PhD project title and outline, including interdisciplinary dimension:
Investigation of factors affecting the bioavailability of contaminants in rural and urban soils to humans
Methodology: Oral bioaccessibility, measured using the Unified Barge Method (UBM) will be combined with measures vegetable intake, to assess bioavailability of soil contaminants to humans, using a mixture of existing and new samples from Northern Ireland (using samples provided by GSNI) and Greece (availing of an established collaboration with Ariadne Argyraki, Associate Professor of Geochemistry, Laboratory of Economic Geology and Geochemistry, Department of Geology and Geoenvironment, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece. Both countries show elevated levels of both geogenic (notably Cr and Ni) and anthropogenic contamination. Spatial and multivariate statistical analysis using ArcGIS and R software will be undertaken to interrogate the data and determine potential sources of contamination. Risk assessment methodologies will be used to estimate risks posed from the soils to human health.
Interdisciplinarity: The project bridges the gap between geoscience and engineering. Practising engineers are often frustrated by how little geoscience information is available to allow decisions to be made about the suitability of sites for redevelopment, with sites being deemed unsuitable for development, because concentrations of geogenic contaminants exceed thresholds that have been derived based on the behaviour of contamination from anthropogenic sources. This project combines the expertise of Dr McKinley (statistics), Mark Patton (mineralogy) and Dr Ariadne Argyraki (geochemistry) with a pragmatic and robust approach to risk assessment led by Dr Cox (a civil engineer) to determine the risks posed to human health from geogenic Ni and Cr and inform appropriate redevelopment of Ni and Cr contaminated sites.
Innovation: Use of an existing urban databases of contaminant source (Northern Ireland Tellus geochemical dataset and previously sampled soils in Athens) and uniquely combine them with bioaccessibility testing to provide a detailed understanding of how contaminant source affects the potential risk to human receptors.
Improved decision-making: Appropriate protocols for bioaccessibility testing that will reduce error, inform risk assessment and improve decision-making.
Primary supervisor: Dr Siobhan Cox (Natural and Built Environment)
Secondary supervisor: Dr Jennifer McKinley (Natural and Built Environment)
External Partner/Organisation: Geological Survey of Northern Ireland (GSNI)