PhD on atmospheric microplastics and their fate in the Critical Zone in France

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Start Date: 
Monday, April 20, 2020 - 12:00

Ph.D. on atmospheric microplastics and their fate in the Critical Zone at Observatoire Midi- Pyrénées Toulouse

Employer: Observatoire Midi Pyrénées CNRS/Université de Toulouse, France
Deadline: Open until position is filled
Summary: Microplastics (MP) are an emerging contaminant, massively discharged to aquatic ecosystems with effects on ecosystems health. Recent research is making inroads to understanding river MP pollution and transport to Oceans. To date, non-urban environment atmospheric deposition has been entirely overlooked. In the 4Dµplast PhD project we will investigate 4D (x,y,z and t) microplastic contamination to :

  1. Understand the emission sources and transport mechanisms of atmospheric MP in remote areas,
  2. Investigate atmospheric boundary layer-soil MP dynamics, and MP watershed to river mobilization,
  3. Historically reconstruct MP atmospheric deposition over the Pyrenees and globally using ombrotrophic peatland archives. This project (including PhD tasks) aims to assess atmospheric MP pollution and exchange with the Critical Zone.

4Dµplast findings will be critical to close the global plastics budget, and to understand the role of the atmosphere in dispersing plastic pollution.

This project (including PhD tasks) aims to assess atmospheric MP pollution and exchange with the Critical Zone, including mechanisms for atmospheric entrainment, transport and deposition. We will focus on the Pyrenees since the E-W mountains range offer a unique geographical setting + a proximity with Toulouse including local INEE/INSU labeled observatories (Pic du Midi, tourbière de Bernadouze).

We will also analyse selected ombrotrophic Sphagnum peat cores from the extensive global “peat library” available at Toulouse. It includes also new cores from remote islands (Azores, Crozet Island etc.).

Ecolab (Laboratoire d'Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Environnement) and GET (Geosciences Environnement Toulouse) will function as the primary research location for this project. Both are part of the Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées. GET and EcoLab provides state-of-the-art (class 100) clean room facilities, SEM, TEM, ionprobe (at Raymond Castaing Center) fluorescence and within the university of Toulouse facilities access to µFTIR and µRaman equipment for MP characterisation. EcoLab is a CNRS research laboratory focused on the ecology and biogeochemistry of environmental pollution, specifically peat archive records of anthropogenic contaminants and past climate. With an extensive repository of peat samples, EcoLab provides a cutting-edge peat analysis platform for past MP deposition assessment. State-of-the-art Nile Red Fluoroscopy and mineral/elemental analysis is provided, using XRF and ICP(MS/OES). University of Strathclyde and LCA provide additional access to µRaman facilities. University of Strathclyde and UMI IFAECI provide additional access to peat samples and rain waters. EcoLab and GET are running rainwater (Pic du Midi and Bernadouze) and mountain streams (Bernadouze) observatories in the Pyrenees.

The Phd student will be supervised by Gael Le Roux (EcoLab-OMP) and Jeroen Sonke (GET-OMP).

As the project will take place on remote islands such as the Austral Islands as well as at high altitudes, it is necessary for the PhD student to be in very good health conditions. Field experience will be appreciated as much as previous experience in the study of microplastics. The candidate should have a master's or engineering degree in chemistry or environmental sciences. Previous experience in polymer characterization will be highly appreciated.

Contact: Gael Le Roux ( & Jeroen Sonke (

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