Early Stage Researcher, Department of Geography

Durham, United Kingdom
£37,000 to £44,000
31 Mar 2020
End of advertisement period
30 Apr 2020
Contract Type
Fixed Term
Full Time

Department of Geography

Marie Curie: - £37,000 - £44,000
Fixed Term - Full Time
Contract Duration: 3 years
Contracted Hours per Week: 35
Closing Date: 30-Apr-2020, 6:59:00 AMfyu8

Early Stage Researcher (Marie Skłodowska-Curie ITN) in Using connectivity science to determine the fate (source-pathway-interceptors) of specific agricultural derived chemicals and pathogens in the water supply chain (PhD Study Position)

Salary range: £37,000 to £44,000

The EC funding for this position provides for a remuneration starting from £37,000. Actual salary will depend on employer deductions, personal circumstances and the exchange rate applicable to the fellowship. This amount includes an annual living allowance and a mobility allowance (to cover the expenses associated with working in a different country).

Allowance eligibility depends on the personal circumstances of the fellow:

Living Allowance: total amount €54,857.52 per year. This figure is inclusive of the country coefficient of 139.80%.
Mobility Allowance: total amount €7,200 per year.
Family allowance: total amount €6,000 per year (eligibility depends on supporting evidence that at the time the ESR position starts the ESR is married, in a partnership equivalent to marriage in the country it was formalised or have dependent children).

Eligibility criteria

To satisfy the eligibility requirements set for an Early Stage Researcher funded by Marie Skłodowska-Curie you must be eligible to be appointed as an Early Stage Researcher in the UK - this means:

  1. At the time of recruitment, you must not already hold a doctorate degree and you must be in the first 4 years of your research career (measured from the date of obtaining the degree which entitles you to embark on PhD studies)
  2. At the time of recruitment, you must not have resided or carried out your main activity in the UK for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to your start date;
  3. Satisfy the eligibility requirements to enrol on a PhD degree. This includes acceptable English language requirements if English is not your first language.

Durham University

Durham University is one of the world's top universities with strengths across the Arts and Humanities, Sciences and Social Sciences. We are home to some of the most talented scholars and researchers from around the world who are tackling global issues and making a difference to people's lives.

The University sits in a beautiful historic city where it shares ownership of a UNESCO World Heritage Site with Durham Cathedral, the greatest Romanesque building in Western Europe. A collegiate University, Durham recruits outstanding students from across the world and offers an unmatched wider student experience.

Less than 3 hours north of London, and an hour and a half south of Edinburgh, County Durham is a region steeped in history and natural beauty.  The Durham Dales, including the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, are home to breath-taking scenery and attractions. Durham offers an excellent choice of city, suburban and rural residential locations. The University provides a range of benefits including pension and childcare benefits and the University’s Relocation Manager can assist with potential schooling requirements.

Durham University seeks to promote and maintain an inclusive and supportive environment for work and study that assists all members of our University community to reach their full potential. Diversity brings strength and we welcome applications from across the international, national and regional communities that we work with and serve.

The Department

The successful candidate will be based primarily in Durham, but will be expected to visit and work closely with colleagues across the i-CONN network to deliver the multi-disciplinary objectives of this project.

Durham Geography is one of the very best UK departments with an outstanding reputation for excellence in teaching, research, and employability of our students. Durham Geography has been ranked in the top 10 for six consecutive years in the QS World University Rankings by Subject (2018), and in 2018 was ranked 1st for citations per paper. Durham Geography is judged by its peers to have the most advanced, rigorous and cutting-edge research profile of any Geography Department in the world.

The i-CONN research team are members of the Durham Geography Catchments and Rivers research cluster, and the Institute of Hazard Risk & Resilience (IHRR). IHRR is a global centre of excellence, undertaking interdisciplinary research that allows problems to be framed in different ways and new theoretical approaches and understandings to be developed in relation to existing problems. A key element is bringing academics, practitioners, policy makers and local communities together.

