University alliance awarded £2m to deliver the next generation of freshwater experts

The University of Bath is part of the UK’s first freshwater doctoral training programme which will train future leaders with the skills necessary to address the complex challenges facing freshwater sustainability.

The GW4 Alliance, which consists of the universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter, will receive £2m from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) to establish the UK’s first centre for doctoral training dedicated to “freshwater bioscience and sustainability”. The project will address challenges for rivers, lakes and wetlands as the world’s most important but most threatened natural resources.

Sustaining the world’s freshwater ecosystems - while meeting the water demands of a growing population – requires new thinking. The programme will address emerging risks, develop new monitoring tools, tackle the rapid extinction of freshwater plants and animals, and create integrated solutions to manage sustainability.

Led by Cardiff University’s Water Research Institute, the programme team is made up of six world-class research institutions: the GW4 universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and British Geological Survey. Together, they form one of the largest groups of freshwater scientists in Europe, and form a critical mass of internationally recognised scientists, including empiricists, experimentalists, modellers, and theoreticians in the field of freshwater bioscience and sustainability.

PhD students taking part in this multidisciplinary programme will work on real-life research projects with supervisors from a range of organisations such as Welsh Water, the Environment Agency and The Rivers Trust, enabling them to work side by side with the conservationists and commercial businesses that confront 21st century’s water challenges.

Professor Jan Hofman, Bath lead for the GW4 Freshwater CDT said: “The availability of freshwater is not so obvious as it seems, whilst many products and services depend heavily freshwater resources. The FRESH CDT is an exciting opportunity for the Water Innovation and Research Centre at Bath to collaborate with colleagues from the other institutions with complementary expertise, and deliver new innovative solutions for freshwater quality and availability.”

Dr Isabelle Durance, Director of the GW4 Freshwater Centre for Doctoral Training and Director of Cardiff University’s Water Research Institute, said: “Freshwater challenges are such that the UK freshwater research community needs a step-change: our vision is to train future leaders with the skills necessary to address the challenges facing sustainability.”

Professor Nick Talbot, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), University of Exeter and Chair of the GW4 Board says: “We are delighted that GW4’s Water Security Alliance, which is the UK’s largest grouping of water experts, has been recognised with this award. This initiative builds on a rich legacy of GW4 collaboration and excellence in doctoral training, following the Water Informatics Science and Engineering (WISE) CDT, and will tackle some of the most important challenges facing our environment today.

"The GW4 Freshwater CDT looks set to have a global impact and provides further evidence that the future of scientific discovery lies in collaboration and sharing expertise across institutions as well as generations.”

The programme will run for six years and will welcome its first cohort in 2018.

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