Fully Funded PhD: Endocrine disrupting chemicals in waterways and the impact on the survival and breeding success of Hirundines.

  • DeadlineDeadline: 22 July 2024
  • North West, All EnglandNorth West, All England


British waterways are in a critical state, from sewage dumping and overflows to runoff of anthropogenic chemicals from roadways, industrial discharge and agricultural land.

Water pollution can have serious consequences for wildlife, degrading aquatic ecosystems and biodiversity across many trophic levels. However, many polluted aquatic habitats, including sewage and wastewater treatment plants, are known to be profitable food sources for insectivorous songbirds. Swallows and martins are particularly reliant on these foraging sites as they often are sources of high-value prey, even as insect populations are on the decline.

This project aims to determine the extent to which endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) bioaccumulate up the food chain to songbirds that rely on flying aquatic invertebrates, and to investigate how EDC levels in these aerial foragers impact their fitness, as measured by reproductive success and survival.

The project will focus primarily on sand martins (Riparia riparia) as a model system. This pioneering project will be based within Manchester Metropolitan’s Department of Natural Science, with an interdisciplinary supervisory team led by Manchester Metropolitan University in partnership with Songbird Survival and Imperial College London.

The project will deliver keystone research to establish the risks of EDCs in the waterways, invertebrates and songbirds by a combination of field sampling, nest monitoring, and environmental chemistry assays using world-leading analytical instrumentation.


This project aims to determine:

  • Which endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are present in human-altered waterways foraged by hirundine and other insectivorous songbird species, including in and around wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs)?
  • Is there a credible pollution pathway for EDCs to bioaccumulate, from WWTPs to aquatic aerial invertebrates and then into hirundine and other songbird species?
  • Are blood EDC levels linked to reproductive success and physiology in a model system - the sand martin (Riparia riparia)?

Entry Requirements

The project will involve both intensive fieldwork and laboratory work.

The successful applicant will have the ability to work in a systematic manner to collect scientifically robust data.

They should have excellent written and oral communication skills.

The project is funded by a studentship from Songbird Survival Charity, and the successful applicant will be expected to contribute to public science education via Songbird Survival’s network and outreach events.

The successful applicant with also work in close collaboration with external advisors at the UK’s Environment Agency, to support existing policy work.

The applicant will be required to obtain a home office personal animal experimentation (PIL/Avian) license, and a BTO ringing license for songbirds.

Previous experience with ringing or handling birds, and sampling aquatic invertebrates, as well as in analytical laboratory-based work, including a practical knowledge of chromatography and mass spectrometry would be an advantage.


This is a full-time, 3.5 year funded PhD opportunity in the Faculty of Science and Engineering. It is only open to home students. Home fees will be covered.

This opportunity provides an annual stipend of the research council minimum rate (set by UKRI) of £19,237 for 2024/25.

How To Apply

To apply you will need to complete the online application form for a full-time PhD in Natural Sciences (or download the PGR application form).

You should also complete a PGR thesis proposal and Narrative CV) addressing the project’s aims and objectives, demonstrating how the skills you have maps to the area of research and why you see this area as being of importance and interest. 

If applying online, you will need to upload your statement in the supporting documents section, or email the application form and statement to

Closing date 22 July 2024.

Expected start date 1 October 2024.

Please quote the reference: SciEng-SZ-2024-DISRUPTING-CHEMICALS

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