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Understanding internal exposure of aquatic invertebrates to organic chemical contaminants

About the Project

We are looking for a highly motivated PhD candidate to work on a 3.5 year project to understand the biological and chemical factors driving the impact of environmental contaminants, including pharmaceuticals, home use products and pesticides, on aquatic invertebrates. The results will help to inform our understanding of the linkages between chemical pollution and  biodiversity loss in rivers.

The project will explore how different chemicals are accumulated in a range of invertebrate species and will develop new predictive approaches for estimating the internal exposure concentrations for chemical contaminants in aquatic invertebrates with different biochemical, physiological and morphological traits under diverse conditions. By applying these predictive approaches, we will explore how internal exposure varies across current invertebrate communities and how ecological and water chemistry changes resulting from climate change might affect this exposure in the future.

The project is part of the ACCE Doctoral Training Programme ( The successful student will be based in a world-leading research group in York, let by Professor Alistair Boxall. The group currently comprises 15 researchers, including PhD candidates, postdoctoral researchers and technicians. The group is highly diverse with members coming from Africa, N. America and Europe. While the student will bebased primarily at York, they will also spend time working in the School of Biosciences at the University of Sheffield who have a long-track record in invertebrate ecotoxicology.

The successful applicant will also benefit from a longstanding partnership with the Safety and Environmental Assurance Centre (SEAC) of Unilever, the CASE partner organisation for this studentship. They will spend at least 3 months with partner specialists at Unilever learning about regulatory and operational aspects of ecological risk assessment and gain industrial knowledge and business insight.

The successful student will develop skills in a range of areas including: ecotoxicological testing; analytical approaches for the detection of organic chemicals in water and biota; and toxicokinetic modelling. Broader training opportunities will also be available through the ACCE DTP. This therefore provides an excellent foundation for a future career in academic, industry, regulation or the third sector.

Supervisor: Alistair Boxall, University of York

Co-Supervisor: Lorraine Maltby, University of Sheffield

Partner Organisation: Unilever


ACCE is a partnership between the Universities of Sheffield, Liverpool and York, the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), and the Natural History Museum (NHM), providing doctoral training in the biological components of the natural environment and related disciplines. Our vision is to develop motivated, confident and multi-skilled PhD students, undertaking cutting edge research and tackling environmental science questions of global significance.

Online Q&A session

We will be holding an online Q&A session at 1100 am (UK time) on Monday 6 March for interested candidates to meet the supervisory team and ask any questions they might have on the project. If you would like to attend this session, please email Alistair Boxall ( to obtain the joining details.

Eligibility and Application process

The studentship is open to highly motivated UK and international/EU applicants with at least an upper second-class Honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject that provides the necessary skills, knowledge, and experience for the DTP, including environmental, biological, chemical, mathematical and physical sciences. Background in ecotoxicology / analytical chemistry / modelling is welcome but not required. Successful applicants will be passionate about environmental pollution science and want their science to make a difference in the real world.

Application should be made before 1700 (UK time) on Monday the 20th March using the University of York’s online application system at:

It’s very important that you write the title of the project name of the project supervisor (Alistair Boxall) in your application. Your application should also include a CV, details of two referees, and a ACCE guided personal statement (in place of a standard personal/supporting statement/cover letter). A template for the ACCE guided personal statement is available at: