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Developing a device for marine life and water quality monitoring

This project offers the right candidate a £5000 bursary contribution in the first year only. Please contact the supervisor for more detail.

We have developed a prototype water quality monitoring device. It is autonomous, waterproof, floating, cost-effective, self-powered and self-righting with a small, high capacity, on-board, re-chargeable battery (solar powered) which drives the on-board electronics comprising of sensors, mobile phone SIM and satellite transmitter.

Programming was developed to enable data to be related to a cloud-based database via a dedicated website (accessible by mobile phone) facilitating analysis and seamless dissemination of water quality data in real time. The data can be used to inform prompt risk management actions, where the water quality falls below acceptable standards (eg. Water Framework Directive, WHO drinking water standards). Comparable state-of-the-art sea monitoring platforms are large, bulky, expensive and stand-alone.

The project aims for this to be an affordable, rugged, and simple-to-use device, suitable for deployment by laypersons in rural or remote areas of developing countries, where communities have little access to tested clean drinking water. They often have no idea about the safety of their local water supply, usually streams, ponds, rivers, lakes, reservoirs and at best hand-pump operated drinking wells.

The device can also be used for other water quality applications such as environmental monitoring (e.g. algal blooms (eutrophication from waste and fertilisers), oil spills, municipal wastewater and industrial discharges), ensuring optimal water conditions for sustainable aquaculture optimising food production and monitoring swimming pools.

Our current prototype (see photo) requires further development. It was successfully deployed in inland waterways (local canal, pond & swimming pool) and gave regular readings of water quality parameters which were relayed to a computer and mobile phone.

We are looking for a PhD student who will continue the R&D for this device to expand and diversify the monitoring payload for multiple applications. There are opportunities for the device to be patented and the student could be involved with setting up a spin-out company on the product (support & mentoring available at Brunel). We already have SMEs working with us to develop the product for them for a specific application.

The aim is to develop a product that can be deployed in multiple field applications to inform users regarding water quality for use in aquaculture for fish production, drinking water quality monitoring in rural areas and monitoring conditions in the Eastern Mediterranean, which may influence the distribution and abundance of whales and dolphins for a related project (yes you get to do field work and meet a dolphin or two).

You will be expected to work in a multi-disciplinary team of marine biologists, wildlife scientists, engineers, environmental scientists and microbiologists.


  • Incorporate additional communication components and associated electronics arrays to increase range and tracking.
  • Develop an android and IOS application for the data management system.
  • Evaluate off-the-shelf sensors to incorporate and associated electronic arrays for use in the device to increase parameters
  • Improve power supply as needed for more sensors, utilising space/design for trapping more solar energy.
  • Field testing depends on resources/developments in fish farms, local waterbodies and abroad.


This project is NOT currently funded but we are seeking financial support so assume there is no funding when applying. DIVERS are particularly welcome also although not necessary - we have divers in the team.

How to apply

If you are interested in applying for the above PhD topic please follow the steps below:

  1. Contact the supervisor by email or phone to discuss your interest and find out if you would be suitable. Supervisor details can be found on this topic page. The supervisor will guide you in developing the topic-specific research proposal, which will form part of your application.
  2. Click on the 'Apply here' button on this page and you will be taken to the relevant PhD course page, where you can apply using an online application.
  3. Complete the online application indicating your selected supervisor and include the research proposal for the topic you have selected.

Good luck!

This is a partially funded topic

This project offers the right candidate a £5000 bursary contribution in the first year only. Please contact the supervisor for more detail.

Meet the Supervisor(s)

Gera Troisi - Dr Gera M. Troisi is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering in the College of Engineering and Design at Brunel University London since 2001, delivering undergraduate and postgraduate modules on Environmental, Health & Safety  Management towards Sustainable Engineering Solutions. She has supervised several postgraduate students to successful completion of PhD-doctoral degrees, MPhil and MRes. She is a Chartered Toxicologist-Ecotoxicologist (UK & Europe) and is a member of the Risk Assessment Committee (RAC) of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) which advises on the classification, labelling and restriction of chemicals within the European Union under the REACH and CLP regulations. Her principal research interests are environmental toxicology of humans and wildlife (ecotoxicology, endocrine disruption, biomonitoring, biosensors, environmental analysis); Risk Assessment and Aquaculture. She has over 40 research publications covering these disciplines. She has coordinated a number of research and consultancy projects related to environmental toxicology funded by both non-governmental (RSPCA, WWF, Care for the Wild, Greenpeace) and governmental agencies (DEFRA) and industry (Safeway, Slimming Systems Ltd and Lufthansa-Hawker Pacific Aerospace). Before beginning her career in academia, Dr Troisi worked as a Senior Scientific Officer in the Medical Research Council (MRC) Institute for Environment & Health. She holds a doctorate degree in Environmental Toxicology from the University of Essex and is a member of the British and European Toxicology Societies. Dr Troisi offers the following consultancy services: Medical Device Risk Management; Environmental Risk Assessment; Health Risk Assessment; Ecological Risk Assessment; Life Cycle Analysis; Environmental Impact Assessment; Health and Ecological Impacts; Laboratory analysis of environmental pollutants (polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and metabolites (Methyl sulphones), pesticides, heavy metals and polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs); emergent pollutants (brominated flame retardants)) drugs and biologically-active compounds (steroid hormones).