U.K. nationals: Evaluation of the impact of Catchment Sensitive Farming in reducing pesticide contamination in English rivers - PhD via FindAPhD

University of York

York, UK 🇬🇧

About the Project

With funding from the Environment Agency, this project will work on the high-profile topic of freshwater quality and will contribute to the evaluation of a government-funded water quality programme.

Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) is a UK government initiative (2006-present) that delivers targeted support to help farmers to take action to reduce water pollution. The aim of this 12-month Masters by Research project is to evaluate the impact that CSF has had in reducing contamination of rivers by agricultural pesticides. To do this the project will work with long-term monitoring data generated for eight English rivers, and will use catchment modelling to investigate how and why pesticide contamination has changed over the 17 years that CSF has been running. Results will be used by the Environment Agency as a contribution to a report for stakeholders on the performance of the CSF programme.

There are two main objectives for the research:

1. Build catchment scale models for the eight CSF catchments targeted for pesticide monitoring and evaluate the models using the first three years of each data monitoring series.

2. Apply the models to the full CSF time series to determine what impact the programme has had on concentrations of pesticides in the rivers.

The Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT; Arnold et al., 1998; Neitsch et al., 2005) will be used to simulate river flow, sediment transfer and pesticide concentrations in the eight CSF catchments. SWAT is a physically-based hydrology and water quality model, designed to estimate impacts of land management practices on water quality (including pesticides, nutrients and sediments) in river catchments. The eight river catchments are the Ancholme, the Bedfordshire Ouse, the Ivel, the Lugg, the Nene, the Waveney, the Wensum and the Yorkshire Ouse. The modelling aims to separate the impact of CSF on pesticide contamination from other influencing factors such as changes in cropping, pesticide use, weather conditions etc.

The Department of Environment and Geography at the University of York holds an Athena SWAN Silver Award. We are committed to supporting equality and diversity and strive to provide a positive working environment for all staff and students. We welcome applicants from all backgrounds, particularly those underrepresented in science, who have curiosity, creativity and a drive to learn new skills.

You should have (or expect to gain) at least an upper second class honours degree or equivalent in an environmental science or closely related field. You should have an understanding of river catchments and the processes that lead to contamination of freshwaters by agricultural chemicals. You should also be numerate, and confident in the precise handling and processing of data. You are not expected to have detailed experience of mathematical modelling, although an interest in learning modelling techniques will be important. Full training in use of the model will be provided by members of the research team.

The project has a flexible start date between May and September 2023.  Interviews will be held on Tuesday 25 April 2023.

Funding Notes

This is a 12-month, funded Masters by Research project. The studentship covers: (i) a tax-free stipend at the standard UKRI rate for doctoral study (currently £17,668); and (ii) tuition fees at the home rate (currently £4596).





IHE Delft Institute for Water Education - MSc in Water and Sustainable Development