Context Water quality pressures from agriculture are widespread throughout the world and their reduction is recognised as a Sustainable Development Goal (Sachs et al. 2019). Agricultural land is particularly susceptible to producing sediment and nutrient pollution pressures and the impacts on river and lake ecosystems can be severe, persistent and enhanced by synergistic effects (Davis et al., 2018).
A challenge is to identify times and places of these pollution pressures and their corresponding impacts, and mitigate the pressures while maintaining profitable agriculture. Breaking the connection between source pressures on the land and impacts in water is considered a tool to increase the sustainability of intensive agriculture (Cassidy et al., 2019).
These issues are particularly pervasive across the island of Ireland and can be related to land cover and land use intensity, physiography and weather extremes in a changing climate (Mellander et al., 2018). Agri-environmental schemes are a way for farmers to reduce these pressures and are likely to become more important in future government policies.
In Northern Ireland the Environmental Farming Scheme (EFS) was introduced by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in 2017. EFS options include measures to break the connection between sediment and nutrient source pressures and river impacts by large-scale fencing of river reaches to exclude cattle from water.
The Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), the Rivers Trust and UU are undertaking a study to gauge the effectiveness of the EFS, based in the Upper Bann and Ballinderry River catchments. This has an enhanced farmer engagement and monitoring programme,.
Aim and objectives;
The PhD researcher will work on this large-scale initiative and the aim is to develop a range of techniques to define risk and impact, and assess the EFS at different scales.
The objectives are to:
1.At river reach scale where areas of cattle access pressures have been defined, determine the extent of the sediment/nutrient pressure and benthic ecological impact at baseline and develop a standard operating procedure for monitoring recovery compared with controls.
2.Assess geomorphic bank erosion rates at cattle access control points relative to those subject to fencing and recovery.
3.Compare river reach scale pressures, impacts and recoveries against catchment scale sediment and nutrient flux to contextualise and assess upstream pressures associated with wider land use and climatic processes.
Methods will include sediment capture, particle size analysis and benthic algae monitoring (objective 1), terrestrial laser scanning and advanced 3D data analysis (objective 2), and high resolution water quality data capture and time-series analysis (objective 3).
Sachs, J.D. et al. (2019). Six Transformations to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Nature Sustainability. doi:10.1038/s41893-019-0352-9
Cassidy, R. et al. (2019). A carrying capacity framework for soil phosphorus and hydrological sensitivity from farm to catchment scales. Science of the Total Environment. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.05.453
Davis, S.J. (2018). Multiple-stressor effects of sediment, phosphorus and nitrogen on stream macroinvertebrate communities. Science of the Total Environment. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.05.052
Mellander, P.-E. et al. (2018). Integrated climate-chemical indicators of diffuse pollution from land to water. Scientific Reports. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-19143-1
If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.
The University offers the following awards to support PhD study and applications are invited from UK, EU and overseas for the following levels of support:
Full award (full-time PhD fees + DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).
This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £15,000 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.
Part award (full-time PhD fees + 50% DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).
This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £7,500 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.
Fees only award (PhD fees + RTSG for 3 years).
This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.
The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £ 15,009 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fee’s component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided). For Non-EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK. This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.
Due consideration should be given to financing your studies; for further information on cost of living etc. please refer to: www.ulster.ac.uk/doctoralcollege/postgraduate-research/fees-and-funding/financing-your-studies
Completing the MRes provided me with a lot of different skills, particularly in research methods and lab skills.
Michelle Clements Clements - MRes - Life and Health SciencesWatch Video
I would highly recommend Ulster University as you get so much support. Coleraine is a beautiful town and the people are so friendly. It was a really positive experience.
Carin Cornwall - PhD Environmental SciencesWatch Video
Friday 7 February 2020
The feeling of community at our Coleraine campus makes for a warm and welcoming student experience.
When applying for this PhD opportunity please quote reference number: