Nature-based solutions: reducing the environmental impact of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and antibiotics in constructed wetlands for sewage treatment PhD

Updated: about 14 hours ago
Location: Cranfield, ENGLAND

This exciting fully funded PhD is sponsored by EPSRC and UK water utilities, with a stipend of £18,000 per annum (plus fees). This project will deliver strategies to eliminate the emerging contaminants (e.g. antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and antibiotics) from wastewater by the constructed wetland technology, as a nature-based solution. This research requires fundamental science to look at the nutrients-antibiotics-AMR nexus in sewage treatment towards building a resilient and robust wetland system in the water sector. The successful candidate will work closely with Welsh Water and maybe other water utilities to implement the innovation on the ground.  Read moreRead less


Emerging contaminants, including antibiotics and Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), have become a global concern as they pose a major threat to public health. Conventional Wastewater Treatment Plants (WWTPs) are inefficient in the removal of such contaminants and are deemed to be responsible for the dissemination of AMR to the environment. Meanwhile, constructed wetlands (CWs), as a nature-based solution, have been widely implemented for secondary/tertiary treatment and act as the final safeguard of natural waters. Thus, understanding the effectiveness, mechanisms and developing innovative strategies for the removal of antibiotics and AMR in CWs are crucial for wastewater treatment and environmental safety. 

Besides the biodegradation, TWs offer various pathways to remove AMR and antibiotics through such as phytoremediation, photolysis and hydrolysis. Moreover, antibiotics could also be degraded through co-metabolic biodegradation by nitrifying bacteria. Yet there is limited knowledge on how a synergistic remediation process could reduce the AMR generation and transmission. Hence, this project aims at understanding the nutrients-antibiotics-AMR nexus in TWs during sewage treatment towards concluding the strategies at reducing AMR transmission from effluents.

Cranfield University has significant expertise across the themes of Water and Environment on researching, enhancing and helping to implement nature-based solutions (NBS), in particular constructed wetlands, on the ground. The Cranfield NBS team is leading several CWs projects, which are financially supported by EPSRC, NERC, Royal Academy of Engineering, Environment Agency and water utilities. The National Water and Wastewater Treatment Facility located on campus enable rapid testing of technologies, including CWs for water treatment. This PhD is funded by EPSRC and one of the major UK Water Unities (Welsh Water) that is seeking to further implement nature-based solutions for wastewater treatment and delivering multi-benefits to the UK society.

The project will be based on both lab trails and field investigations, which includes 1) Determine the removal effectiveness of AMR, antibiotics, and nutrients in different types of CWs for sewage treatment under different seasons, 2) Characterize the dynamics of AMR and antibiotics within the water, sediment, and plants in CWs for sewage treatment; 3) Examine the effect of nutrients and antibiotics levels on the ARGs generation and/or remediation in CWs; 4) Evaluate the environmental impact and provide an evidence-based operation strategy to eliminate the risk of AMRs in CWs. Full training will be provided and there may also be an opportunity to test/deploy the proposed strategy in the field-scale system to determine viability, providing a rich experience for the successful candidate in driving innovation through to market.

On top of the sponsored stipend and fees, we will encourage and support the student participate in at least one international conference to disseminate the output and build up academic relationships. Specific laboratory skills training, such as wastewater treatment technology (water and wastewater engineering), water/soil quality analysis (environmental chemistry), molecular microbiological analysis and short read sequencing (microbiology), will be provided. The student will also be trained to write peer-reviewed publications, and project reports to industry partners. The industrial partners will provide feedback to the project report/presentation, which could guide the student to develop research ideas that address the real needs of water utilities.

In addition to the transferrable skills programme (communication, project management and leadership) on offer at Cranfield, the candidate will work with their academic supervisors to tailor a personal development plan based on experience, and career aspirations. At the end of the project the successful applicant will be very well positioned to have a highly successful career in the water sector or in an academic role.


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