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PACIFIC: PAthways of Chemicals Into Freshwaters and their ecological ImpaCts

Studying the link between the sources of chemical pollution and its impact on freshwater ecosystems.


£1.6 million

Project status

In progress



A student holds up a bottle of freshwater against the sunshine for a better view.
The project will explore how chemical pollutants affect freshwater ecosystems.

In our ever-expanding world, manufactured chemicals are essential. The diverse range of pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and personal care products we use are vital to maintaining public health, food production, and quality of life.

But their use throughout society is causing increased chemical pollution in our environment. This project will explore the link between the sources of chemical pollutants and their effects. We will study their pathways, fate, and ecological impacts in freshwater ecosystems. In particular, we'll look at the effects on freshwater microbes and the functions they perform.

Our aims

Through this project, we will:

  • identify which pollutants alter the structure and function of freshwater microbial ecosystems
  • understand the impacts of chemical pollutants on the biogeochemical processes of freshwater microbes
  • develop models to predict the scale of chemical pollutant threats to river ecosystems
  • and work with regulatory, industry and charity partners. Together we'll develop solutions to manage the impacts of chemicals on freshwaters.

Where we're working

Field sites include the River Thames and Bristol Avon catchments in southern England. We've chosen locations that coincide with wastewater treatment works. This will allow us to understand how chemicals in sewage effluents contribute to the chemical burden. We can also assess the ecological impacts across land use gradients.


PACIFIC is a collaboration led by Dr Daniel Read of the UK Centre of Ecology & Hydrology. Partners include Professor Barbara Kasprzyk-Hordern, University of Bath; Dr Michelle Jackson, University of Oxford; and Dr Kerry Walsh, Environment Agency.

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Please get in touch if you'd like to find out more about our research.