissions enquiries please contact

How to Apply

To start your application, or enquire further about the process involved, please contact Dr. Michelle Hale ( and Prof Jim Smith ( quoting both the project code and the project title.

When you are ready to apply, please follow the 'Apply now' link on the Earth and Environmental Sciences PhD subject area page and select the link for the relevant intake. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV. Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.