The Role

Early Stage Researcher (ESR15) position (PhD study) - Using connectivity science to determine the fate (source-pathway-interceptors) of specific agricultural derived chemicals and pathogens in the water supply chain (MSCA-ITN i-CONN Project)

An EU-funded Marie Skłodowska-Curie Early-Stage Researcher (ESR) position is available for study towards a PhD in determining the fate of agricultural derived chemicals and pathogens in our river systems in the Geography Department of Durham University, Durham, UK.

This is a full-time position (35 hours per week), fixed-term for 36 months, with a start date of 1st June 2020 and will require the successful candidate to register for the study for a PhD (NB applicants must NOT already have a PhD).

The successful applicant will carry out European Commission-funded research within the “i-CONN”  network - Interdisciplinary connectivity: Understanding and managing complex systems using connectivity science - Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network (lTN) project (Grant Agreement no. 859937), which offers unique doctoral training and research opportunities, leading to the award of a PhD.

In recent years, parallel developments in disciplines as disparate as Ecology, Geomorphology, Neuroscience, Social Science and Systems Biology have focused on “connectivity”. i-CONN will exploit synergies among different conceptualisations and applications of connectivity. For example, i-CONN will evaluate statistical approaches and mathematical theories that have arisen across a range of disciplines in order that we might develop generic connectivity tools to understand better the characteristics of complex systems. i-CONN will provide interdisciplinary training integrating knowledge and methods from different disciplines and stakeholders from the public, private and NGO sectors, using a synthesis of approaches that will lead to transdisciplinarity, whereby a unity of intellectual frameworks will be created beyond the disciplinary perspectives.

The ESR will collaborate in research, attend joint training events, and contribute to workshops and conferences across the i-CONN network. The ESR will be provided with a generous stipend to cover their living costs and travel for the duration of the 3 years; PhD tuition fees will be paid for this period. The ESR will also receive funds to support their participation in i-CONNs European-wide research and training events. The network of 15 ESR/PhD students will receive training through their host institute with additional training provided by visits and secondments to other host institutes and non-academic partners in the network.

This full-time, fixed-term ESR position will involve study for a PhD degree and will be based in Durham University’s Geography Department (Durham, UK) under the supervision of Professor Louise Bracken and Dr Laura Turnbull-Lloyd. The project aims to improve our ability to identify critical nodes for sources of pollution and determine how these pollutants move through our river systems so we can evolve management practices to implement interventions to limit pollutant transfer in river systems. The research will be primarily undertaken using secondary sources of data that have been collected by project partners, but supplementary data may need to be collected from selected catchments.

The objectives of the project are to:

  1. Develop a new evidence-base of sources, pathways and transmission rates for unwanted agricultural chemicals in the water-supply chain;
  2. Identify critical nodes to explore the pathways of agricultural chemicals;
  3. Determine (based on empirical data and simple modelling) the most effective interventions that will prevent pollutants from getting into and being transported through the water network;
  4. Apply the approach developed to explore source-pathway-interceptors of pharmaceuticals in water courses.

Datasets used in this project are Environment Agency (EA) Open Source Data of agricultural chemicals and pharmaceuticals obtained by routine monitoring operations to comply with the wastewater treatment framework directive and the Water Framework Directive. Other complementary datasets from UK water companies will be made accessible via EA partners. These secondary datasets will be supplemented with empirical data collection in selected catchments.

We expect that this project will:

  1. Support data integration across organisations and across urban-rural landscapes (to feed into the datathon event – month 19);
  2. Develop existing tools from a range of disciplines for understanding sources, pathways and transmission of agricultural pollutants;
  3. Test and apply these tools to determine the fate of agricultural derived chemicals across UK catchments and Austrian catchments, and
  4. Better understand the fate of pharmaceuticals across these catchments.


