A new doctoral training centre designed to improve the health of the UK’s rivers and lakes is to open at the University of Bath following a £2.66 million funding boost.

The Centre for Doctoral Training in Real-Time Digital Water-Based Systems for Environmental Health Protection, set to be known as the RED-ALERT CDT, will train a new generation of leaders to transform how we manage aquatic environmental health via Real-Time Digital Water-Based Systems.

It will be led at Bath by Professor Barbara Kasprzyk-Hordern alongside partners from the universities of Bangor, Cardiff and Exeter, and the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

RED-ALERT has been made possible due to £2.66m in funding from the Natural Environment Research Council, which will also fund three further linked CDTs at other UK universities, aimed at boosting UK expertise in flood prevention, wetland restoration, and critical minerals.

Training within RED-ALERT will focus on challenge-led multidisciplinary research and problem-solving skills. Leveraging nationally leading research facilities, international networks and whole system "Living Labs" to provide the in-depth knowledge and breadth of understanding, it will enable a step-change in managing environmental health.

One focus will be water-based epidemiology, which involves analysing water samples by using high-tech sensors to monitor public health on an ongoing, real-time basis, is viewed as a potential tool for the detection of future disease outbreaks.

Professor Barbara Kasprzyk-Hordern, a world expert in water-based epidemiology and a co-director of Bath’s Water Innovation Research Centre, said: “I’m extremely pleased that we can start this unique programme focused on training a new generation of experts in cutting-edge digital water-based early warning systems for environmental and public health protection.

“We will work closely with several partners spanning government, water companies, NGOs, sensor/information systems and chemical industries. Our unique training programme will involve challenge-led multidisciplinary research and training within four UK ‘Living Labs’ (in the Cam/Wellow, Taff/Ely, Conwy and Exe/Tamar catchments) equipping students with unique skillsets that are critically needed to transform environmental health management. I’m looking forward to the first cohort of REDALERT students to arrive later this year.”

Read more about Prof Kasprzyk-Hordern’s research in our Research with Impact profile.

The new CDTs will take its first cohort of students from October 2024.

Professor Peter Liss, Interim Executive Chair of NERC, said: “This investment by NERC will equip the next generation of environmental science researchers with the technical and professional skills to tackle some of the key challenges facing the UK.

“The new Centres for Doctoral Training will focus on the key areas of flood prevention, freshwater quality, mineral extraction and wetland conservation.”

The other CDTs funded by NERC include:

Doctoral Training for Resilient Flood Futures (FLOOD-CDT)

Led by Professor Ivan Haigh, University of Southampton

FLOOD-CDT is a collaborative venture, made up of world-leading researchers and educators from four universities and three research centres. It will develop understanding of: flooding across all flood drivers (rainfall, snowmelt, high soil moisture); how climate change, changing population, development and land use, and public perception affect flood risk; mapping flood dynamics and damage, and improving forecasting; make use of AI in modelling floods.

Centre for Ecologically Relevant Multiple Stressor Effects on Wetland Wildscapes (ECO-WILD)

Led by Dr Frances Orton, Heriot-Watt University

ECOWILD is a unique partnership that brings together research expertise and innovation across various fields including environmental toxicology, ecology, multiple stressor theory and modelling, wetland conservation and restoration, socioeconomics, community engagement, management and governance; and involves some of the leading UK experts in these fields.

The ECOWILD CDT will run over six years and comprise three cohorts, each of 13-14 students. During their three year and eight-month PhD, ECOWILD students will work on a challenging research project aligned with one or more of five priority research areas, identified through horizon scanning exercises and in collaboration with our stakeholders.

TARGET Mineral Resources - Training And Research Group for Energy Transition Mineral Resources

Led by Dr Daniel Smith, University of Leicester

TARGET will train up to 36 multidisciplinary mineral resources researchers across three cohorts. PhD projects will be based around the themes of mineral deposit discovery, efficient resource recovery, environmental sustainability, and strategy for supply chains and the circular economy. Cohort training will deliver multidisciplinary skills and knowledge that cover the whole of the resources lifecycle, and prepare researchers for careers in a rapidly changing industry that is vital to the UK's green energy transition.