NERC RED-ALERT CDT PhD project - Wetland Warriors: The Potential of Nature-Based Systems to Counteract Pathogen and AMR Pollution in Water via FindAPhD

University of Bath

Bath, UK 🇬🇧

About the Project

This project is one of a number of projects that are in competition for funding from the Centre for Doctoral Training in Real-Time Digital Water-Based Systems for Environmental Health Protection (RED-ALERT CDT).

The RED-ALERT CDT is a new doctoral training centre designed to improve the health of the UK’s rivers and lakes. RED-ALERT’s vision is to train and empower a new generation of leaders to transform how we manage aquatic environmental health via Real-Time Digital Water-Based Systems.

Doctoral training within RED-ALERT will focus on challenge-led multidisciplinary research and problem-solving skills. Leveraging nationally leading research facilities, international networks and whole system “Living Labs” to provide the in-depth knowledge and breadth of understanding, it will enable a step-change in managing environmental health.

Studentships are available for entry in September 2024.

Supervisory Team:

The Project:

Diffuse pollution and treated wastewater are key sources of increased pathogens and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in water bodies, threatening aquatic life and ecosystem health. Nature-based solutions (NBS) such as constructed wetlands, attenuation ponds, and bioswales offer sustainable, cost-effective means to address these issues by utilising natural processes to remove contaminants. Although NBS are proven in nutrient removal, their pathogen and AMR mitigation efficacy through physical, biological and chemical processes, including for bacteria and viruses, is less understood.

This PhD project will investigate NBS as ecological buffers to improve water quality and reduce microbial pollution.

The research will:

  1. Examine how NBS can diminish pathogen and AMR levels in water.
  2. Use advanced technologies to analyse the removal processes within NBS beyond mere detection.
  3. Identify the best performing substrates, plants, designs, and sizes for optimizing NBS and protecting river catchments and ecosystems.

The Cromhall Constructed Wetland, a full-scale polishing wetland operated by Wessex Water, will be the primary test site, with additional sites such as the Cam and Wellow catchment area (Cam & Wellow Living Lab), providing comparative data from various NBS implementations and natural river sites, including control data from degraded or unprotected areas. The study will measure AMR and pathogen loads, assess removal mechanisms within NBS and rivers, and record a wide range of pollutants, including nutrients and trace contaminants. 

The project stands out for its use of cutting-edge microbial technologies to not only monitor but also improve methodologies and develop local, cost-effective strategies to reduce microbial contamination in sensitive aquatic systems.

Ultimately, the research aims to deliver an in-depth evaluation of NBS as viable tools against the spread of pathogens and AMR in aquatic ecosystems. It seeks to bridge significant knowledge gaps, refine ecological engineering, and enhance the preservation of vital water ecosystems

Project keywords: Analytical chemistry, Antimicrobial resistance (AMR), Aquatic ecosystems, Aquatic life, Bacteriology, Biodiversity conservation, Bioengineering, Bioinformatics, Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Chemical engineering, Constructed wetlands, Data science, Ecological buffers, Ecological engineering, Ecological sustainability, Ecology, Ecotoxicology, Ecosystem health, Environmental biology, Environmental chemistry, Environmental engineering, Environmental sciences, Genomics, Microbial pollution, Microbial technologies, Microbiology, Nature-based solutions (NBS), Pathogens, Plant biology, Pollution, Pollution mitigation, Public health, Rivers, Sustainability, Water bodies, Water pollution, Water quality, Water resource management, Water treatment.

Candidate Requirements:

Applicants should hold, or expect to receive, a First Class or good Upper Second Class UK Honours degree (or the equivalent). A master’s level qualification would also be advantageous but is not essential.

This PhD project is ideally suited for candidates from diverse academic backgrounds such as Environmental Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Biology, Microbiology, Ecology, Natural Science, and other related disciplines. A profound interest and affinity for fieldwork and laboratory research are prerequisites for this role. Additionally, specialized knowledge or a certain level of expertise in areas such as microbiology, chemical analysis, or ecological studies would be a significant asset.

Non-UK applicants must meet our English language entry requirement.

Enquiries and Applications:

Applicants are encouraged to contact Dr Jannis Wenk on email address before applying to find out more about the project and to discuss their suitability for the role.

Formal applications should be made via the University of Bath’s online application form for a PhD in Chemical Engineering.


  1. In the ‘Funding your studies’ section of the application form, please select ‘CDT’ from the first drop-down menu and enter “NERC RED-ALERT” in the space below. 
  2. In the ‘Your PhD project’ section, please quote the project title and lead supervisor’s name in the appropriate fields. 

Failure to complete these steps will cause a delay in processing your application and may cause you to miss the deadline.

More information about applying for a PhD at Bath may be found on our website.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion:

We value a diverse research environment and aim to be an inclusive university, where difference is celebrated and respected. We welcome and encourage applications from under-represented groups.

If you have circumstances that you feel we should be aware of that have affected your educational attainment, then please feel free to tell us about it in your application form. The best way to do this is a short paragraph at the end of your personal statement.





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