New investment in training programmes will boost the UK’s expertise in flood management, wetland restoration and freshwater quality. 

The UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH) is one of the research institutes that will be involved in the new Centres for Doctoral Training (CDT) to train PhD students who will go on to build careers in research, business and public service. Each centre will receive £2.6 million from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) over six years, with further funding from institutes and other partners.

Millions of homes and businesses are at risk of flooding in the UK from rivers, surface water, groundwater or the sea, with billions more affected globally. One of the new CDTs will improve our understanding of the factors that causes and reduce flooding. It will investigate how changes in climate, population and development, as well as public perceptions, affect flood risk.

The researchers will develop new approaches to map and forecast floods, including using state-of-the-art monitoring and advances in artificial intelligence, and develop new flood management strategies. 

Hydrologist Dr Gareth Old, who is UKCEH’s lead on the Floods and Droughts Research Infrastructure programme, says: “The recent widespread flooding across the UK, as well as other, similar extreme events in the past few years, have highlighted the increased risks to people, property and services due to climate change. 

“The new centre will help address the shortage of skills in UK flood hydrology, supporting society’s future resilience to flooding.”

The new £6.5 million CDT for Resilient Flood Futures hub led by the University of Southampton and also involves UKCEH, Bristol, Loughborough and Newcastle universities, the National Oceanography Centre and the British Geological Survey.

Meanwhile, a second CDT, called ECO-WILD, will investigate the multiple stresses on wetland landscapes. It will be led by Heriot-Watt University and also involves UKCEH as well as Oxford, York and Highlands & Islands universities.

It brings together research expertise and innovation across various fields including environmental toxicology, ecology, multiple stressor theory and modelling, wetland conservation and restoration, socioeconomics, community engagement, management and governance.

Another CDT, also involving UKCEH, will train and empower a new generation of leaders to transform how we manage aquatic environmental health via real-time digital water-based systems. Training in the new centre, RED-ALERT, will focus on challenge-led multidisciplinary research and problem-solving skills.

Dr Daniel Read, Science Area Head for Soils and Land Use at UKCEH, says: ”Freshwaters are the most severely affected environment in terms of chemical pollution, disease, and biodiversity loss. The RED-ALERT CDT will train the next generation of scientists who will apply emerging technologies and techniques to address the challenge of freshwater pollution, which is essential for both biodiversity and people."

A fourth CDT, led by the University of Leicester, will train PhD students in the sustainable use of minerals, to support the high demand for clean energy technologies and advanced manufacturing.

Science, Research and Innovation Minister Andrew Griffith MP says: “Backing our brightest students to tackle issues as vital as flooding and protecting our water quality is an investment in protecting the landscape of the UK, while defending our planet and the resources we need to deliver us all healthier and more prosperous lives.”

Further information

The Floods and Droughts Research Infrastructure (FDRI) will comprise a combination of fixed instruments and mobile equipment. Funded by UK Research and Innovation, it will transform our understanding of hydrological processes within catchments in different regions of the UK, and enable the development of new techniques for measuring flooding.