PhD: Pollution tolerant marine communities: detecting impacts and understanding ecological mechanisms

Project Description

Species vary in their sensitivity to pollutants.  When a mixed community is exposed to pollution, sensitive species decrease in abundance and more tolerant species increase.  The resulting "pollution induced community tolerance" can be quantified by carrying out a toxicity test on the whole community rather than on individual species. This has proved to be a very sensitive way of detecting impacts of toxins in the field (Grant, 2010; Ogilvie and Grant, 2008; Millward and Grant, 2000).


The PhD project will quantify differences in pollution tolerance of communities of either nematodes or micro-organisms along estuarine or marine contamination gradients, then carry out experiments in which contaminants are added to laboratory microcosms to identify the changes in community composition that underlie these differences in tolerance. Combining this information with measurements of the sensitivity of individual species to the contaminant concerned will yield powerful insights into the mechanisms that lie behind the changes in community composition that are detected by widely used ecological monitoring techniques


The PhD project will provide training in ecotoxicology, community ecology and chemical analysis of contaminants in environmental samples.



i) Grant, A., 2010.  Detecting ecological effects of pollutants in the aquatic environment.  Pp. 147-161, In: Batty, L.C. and Hallberg, K. (eds) Ecology of Industrial Pollution.  Cambridge University Press, UK.

ii) Turner, T.R., K. Ramakrishnan, J. Walshaw, D. Heavens, M. Alston, D. Swarbreck, A. Osbourn, A. Grant and P.S. Poole.  2013.  Comparative metatranscriptomics reveals kingdom level changes in the rhizosphere microbiome of plants.  ISME Journal 7:2248-2258

iii) Ogilvie, L.A. and A. Grant, 2008 Linking pollution induced community tolerance (PICT) and microbial community structure in chronically metal polluted estuarine sediments. Marine Environmental Research, 65(2):187-198.

iv) Millward, R.N and A. Grant, 2000. Pollution induced tolerance to copper of nematode communities in the severely contaminated Restronguet Creek and adjacent estuaries. Environmental Toxiciology and Chemistry 19: 454-461


Start date: Oct 2015

Programme: PhD

Mode of Study: Full Time


How to Apply

Deadline: 31 May 2015. NB Applications are processed as soon as they are received, so early application is encouraged as the project may be filled before the application deadline.


Read more and apply online.