A new training programme will provide the next generation of researchers with the knowledge and skills to improve the way that the environmental risks of chemicals are monitored, assessed and managed.

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) is providing £3.5m to fund 39 new PhD studentships over six years, with training provided by the Universities of York, Cardiff, Exeter, Sheffield, Lancaster, and the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH).      

Successful applicants will receive training at one or more of these institutes and also have work placements in industry or with a policy or regulatory organisation, as well as attend residential challenge events and conferences.

The programme has been designed to ensure the knowledge and tools developed will be applicable to a wide range of chemical types in use today, such as pesticides, pharmaceuticals and biocides. It will also help forecast future chemical risks from climatic, demographic and technological change.

UKCEH ecotoxicologist Dr David Spurgeon, who will be training some of the PhD students, says: “As well as receiving training by leading institutes that are world leaders in the field of chemical risk science, the students will gain real-world experience in applied chemical research and management.

“By giving researchers a range of multidisciplinary skills that are transferable across many sectors, this innovative new programme will improve the way that chemicals are developed, assessed and monitored, so their benefits can be realised without negative environmental consequences.”

Robyn Thomas, Associate Director of Discovery Science, Talent and Skills at NERC, adds “This investment will support talented scientists and build understanding and expertise in this key area of environmental science.

"Chemicals benefit society every day in a diverse range of contexts including agriculture, industry and our homes, but they can also pollute and disrupt balance in fundamental ecosystems.”

The programme, ECORISC (Ecotoxicological Risk Assessment Towards Sustainable Chemical Use Centre for Doctoral Training), will comprise three cohorts of 13 students, the first beginning in autumn 2021. To find out more, visit https://www.york.ac.uk/environment/postgraduate/ecorisc


Related staff

1994-1997 - Post-Doctoral Research Assistant, University of Reading, UK  

1998-2003 - NERC Advanced Fellow, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Monks Wood and Cardiff University, UK

2003- 2009 - Principal Scientist, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Monks Wood, UK

2009-2013 - Principal Scientist, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Wallingford, Oxon, UK