Postgraduate Research Opportunities

Funded PhD Postgraduate Research Student

Principal Investigator: Dr Thomaé Kakouli-Duarte, South East Technological University, (SETU), Carlow

Position: PhD Postgraduate Research Student

Project Title: Investigation of the ecological impact of recycling derived fertilisers in commercial farms in NW Europe, via analysing communities of soil nematodes and aquatic invertebrates

Project Details:

Applications are invited to undertake a full-time four-year PhD by research project in the Department of Science, SETU, Carlow, on the following project:

Investigation of the ecological impact of recycling derived fertilisers in commercial farms in NW Europe, via analysing communities of soil nematodes and aquatic invertebrates

The ReNu2Cycle project is building on the achievements of the ReNu2Farm project (ReNu2Farm- Nutrient Recycling from pilot production to farms and fields | Interreg NWE ( and aims at reducing the dependency of NW Europe on fossil-based fertiliser imports. The ReNu2Farm project provided basic and regional quantified fertiliser demand research. The ReNu2Cycle follow up project will co-develop and implement regional best practices for recycling derived fertiliser applications in NW Europe, employing field trials and living lab concepts.

The project is a large European collaborative project funded by the EU Interreg NWE Programme and involves multiple research partners from academia and industry across Belgium (3), Germany (4), Ireland (4), Luxemburg (1) and the Netherlands (1). 

Project Description

enviroCORE, a research centre in SETU on the Carlow Campus is a partner in the project undertaking the ecological impact assessments of the recycling derived fertilisers in field applications. 

Project Title: “Investigation of the ecological impact of recycling derived fertilisers in commercial farms in NW Europe, via analysing communities of soil nematodes and aquatic invertebrates”

Project specific information

Nematode analyses will be carried out mostly using molecular approaches, employing PCR to amplify and subsequently sequence the 18S rDNA of the various nematode taxa recovered in the project field trials, testing recycling derived fertilisers (RDF). Classical morphological approaches via microscopy based on appropriate keys will also be employed as necessary. The work will involve looking at the effects of various RDF and cropping systems on the nematode communities, as well laboratory-based ecotoxicology analyses of various RDF blends on nematodes. River sampling expeditions will also be carried out to collect aquatic invertebrates to assess the ecological status of the neighbouring farm rivers as per the Water Framework Directive guidelines. Data analysis by statistics and bioinformatics will also be carried out and various ecological indices will be calculated to assess the ecological impact of the novel fertilisers to the environment.

The Position
  • This position will provide the opportunity to the successful candidate to complete a Level 10 PhD degree by research, specialising in the environmental field and most specifically on the ecological impact assessment of recycling derived fertilisers.

  • A literature review will be completed by the student as soon as s/he starts to bring them to the state of the art in this area.

  • The student will work closely with two Irish partners (Teagasc and University of Limerick) to investigate the impact of fertilisers derived from recycling approaches on nematode communities of Irish soil in commercial crop farms, as well as in soils from partner field trials in NW Europe.

  • The successful candidate will have the opportunity to interact in a multidisciplinary European research project with important environmental application for sustainable agriculture, with relevant stakeholders in Ireland and in project partner countries.

  • The project will involve travelling to trial sites, taking samples of soil and plant material, extracting nematodes, counting their abundance, identifying them morphologically (trophic group level or more detailed when necessary), extracting, quantifying and PCR amplifying DNA,  sending nucleic acid samples for sequencing analysis and curating and analysing sequencing data using bioinformatics. River surveys will also collect aquatic macroinvertebrate data to assess the ecological status of the rivers in neighbouring farms, to see if water quality is affected by the fertilisers. Finally, lab-based nematode ecotoxicology will also be employed to investigate any potential toxicity to the fertilisers.  The work will involve preparation of data for publication, both in highly specialised scientific journals, but also in popular science media and project technical reports as required.

  • The project will involve travelling to meetings and conferences as required.



This project is fully funded by the Interreg North-West Europe Programme which covers postgraduate fees, together with an annual stipend of €18,500 paid monthly for the duration of the scholarship.


Research Field

Agricultural sciences
Biological sciences
Environmental science

Entry Requirements

Essential Criteria
  • Applicants must hold a First-Class Honours Degree or equivalent in a relevant discipline (Biosciences, Genetics, Biology, Bioinformatics, Zoology, Nematology, Environmental Science etc.) from an internationally recognised Institution;

  • A minimum of a Second-Class Honours Grade 1 (2.1) is required.

  • Strong proficiency in written and oral English is required, together with excellent written and oral communication skills and have a proactive approach to research conduct.  Applicants for whom English is not their first language, will require at least IELTS 6.0 or equivalent.

  • Demonstrate a strong motivation for research and be prepared for laboratory work and extended periods of field work, using modern analytical equipment;

  • Applicants must demonstrate a strong interest in and knowledge of the broad research area of the PhD topic;

  • Applicants must demonstrate a clear commitment to co-produced research; 

  • Demonstrate organizational skills and time management skills with the ability to work to priorities and deadlines;

  • International travel will be required for the purposes of sampling and attending regular meetings, therefore candidates must be eligible and available to travel within the EU.

  • Applicants who are currently registered at another Higher Education Institution cannot be offered a scholarship until they provide evidence that they have completed their studies at the other Institution. 


Desirable Criteria
  • Ideally, the candidate should have their own transport and a driving licence, as there will be a requirement for frequent visits to trial sites for the purposes of sampling.


For any informal queries about the research project, please contact Dr Thomaé Kakouli-Duarte on

Application Form

Get the application form here »

Application Deadline

16 June 2023 at 17:00

Application Process

To be considered for interview, please download the Postgraduate Application Form and return the completed form to Sarah O’Brien: quoting CW_2023_02_INT with the project title in the Subject Line.

The application should also include a cover letter, elaborating why the applicant is ideal candidate for the post.

Start Date:

No later than September 2023