November 28, 2018

Assessing the impact of environmental contaminants in the Kruger National Park, South Africa: from sediments to crocodiles

This project will explore the presence and bioaccumulation of organic and inorganic contaminants along the Olifants River system in South Africa, and their impact on wildlife health both outside and within Kruger National Park (KNP). This is a unique, interdisciplinary project involving environmental geochemistry, ecology, and animal health, involving colleagues at the University of Nottingham, the British Geological Survey (BGS) the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON), and the South African National Parks Authority (SANParks), to explore research questions which will have important and practical implications for wildlife health and conservation. Toxic metals and persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in samples of river water, river sediment, terrestrial soil, freshwater and terrestrial invertebrates will be quantified using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), gas chromatography mass spectrometry(GC/MS/MS) and liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (LC/MS/MS). Fish and crocodile samples will also be assessed using these tools, and several additional biomarkers in blood and tissues, to explore the relationship between pollutant concentrations and health. Ultimately, the results will provide a better understanding of the accumulation and impacts of anthropogenic contaminants on wildlife health along a river system, and enable a greater understanding of the biodiversity and conservation impacts of these contaminants, with implications for best practice management.

This project provides opportunities for varied fieldwork and laboratory skills. This will include: fieldwork in South Africa to collect environmental and animal samples along the Olifants River system, specialist training in environmental and wild animal sampling methods, specialist laboratory training and data interpretation at University of Nottingham and BGS, training in ecological methods, field work, and a training placement at South African Environmental Observation Network, and translation of results to inform policy both at the University of Nottingham and SANParks.

Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK Honours Degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in subjects such as Environmental Toxicology, Natural Sciences or Veterinary Sciences.

For further information, contact Dr Lisa Yon (University of Nottingham, School of Veterinary Medicine & Science), or Dr Matthew Johnson (University of Nottingham, School of Geography)