Now recruiting for another fully-funded PhD! “Geochemical constraints on the hydrological restoration of groundwater-dependent wetlands in lowland catchments”

Healthy, functioning natural wetlands are critically important, yet the world is rapidly losing these habitats due to anthropogenic pressures. Rates of loss have historically been particularly large in lowland Europe. Consequently, there have been substantial efforts to restore wetlands, including through the restoration of more natural hydrological regimes. However, in many cases, the quality of inflows has also changed over time, and rewetting may lead to increased nutrient inputs, availability and/or mobility.

Located in Hampshire, Greywell Fen (also called Greywell Moors or Odiham Marsh) is a nationally important alkaline fen, which has been negatively affected by a nearby groundwater abstraction plant now operated by South East Water (SEW), and by tree encroachment. As part of its commitment to sustainability, SEW will soon cease abstraction to improve groundwater conditions in the fen.

SEW and the University of Reading are co-funding a PhD, starting in September 2019, to assess the possible impacts of rewetting wetlands with nitrate-rich groundwater on nutrient availability and exports to watercourses, and to propose possible mitigation options if required, using Greywell Fen as a case study.

The PhD student will:

  • identify sources and sinks of biologically-available nitrogen and phosphorus within the fen and the hydro-chemical processes that influence these using 4D spatio-temporal mapping of these elements and of selected environmental tracers sampled from boreholes in the chalk, peat dipwells, peat pores and surface water;
  • quantify the ecosystem services provided by the fen in terms of nitrate and phosphate depollution;
  • using a mesocosm experiment, understand changes in nutrient depletion rates and in the concentrations of base cations, nutrients and sulphide that can be expected under different rewetting and nutrient input regimes;
  • propose restoration and mitigation scenarios for the fen.

The student will receive training in analytical biogeochemistry and instrumentation (e.g. ICP-MS/OES, UV-VIS spectroscopy and Continuous Flow Analysis), fieldwork, critical analysis of primary research material, scientific writing for publication, etc. There will be an opportunity to undertake placement(s) and additional training at SEW’s headquarters in Snodland (Kent) and/or laboratory in Farnborough (Hampshire), allowing the student to develop an in-depth understanding of the water industry.

The student will have the opportunity to collaborate with another PhD student focussing on the hydrology and hydrogeology of the fen.

The project will be supervised by Steve Robinson and Arnaud Duranel (University of Reading), and Debbie Wilkinson and Graham Earl (South East Water).

The deadline for application is 30th June 2019. For more information and to apply, please refer to the PhD proposal advertised on