PhD Scholarship in Microplastic Pollution of Aquatic Systems

Undertake a project investigating microplastic pollution in urban sediments and associated impacts for aquatic biota.

Seeking an enthusiastic PhD candidate to undertake a project investigating microplastic pollution in urban sediments and associated impacts for aquatic biota. The project will involve investigations of sources and types of microplastics to wetlands and how contamination may be linked to local and catchment scale features and environmental variables. A secondary component will be beginning investigations on how wetland biota might be affected by microplastics. The successful candidate will have an outstanding undergraduate record, including first-class Honours in a relevant subject area. Within this project the candidate will learn skills in ecotoxicology, environmental monitoring and assessment and methods for microplastic sampling and identification.

  • $31,885 per annum pro rata (full-time study) for 3 years, with possible extension to 3.5 years
  • Candidates will be based at RMIT's Bundoora campus.

To be eligible for this scholarship you must:

  • Be an Australian citizen or permanent resident
  • Have a first-class Honours or equivalent in environmental science or a related discipline
  • Meet RMIT University’s entry requirements for the Higher Degree by Research programs
  • Meet RMIT’s entry requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy.

Potential candidates should contact Professor Vincent Pettigrove via vincent.pettigrove@rmit.edu.au and provide:

  • A cover letter (including research statement and reasons for applying for this scholarship)
  • A copy of electronic academic transcripts
  • A CV that includes any publications/awards and the contact details of two referees.

Only applications with complete information will be assessed.

Applications are open now.

Microplastics are a ubiquitous pollutant. Most research has focused on contamination of marine environments with wastewater treatment plants as sources of microplastics. However, freshwater ecosystems are also at risk, especially in urban areas. A recent study of urban wetlands in Melbourne found wetland sediments were heavily contaminated by microplastics. The main source was urban stormwater runoff and preliminary investigations showed that most microplastics came from the breakdown of larger plastic items, especially in industrial catchments. Urban wetlands are important habitats for aquatic organisms in an otherwise hostile landscape, yet it is not known whether wetland biota is affected by microplastics.

The primary purpose of this project involves continued investigations of sources of microplastics to wetlands and how contamination may be linked to local and catchment scale features such as gross pollutant traps, proximity to commercial areas, local pollution issues (e.g. illegal dumping) and surrounding land use. In addition, factors influencing the spatial distribution of microplastics in wetland sediments will be investigated, along with how disturbance events (e.g. wetland flushing) affect microplastic distribution and pose a risk to downstream aquatic ecosystems. A secondary component will be beginning investigations on how wetland biota might be affected by microplastics. This will begin with understanding if benthic biota are interacting with microplastics (such as through ingestion or bioaccumulation) and could potentially lead to further studies on the effects of microplastics on wetland biota, including in situ and laboratory toxicity assays.

This scholarship will be governed by RMIT University's Research Scholarship Terms and Conditions.

Professor Vincent Pettigrove via vincent.pettigrove@rmit.edu.au

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Acknowledgement of country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.