November 28, 2018

Dispersal of microplastics in the marine environment

With an estimated 8 million tonnes of plastic entering our oceans each year, marine plastics are one of the biggest and most immediate threats facing the marine environment. Over 90% of marine plastics are classed as microplastics (particle sizes less than 5 mm), resulting from the degradation of larger plastics (diffuse sources), and directly input to the marine environment from point sources such as wastewater outflows. Due to bioaccumulation, microplastics are particularly harmful to marine life, yet there are large uncertainties in their transport pathways. In this project, you will use a range of tools to quantify the transport of microplastics over a wide range of scales, from their dispersal via large scale ocean currents through to entrainment by localized coastal processes. The project will result in revised budget estimates of microplastics at all scales in the marine environment.

You will be trained in a wide range of research techniques throughout the project, including in situ sampling, laboratory work, and ocean modelling on supercomputers. You will sample sea bed sediments in shelf sea environments, and use the processed data to calibrate budget estimates predicted by ocean models. You shall make use of existing large scale model outputs of ocean currents to examine microplastic budgets at global scale, and develop your own models of coastal and estuarine environments to examine localized dispersal. This PhD project is well funded, and includes costs for you to attend several international conferences to present and discuss your research with world-class scientists. By the end of this PhD, you will have developed into an excellent independent researcher with a deep understanding of microplastics, and equipped with excellent research skills suitable to either further pursue a career in microplastics, or to move onto other exciting challenges in the marine environment.

Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK Honours Degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in subjects such as Biological Oceanography, Marine Biology, Oceanography, Coastal Marine Science, Ecology, Quantitative Methods/Statistics, or Environmental Science. Applicants who additionally have a Masters degree, or relevant work experience, will be particularly competitive.

For further details, please contact Dr Simon Neill in the School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University (