Funded (UK/EU and international students)

Project code



School of the Environment, Geography, and Geosciences

Start dates

October 2023

Application deadline

6 April 2023

Applications are invited for a fully-funded three-year PhD to commence in October 2023.

The PhD will be based in the Faculty of Science and Health, and will be supervised by Professor Gary Fones and Dr Michelle Hale.

Candidates applying for this project may be eligible to compete for one of a small number of bursaries available. Successful applicants will receive a bursary to cover tuition fees for three years and a stipend in line with the UKRI rate (£17,668 for 2022/23). Bursary recipients will also receive a contribution of £1,500 p.a. towards consumables, conference, project or training costs. Funding from the Environment Agency will also cover consumables and fieldwork travel costs.



The work on this project could involve:

  •  Development of a new liquid chromatography method for the analysis of Chemcatcher extracts both for suspect screening and targeted analyses.
  • Field work at a number of sites on the Hampshire River Avon and its tributaries 
  • To work with a number of leading experts – both academic, government and non-government organisations on analytical chemistry, water quality monitoring, chemical impacts on freshwater ecosystems.



Freshwater quality in the UK has now become a priority area of concern as public interest in environmental issues has gained traction. Freshwater habitats are under threat from chemical pollution and based on regulations from the Water Framework Directive (WFD), most UK rivers have been classed as failing, with 86% of rivers not reaching good ecological status and all rivers failing to achieve good chemical status in England. The inputs of these chemicals into surface waters arise from multiple point and diffuse sources which occur as complex mixtures, dependent on land use and sectors, making impacts on freshwater ecosystems difficult to predict and quantify. Typically, only a small set of chemicals (priority substances) are monitored for under WFD guidelines. Polar organic chemicals such as pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and personal care products are one such class of contaminants that are currently under investigated. Monitoring is usually undertaken as low frequency/high volume but can often fail to provide a representative picture of water quality particularly when pollutant concentrations are known to fluctuate greatly. One method of overcoming this problem is the use of passive sampling devices. These can be deployed in the aquatic environment for extended periods of time (1-4 weeks) and continuously sequester the chemicals of concern. The project will use the Chemcatcher passive sampler, which was developed at the University of Portsmouth and is now used worldwide for monitoring chemicals in the aquatic environment. The aim of this PhD project is to monitor and investigate the pathways and impacts of polar organic chemical mixtures on river ecosystems with a focus on the impact on macroinvertebrates. The project will involve analytical chemistry, environmental fieldwork, working with large data sets and interpreting the links between contaminants and macroinvertebrate biodiversity at a number of sites on the River Avon (Hampshire/Wiltshire) and its tributaries.



Entry requirements

You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

A good honours degree or equivalent in a relevant subject (Chemistry, Environmental Chemistry, Environmental Science or equivalent) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate chemical science discipline and also have recent experience of modern analytical chemistry and fieldwork techniques.


How to apply

We’d encourage you to contact Professor Gary Fones ( t to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form. 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.

If you want to be considered for this funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code SEGG7870423 when applying.