NERC PhD studentship on new methods for determining radionuclides in wildlife: new detectors for live-monitoring

This project presents an exciting opportunity to undertake world-leading research on the development of detector technology to determine radionuclide activity concentrations in wildlife.

The studentship is part of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)-funded TREE project and you will join an international team studying the transfer, exposure and effects of radiation on wildlife.

Project overview

In the UK, the focus of most radiological environmental risk assessments is protecting species and habitats in compliance with the EC Birds & Habitats Directives.To support and provide confidence in these assessments, there is a need to develop new detector technologies to determine gamma emitting radionuclides in living organisms. This studentship will focus on measuring whole-body activity concentrations of gamma emitting radionuclides in vertebrate wildlife, which will require short analysis times to reduce stress on the organisms. The detector will need to be portable and usable in a field setting for vertebrates of different sizes, so detector design considerations will include mass, shielding and detector materials. The early development of a functional live monitoring detector will use phantoms (representative geometries of densities similar to living organisms, with known radionuclide activity concentrations) in a laboratory setting. The prototype detector will then be piloted through field application in the UK, where radionuclides in the organisms are likely to be low. There will also be the opportunity to participate in field research in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, where the use of live-monitoring faces the problem of high environmental activity concentrations.

The project will be supervised by Dr Mike Wood from the University of Salford and Prof Nick Beresford from the NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (NERC-CEH). Pete Burgess from Radiation Metrology Ltd will be an external advisor for the project.


As part of the vibrant postgraduate research community at the University of Salford, you will engage with training courses and events that have been designed to equip researchers both for their university studies and for their future careers. You will also be eligible to attend professional development courses run by NERC-CEH and have access to CEH’s UKAS-accredited radiometric facilities.

There will be regular interaction with a network of 6 other PhD students who are undertaking research related to the TREE project. You will also become part of a wider NERC PhD cohort of approximately 20 students, engaging in training activities and summer schools in the area of radioactivity and the environment.

You will present at the annual meetings of the Co-ordinating Group on Environmental Radioactivity (COGER) and other relevant national and international meetings, developing your professional network and maximising the opportunities for further capacity building and knowledge exchange.


You should have at least a first /upper second class honours degree in an appropriate subject and preferably a relevant MSc / MRes qualification. You will need to be mathematically proficient and should ideally have an understanding of the measurement of environmental levels of gamma radiation and the development of instrument technology.


This NERC studentship will provide an annual stipend (£13,863 2014/15 [tax free]) and UK/EU tuition fees for 3 years and 6 months.

Full studentships are available to UK and EU candidates who have been ordinarily resident in the UK throughout the 3-year period immediately preceding the date of an award. EU candidates who have not been ordinarily resident in the UK for the last 3 years are eligible for "tuition fees-only" awards (no maintenance grant).

Unfortunately studentships are not available to non-UK/EU applicants.

For further information please read NERC’s eligibility rules.

How to apply

Applications must be submitted via the University of Salford online application system.

Please submit a covering letter explaining your reasons for wishing to undertake this PhD and your suitability for the project. This letter should be attached to your application in place of the project proposal.


The closing date for applications is Friday 20th June 2014.

Interviews will take place in July and the PhD appointment will begin in October 2014.


For further details or an informal discussion, please contact Dr Mike Wood (; +44 161 295 2143).