A stone bridge over a calm river

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

The Centre for Doctoral Training in Real-Time Digital Water-Based Systems for Environmental Health Protection (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 based at the University of Bath and led 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 (NERC), 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. This is viewed as a potential tool for the detection of future disease outbreaks.

Professor Charles Tyler, Exeter’s Principal Investigator on RED-ALERT, said: “This CDT will train a new generation of experts in cutting-edge water based early warning systems for protecting environmental and human health.

“A key element of our programme is the research will be done in ‘living labs’ and developed in close partnership with end users that will maximise real-world application and impact of the science.

“This is the third successive CDT we, in Biosciences at Exeter, have partnered in securing from NERC in freshwater biology and ecotoxicology (the two previously being FRESH and ECORISC) further highlighting our internationally leading position in these areas of research and training.”

The new CDT 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.”