Early Stage Researcher (PhD Student) position

Topic: Natural Toxins and Drinking Water Quality – From Source to Tap


NaToxAq is a multidisciplinary European Training Network (ETN) funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie SkÅ‚odowska-Curie grant agreement No. 722493 and comprises 21 leading universities, research institutions/agencies, and water enterprises in 7 European countries, which aim to expand insight on natural toxin identity, analysis, fate, dissipation, removal during water treatment, health effects, and risk assessment under the impact of climate change, to ensure safe and healthy waters for European consumers. Further information on the NaToxAq project and consortium partners can be found at:

Predicting the contribution of natural toxins to chemical mixtures in drinking water sources (ESR 15)

Many plants and fungi (uncultivated and cropped) produce natural toxins that have the potential to leach to drinking water sources. Whilst the environmental fate and the impact of xenobiotics in the environment have been widely researched, there is very little knowledge on the fate of natural toxins, particularly in relation to potential risks to drinking water. A variety of intrinsically toxic chemicals can exist within water catchments at any one time. The aim of this work is to establish the contribution of natural toxins to this chemical mixture at the catchment scale.                                         

The study will utilise GIS to map crop and natural plant cover (e.g. bracken) in relation to factors such as soil, slope, climate and water bodies. The impact of external factors such as climate change, government policy and market prices on crop type/land cover will be examined to predict a range of future land use scenarios under different circumstances. The findings will be combined with data on toxin production, toxin plant-to-soil transfer and the environmental fate of natural toxins (obtained from the wider NaToxAq project) to assess the likely natural toxin load in surface and/or groundwater under different scenarios and hence options for minimising risk can be proposed. 

Applicants must hold a degree in environmental sciences or a related field that meets the entry requirements for postgraduate study listed at:  Preference may be given to applicants with a Masters qualification or equivalent workplace experience. Experience in GIS and/or an understanding of the fate of chemicals in soil/water would be advantageous. Fluency in English (working language) is required. Applicants will need to demonstrate that they meet the Postgraduate Language requirements for the Environment Department listed at: 

For further information about the position please contact the principal supervisor, Dr Carmel Ramwell: 

Duration and place of employment

The period of appointment for the Early-Stage Researcher (ESR) is 36 months, starting 1st September 2017, or as soon as possible thereafter. The ESR will be based at Fera Science Ltd, Sand Hutton, York but they will be enrolled at the Environment Department, University of York, UK under the supervision of Prof. Colin Brown. A secondment is planned for 1 month at HOFOR (Greater Copenhagen Utility) and the ESR will work closely with Yorkshire Water. Attendance of annual training courses over a 1-2 week period at host organisations within the NaToxAq network is also expected. 


Situated just outside of the beautiful city of York, Fera staff enjoy a purpose built facility with state-of-the-art facilities, a nursery, onsite gym, staff restaurant and parking. The site is just 7 miles from the historic city centre with its excellent transport links and varied attractions, and within easy commuting distance of the many thriving Yorkshire towns and villages that are situated around the city. 

Fellows will receive a contract of employment as a full-time researcher at Fera for the relevant period of their appointment, which will include applicable benefits in the host country. All fellows will complete a comprehensive personalised career development programme, with targeted training measures and participate in a range of network events. Fellows will benefit from interdisciplinary cooperation and interaction within the network, providing them with the best preparation for a successful career in either academia or industry. 

Marie Curie Fellowships for Early-Stage Researchers provide salaries in line with H2020-MSCA-ITN-2015. Additional allowances for mobility, travel and career development are also provided. 

Experience and mobility conditions

To be eligible, applicants for Early-Stage Researcher fellowships must have no PhD and less than 4 years full-time equivalent research experience from the award of the degree which entitles them to undertake a doctorate. Applicants can be any nationality but at the time of selection must not have resided or carried out their main activity (e.g., work or studies) in the UK for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to the starting date of the fellowship. Short stays, such as holidays, are not taken into account. 

The eligibility requirements for Marie SkÅ‚odowska Curie Fellowships are non-negotiable and ineligible applicants will not be considered. Further information and the full terms and conditions regarding eligibility are provided at 

Application process

Applications must be completed in English. Please send a copy of your CV, details of modules taken and associated grades (Transcript), a synopsis (abstract) of the BSc and MSc thesis (if applicable) or any previous research project, and a covering letter explaining why you are applying for this position to 

The closing date for applications is 11 July 2017 and application received after this date will not be considered. Interviews will take place on 25 July 2017.

PhD Studentship

Agricultural hotspots of nitrous oxide in space and time

Supervisors:Drs Niall McNamara and Jeanette Whitaker (Centre for Ecology & Hydrology), Dr Christian Davies (Shell-CASE supervisor) and Dr Sylvia Toet (University of York).

Background: A major challenge for agriculture is the need to manage soils to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and contribute to climate mitigation targets. With the world population anticipated to expand to 9 billion by 2050 one major concern is any concurrent rise in the potent GHG nitrous oxide (N2O) from fertilised agricultural soils. At the moment N2O contributes 6% of global climate GHG forcing with 24% of this arising from agriculture. Management interventions are therefore urgently required to mitigate N2O emissions from agricultural soils, but, predicting N2O emissions remains a major scientific uncertainty limiting our ability to design effective mitigation strategies. The aim of this PhD project is therefore, to better understand why soil N2O emissions vary so unpredictably in space and time, by identifying how field-scale drivers of N2O interact with localised physical, chemical and biological heterogeneity in soils. 

This project is technically demanding, in that it employs a new generation of analytical capability to study N2O dynamics at high resolution in space and time. The student will be supported by a supervisory team having expertise in plant-soil ecology, soil biogeochemistry and state-of-the art GHG instrumentation at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and the University of York. Depending on the students interest there is an additional opportunity to work with CASE Partner Dr Christian Davies at Shell, Texas, USA to put their measured data in a wider global context through modelling and upscaling initiatives. 

The student will be based in the Plant-Soil Interactions Group at CEH Lancaster led by Dr McNamara, and will benefit from interactions with a large number of PhD students and PDRA’s at the Lancaster Environment Centre. The student will also have an opportunity to combine their research with on-going NERC and EPSRC funded projects including UGRASS , MAGLUE and ASSIST. A comprehensive training programme will be provided by both CEH and University of York (see ACCE DTP). 

Application process: This PhD position is guaranteed funded and will commence in October 2017. We encourage informal enquiries so please email Dr Niall McNamara: . To apply send a CV and a covering letter outlining your background and suitability for this project to . Your application must also include two potential referees who must be available to respond in June 2017. Deadline for applications: 21st June 2017. 

Funding notes: This 4 year funded PhD project is part of the NERC funded Doctoral Training Partnership “ACCE”. The stipend will be approximately £14,999 per annum. The University of York is the PhD awarding body. A contribution of £1000 per annum will be added to the training grant from CASE partners Shell.

Application deadline: 21st June 2017.

Further details

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