Self-funded PhD opportunities

Effects of pharmaceuticals on marine and brackish water invertebrates

  • Application end date: Applications open all year round
  • Funding Availability: Self-funded PhD students only
  • Department: School of Earth and Environmental Sciences
  • PhD Supervisor: Dr Michelle Bloor, Prof Alex Ford, Dr Kari Lehtonen

Project code: SEES4481018

Project description

The health of organisms and ecosystems is challenged by emerging new classes of anthropogenic chemical pollutants such as pharmaceuticals. After excretion, many human pharmaceuticals pass through wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) practically without marked retention or degradation, while veterinary medicines can enter water courses directly, all ending up in the sea. In sewage and surface waters, the occurrence of various pharmaceuticals, including antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, beta-adrenergic receptor antagonist drugs (β- blockers), hormones and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), has been frequently reported in the ng L−1 to low μg L−1 range. Since pharmaceuticals have been designed to be effective at very low concentrations they are also likely to cause effects in non-target biota when released to the environment. Commonly used pharmaceuticals belonging to different therapeutic classes are present in the aquatic environment as mixtures. In a recent survey, completed by 535 environmental scientists from 57 countries, the effects of pharmaceuticals in mixtures on non-target organisms has been considered as one of the most important research priorities regarding the risks of pharmaceuticals in the environment.

The aim of project is to develop a pharmaceutical environmental risk assessment by investigating the effects of pharmaceuticals on key aquatic invertebrate species (Mytilus trossulus and Gammarus oceanicus). The specific objectives of the project are to (1) examine the uptake and sub-lethal effects of diclofenac, carbamazepine and fluoxetine at different biological levels (biochemical, cellular, physiological); (2) investigate the links between exposure responses to the aforementioned pharmaceuticals at different biological levels. The study will be carried out with species from two different geographical regions: (1) southern coast of U.K., a full marine temperate environment (Solent), and (2) southern coast of Finland, a brackish water subarctic/ temperate environment (Baltic Sea), and will focus on environmentally realistic concentrations of selected pharmaceuticals and their mixtures, studied experimentally under different environmental conditions (salinity, temperature).

This project is a collaborative study between the University of Portsmouth, U.K. and the Finnish Environment Institute SYKE, Helsinki, Finland and as such, fieldwork and laboratory studies will be undertaken in both countries. You will gain laboratory and fieldwork based skills relating to aquatic ecotoxicology, marine and brackish ecosystems. This project would suit a candidate with a background in Biology, Environmental Science, Toxicology, or a closely related field. A willingness to participate in international fieldwork and to adopt a hands-on approach to laboratory work will be an advantage but training will be provided. The University has an active Graduate School offering general postgraduate training alongside the more specialist subject specific training (via PGRS Moodle). In addition you will have access to Graduate School Development Programme and Department Postgraduate Researcher Training

Supervisor profiles

Dr Michelle Bloor

Prof Alex Ford

Dr Kari Lehtonen

Admissions criteria

You’ll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (depending upon chosen course, minimum second class or equivalent) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. Exceptionally, equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications will be considered. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.  


Informal enquiries are encouraged and can be made to Dr Michelle Bloor at (02392 842295), or Prof Alex Ford at (02392 845805)

For administrative and admissions enquiries please contact

How to Apply

You can apply online at  You are required to create an account which gives you the flexibility to save the form, log out and return to it at any time convenient to you.

A link to the online application form and comprehensive guidance notes can be found at

When applying, please quote project code: SEES4481018

Interview date: TBC

Start date: October 2018.

Funding notes

This is self-funded project, for infomration on fees and funding, please see our webpages.

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