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Plastic invasion of remote foodwebs


Funded PhD


3 years

Application deadline:

Wednesday 23 January 2019

About this project

In the last half century macro- & micro-plastics are invaded remote environments, evidenced by rapid increases in sea surface and shore surveys.  

Close to urban centres and in semi-enclosed seas it is clear that plastic has made multiple and considerable impacts into the foodweb particularly at higher trophic levels.  In more remote localities, such as the polar regions, initial reports suggested negative interactions with higher predators, but this is likely to be spreading through trophic levels and ecological guilds.  

This PhD would investigate polar samples from the Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition (2016-17), ICEBERGS (2017-19), ChAOS  (2017-19) and Atlantic samples from JR17004 ODA (2018-19).  Faunal samples would be investigated for entanglement and stomach contents, and suspected microplastics verified using FTIR microscopy techniques.  Results would be investigated along environment (surface vs water column vs seabed), habitat (e.g. soft vs hard substrata), trophic, guild, taxonomic and age lines to assess contrasts in ubiquity, density and impact of potential plastic invasion.  

As such, that we are aware of, this would break ground as a plastic study by using such a holistic matrix investigation of presence and impact across ecological characters of environment and organism.  These results would be compared with background plastic levels in the abiotic environment.  Literature work would be undertaken to evaluate what the main source types and geography of plastics are and whether there are viable, scaleable solutions emerging (to reduction and removal). 


The University's Postgraduate Training Scheme (PGTS) provides a range of generic and discipline-specific modules to support research students through their programme.

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The library has an exclusive lounge for postgraduate research students and a dedicated Skills Team to provide a wide range of study and research skills help. 

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The Graduate School provides support to postgraduate research students. Offering skills development opportunities and dedicate facilities, the school is here to help you achieve your potential. 

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Research at Hull tackles big challenges and makes an impact on lives globally, every day. Our current research portfolio spans everything from health to habitats, food to flooding and supply chain the slavery.

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Full-time UK/EU and International PhD Scholarships will include fees at the ‘home/EU' student rate and maintenance (£14,777 in 2018/19) for three years, depending on satisfactory progress.

PhD students at the University of Hull follow modules for research and transferable skills development and gain a Masters level Certificate, or Diploma, in Research Training, in addition to their research degree.

Entry requirements

Applicants should have a 1st class undergraduate degree or Masters level research qualification in a relevant discipline (Ecology, Biology/, Marine Biology, Environmental Science, or related). A 2:1 may be considered, if combined with relevant experience. Additionally, experience of working in the field and knowledge of marine ecosystems would be beneficial.

Successful applicants will be informed of the award as soon as possible and by 15 March 2019 at the latest.