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Award details

Using an interdisciplinary approach to elucidate pollution impacts and antimicrobial resistant pathogen dynamics across terrestrial, estuarine and marine environments. CDT NERC SuMMeR PhD Studentship Ref: 4464

About the award


Professor William Gaze - University of Exeter Medical School

Project Description

The impact of environmental change on pathogen dynamics and AMR evolution from catchment to coast

Coastal environments are particularly vulnerable to chemical and microbial pollution that impact ecosystem services and human health. Antimicrobial resistant (AMR) bacterial infections are an emerging societal threat, with approximately 5 million deaths per year globally associated with bacterial resistance to antimicrobial drugs commonly known as antibiotics. It is accepted that the environment plays an important role in the evolution and transmission of AMR, however the dynamics of drug resistant bacteria within river catchments and receiving coastal waters are poorly understood. This is due to the complexity of river catchments, variable weather and climate dependent pollution sources and the fate of particles and pathogens at the freshwater, estuarine, marine interface where human exposure in bathing waters and uptake by farmed shellfish occurs.

This student will investigate pathogen and AMR dynamics in a model catchment and designated coastal bathing water situated within the North Devon Biosphere. This catchment is unique in that it has rich sensor networks utilising Siemens, South West Water and Environment Agency technologies, allowing close to real time data to be acquired on hydrological and chemical variables. This will allow unparalleled opportunities to understand catchment and coastal pathogen and AMR dynamics at a resolution not previously possible. The student will work with a scientific team at Exeter and Bangor recently awarded a 10M Euro grant to study coastal pathogens and climate change. Culture based methods, quantitative PCR and metagenomic approaches will be used to generate field data that will inform understanding of catchment scale process associated with increased transmission risk. In vitro, experimental approaches will be used to understand impacts of future climate change scenarios on AMR evolution and pathogen survival that will also inform models. This interdisciplinary project will provide training in catchment scale and coastal processes, molecular microbial ecology, evolution and elements of modelling supported by a diverse supervisory group with expertise across relevant subject areas. The student will also work with partners at the North Devon Biosphere project and the Environment Agency, giving experience of working across academic, NGO and government sectors.

How to apply

Exeter University is a host institution for the Centre for Doctoral Training in Sustainable Management of UK Marine Resources (CDT SuMMeR). To view the full range of opportunities available through the CDT visit the Study with CDT SuMMeR page.

If you wish to informally discuss any of our projects further, please contact the lead supervisor.

Details on how to apply and eligibility are listed on the Study with CDT SuMMeR page. If you require more information on the admissions process please contact

Applications are invited for the following three-year, eight-month PhD studentships. The studentships will start on 1 October 2022.


Application deadline:23rd May 2022
Value:Exeter University is a host institution for the Centre for Doctoral Training in Sustainable Management of UK Marine Resources (CDT SuMMeR).
Duration of award:per year
Contact: CDT Admissions Team