My name is Kenneth Porter and I am a first year NERC-funded PhD student. I’ll be working on my project “Risk-based modelling of pathogen export from agricultural catchments under a changing climate” for the next three and a half years which will bring FIO representation to the SCIMAP framework. With the projected increase in the frequency and intensity of storm events under projected climate change we can expect accelerated export of pathogens from the landscape and in turn an elevated risk of microbial pollution of surface waters. SCIMAP is currently developed for predicting fine sediment (FS), phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N) pollution risk contributed from diffuse sources across the landscape. My PhD aims to develop a consideration of the risk of microbial water pollution into the SCIMAP framework through taking into account their behaviour in the environment. Faecal indicator organisms (FIO), e.g. E. coli, are commonly used as a surrogate measure of pathogen presence in the environment and it is the risk of FIO connectivity from land to water that we will predict and depict using the SCIMAP approach.
The risk of FIO pollution in catchments varies both spatially and temporally due to the dynamic survival patterns of micro-organisms which is influenced by a multitude of biotic and abiotic factors. Integrating a temporal consideration in the form of FIO persistence profiles into the framework is a key challenge for SCIMAP FIO, and marks a significant departure from previous SCIMAP frameworks dealing with FS, P and N.
Key research questions in my PhD:
- How do hydrological pathways that connect pathogen source to receptor vary in space and time across different catchment typologies and how does this impact on microbial travel times?
- To what extent does the probability of microbial survival vary for different environmental conditions during transfer from catchment source to receptor?
- How do we integrate microbial behavioural characteristics into the SCIMAP framework to develop a conceptual and procedural risk-based model?
- How will the export of microbial pollutants from the landscape alter under projected climate change?
The PhD is funded by NERC and is part of the IAPETUS Doctoral Training Partnership with the University of Stirling and Durham University as host institutions. I am supervised by Dr David Oliver and Dr Richard Quilliam at the University of Stirling and Dr Sim Reaney from Durham University. It is a three and a half year studentship which will take me through to spring 2018.