PHD Project

October 4, 2022

Investigating the role of organic nutrient resources in controlling biodiversity and production in freshwater ecosystems

Freshwater ecosystem

The project: Freshwater ecosystems are among the most threatened ecosystems globally, with nutrient enrichment perhaps the most significant stressor. However, the importance of the wide range of organic nutrient compounds found in freshwater ecosystems (e.g. proteins, nucleic or amino acids, phospholipids, etc) remains highly uncertain. Research to address this uncertainty is critical, because the concentration of organic nutrient compounds is increasing in fresh waters globally and because these compounds can dominate nutrient availability in many ecosystems. This project aims to deliver new understanding of how organic nutrient resources control the biodiversity and primary production of fresh waters. Focussing on under-researched communities of benthic algae within rivers, the project will combine fieldwork, experimental manipulation of environmental conditions in the laboratory and field, stable isotope and hydrochemical analyses, and enumeration of algal samples. The research will produce new fundamental understanding of fresh waters, whilst also engaging with our project partners to ensure this understanding informs future conservation and restoration of these ecosystems.

The PhD opportunity: You will join a multi-disciplinary team across the Lancaster Environment Centre, one of the largest groupings focused on environment-orientated research in Europe, and the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (UKCEH). Your research will be based within the English Lake District, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, with access to leading analytical and experimental facilities at Lancaster University and UKCEH. You will be trained and become expert in a wide range of ecological and biogeochemical research techniques, including stable isotope analysis and taxonomic identification of algae. This is a Case PhD project, supported by our partners United Utilities and the Environment Agency. You will have the opportunity for secondments with these partners, and to engage with a wider range of external collaborators as part of the PhD, including Natural England, the Rivers Trusts and the Freshwater Biological Association.

Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK Honours Degree at 2:i level, or have an equivalent qualification or experience, in Ecology, Environmental Science, Natural Science, Geography, Chemistry or Biology.

Please feel free to contact Dr Ben Surridge ( if you’d like to discuss any element of the project or your application.