  • Perform high quality research in the bespoke research project under the guidance of the supervisory team.
  • Assist with the development of research goals and objectives.
  • Develop and test new hypotheses, analysing scientific data from a variety of sources, assessing, and refining working hypotheses as appropriate.
  • Meet the members of the supervisory team to discuss their research on a regular basis.
  • Widen their personal knowledge in the research area and undertake complementary training.
  • Directly contribute ideas to the direction of the research project supported by detailed and critical reference to previously published literature and knowledge exchange through the i-CONN network.
  • Keep comprehensive, accessible, secure records of all experimental and modelling work, data, and analyses.
  • Prepare regular research reports and participate in scheduled face-to-face and online meetings including presentation of research results.
  • Liaise effectively with all members of the local and international research team.
  • Participate in the activities of the Network as specified in the Grant Agreement and/or required by the node coordinator, including secondments in other network nodes and taking part in the network meetings and in the training activities.
  • Write up the results of the research activity and present research papers and publications at meetings and conferences, as advised by the supervisors, and contribute to the overall goals of the network.
  • Keep records of the activities, such as research, training, secondments, visits, and leave of absence.
  • Be prepared to undertake some aspects of undergraduate student teaching, which may include small-group teaching (workshops and tutorials) or laboratory class demonstrating.

The Requirements


  • A Master’s degree (MSc) or equivalent in a physical geography, environmental science, ecology or a related field.
  • A keen interest in pursuing research in the development of Connectivity Science and in the area of research: ecology, geomorphology and climate change in dryland environments.
  • Experience in the quantitative study of environmental processes using for example field-based study, data synthesis and modelling-based approaches.
  • Good computational skills including use of software such as R.
  • The ability to work independently and as a member of a research team.
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills, and a willingness to interact cooperatively with academic and support staff.
  • A good command of English language, with excellent oral and written skills.
  • Well-organised and highly-motivated with good time-management skills and the ability to focus on project objectives.
  • Willingness to assist with day-to-day operation of the research group, to assume a share of group responsibilities, and to contribute to impact reports, dissemination and outreach activities, including updates of the i-CONN project website, secondment and training event reports, posters, etc.
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills in English.  It is a requirement that applicants can demonstrate that their ability to understand and express themselves in both written and spoken English is sufficient for them to derive the full benefit from the network training, and to embark on a PhD at Durham University.
  • Willingness to travel internationally for training events, secondments and conferences.
  • Willingness to re-locate to reside within a reasonable distance of Durham University (or seconded institution) for the duration of the post.


Any or combination of the following will be a clear advantage.

  • A demonstrable ability or potential to produce research published in peer-reviewed journals.
  • A good strategic fit with existing research expertise in the host institution and the i-CONN network 

There are strict eligibility and residency requirements that must be met by applicants for this position.  Applicants must be either European citizens (from EU Member States or Associated Countries, but not residents of the UK), or from Other Third Countries (i.e. USA, Canada, Australia, Japan, India, China, etc.).

How to Apply

For informal enquiries please contact Professor Louise Bracken (L.J.Bracken@Durham.ac.uk). All enquiries will be treated in the strictest confidence.

More information about the i-CONN network, the open positions and host organizations is available on the project’s dedicated website: http://iconn.network. If you are interested in being considered for other PhD positions in this network, please indicate this on your application letter (see How to Apply).

Applications should be made online via the Durham University Vacancies Site at: https://www.dur.ac.uk/jobs/.

Applications are particularly welcome from women and black and minority ethnic candidates, who are under-represented in academic posts in the University.

What to Submit

All applicants must submit: 

  1. A standard application letter of no more than 2 pages (written in English) signed by the applicant indicating their full name; date and place of birth; citizenship; and postal and emaiI addresses. The letter should clearly indicate the applicant’s motivation for applying for this ESR position and describe their relevant experience. Applicants should clearly state, giving brief examples, how they meet each of the Essential Criteria, and must explicitly declare that they fulfil the eligibility criteria set out in article 3.4 of the H2020 Guide for Applicants Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions - Innovative Training Networks (ITN), see:


  1. Contact information (including email addresses) for TWO academic referees.
  2. A detailed CV (of no more than 3 pages) in English illustrating the candidate's educational background, a list of undergraduate exam results and degrees held; a list of publications, poster and oral presentations (if any); academic prizes or scholarships, etc.; and scientific experience and skills.
  3. A copy of their Master’s thesis or equivalent (in pdf format) including a separate 1 page summary written in English.
  4. Scanned copies of academic transcripts and degree certificates for the higher education qualifications held.
  5. Note, official translations into English and equivalence certificate of the Master’s degree or equivalent will be required at the point of contract signature.

Next Steps

Short-listed candidates for the post will be expected to participate in an interview.

DBS Requirement: Not Applicable.