Slug it Out! How effective are catchment approaches to reducing metaldehyde loss to water supplies? (HISCOCK_UENV17EE)

University of East Anglia - School of Environmental Sciences

Start Date:  October 2017

No. of positions available: 1

Supervisor: Prof. Kevin Hiscock

Project description:  

The problem
The widespread use of pesticides in agriculture to control pests which would otherwise reduce crop yields has contributed to global agricultural productivity since the mid-20th century. However, the harmful environmental impacts of applying pesticides across large areas of the planet’s surface, particularly on the aquatic environment, are coming under increasing scrutiny. Studies have also highlighted the significant economic costs associated with removing pesticides from drinking water. Between 1991 and 2000, water companies in the United Kingdom spent £2 billion treating pesticide-contaminated water supplies. A particular issue in the East of England, an area of intensive arable agriculture, is the use of metaldehyde to control slug populations. Slugs are a serious pest for oilseed rape and wheat crops but the use of metaldehyde creates the risk of diffuse pollution runoff to surface water and groundwater that can then enter water supply sources. 

The solution
Conventional water treatment techniques are not an effective solution for metaldehyde. An alternative solution is to change catchment management practices to reduce metaldehyde runoff but this approach requires further research to test its effectiveness in the long term. 

The project
In collaboration with Anglian Water and Affinity Water this project aims to understand the persistence of metaldehyde within soils and under what conditions metaldehyde runoff into drinking water might be mitigated. Employing a range of sampling and analysis methods on collected soil cores and water samples, the student will work with Anglian Water to assess metaldehyde runoff from land adjoining the Ardleigh Reservoir in Essex and the wider Colne River catchment in order to assess the effectiveness of soil and farm management approaches to preventing metaldehyde contamination arising from its application in different soil types. 

The team
You will join an active research group investigating catchment management approaches to tackling diffuse water pollution from agriculture and will be part of the new Anglian Water Centre for Water Studies at UEA.  With direct funding support from Anglian Water, this is a great opportunity to gain industry experience and have an influence on catchment management strategies in the water sector. 

Person specification: Applications are encouraged from graduates in earth and environmental sciences, geography, environmental chemistry, soil science and agricultural science.

Funding notes: This project has been shortlisted for funding by the EnvEast NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, comprising the Universities of East Anglia, Essex and Kent, with twenty other research partners.

Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 14/15 February 2017.

Successful candidates who meet RCUK’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship. In most cases, UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a full award. In 2016/17, the stipend was £14,296.

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South East England