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Academic internship: Using stable isotopes in bioaccumulation assessment - 25450

The Environment Agency
£20,507 pro rata
Closing date
17 Feb 2023

Job Details

Number of jobs available  1

Region  South West

City/Town  Bristol

Building/Site  Horizon House

Grade  Staff Grade 2

Post Type  Internship

Working Pattern  Full Time

Role Type  Science

Salary Minimum  £20,507 pro rata

Job description  

An increasing number of publications (e.g., Du et al. (2020) and references listed below) present data on food chain accumulation of substances using stable isotope concentrations (δ15N and δ13C) to:

1. describe the trophic position of organisms and similarity of food sources.
2. distinguish if the main source of food for a higher trophic organism is aquatic or terrestrial in origin.

Limited guidance is available to regulators for interpretation and assessment of robustness in such data.

The intern, supported by Chemicals Assessment Unit (CAU) staff, will build on an unpublished Environment Agency report, and other sources (e.g. literature searches) to review:

1. methods of stable isotope analysis used in multiple disciplines (e.g. archaeology, environmental monitoring, etc), identifying technical limitations.
2. how natural variables (e.g., age of organism or a sample) influence the measurements.

The intern will identify ‘best practise’ in measurement and reporting of stable isotope data for biota; this will include clarifying minimum information requirements for each method to allow regulatory confidence that isotope data are robust and reliable. The resulting report will utilize and further develop the recommendations of studies such as Kjeldgaard et al. (2021).

The output will be published and used to inform future regulatory guidance.

The team  

The intern will work within the CAU, who work on behalf of Defra and HSE, on UK and international initiatives to ensure the environmental safety of industrial and consumer chemicals. Our specialist team of scientists are the centre of expertise on chemical hazards, risks and risk management; we champion evidence based decision making through the production of detailed scientific assessments of chemicals.

We are a dispersed team, based at various locations around England.

Experience/skills required  

You will be studying towards, or have recently completed, a master’s or doctorate degree in scientific research. Naturally inquisitive, you will be a logical and analytical thinker.

You should be able to demonstrate:

• An understanding of chemical analysis and data interpretation in biota;
• An understanding of environmental bioaccumulation (trophic positioning and food sources);
• An awareness of bioaccumulation assessment as part of PBT assessment for UK REACH (see R.7c and R.11; ECHA, 2017a, 2017b);
• Capability to conduct targeted and relevant gathering of evidence via literature search.
• Competence in MS Word, MS Excel and Endnote.
• Excellent report writing skills, including ways to present complex information in an understandable way.
• Capability to manage your own time.

It would be desirable if you can demonstrate:

• Expertise in stable isotope analysis and data interpretation in biota.
• Expertise in environmental bioaccumulation (trophic positioning and food sources).

Contact and additional information  

Please contact: Steph Jones, Specialist, Chemicals Assessment Unit, for further information or if you would like examples of key guidance, use of stable isotope data or studies containing recommendations related to this role:

Mobile. 07425 614057

This post will be based in Bristol, with occasional team meetings in person (likely in Birmingham or London).

Interviews will take place on MS Teams in March.

The internship will last for up to 16 weeks, starting in July and ending by 31 October at the latest.

Job description attachment 1  

job profile - 25450.docx – 54KB 
Converted File job profile - 25450.docx.pdf – 62KB 

Candidate pack  

Candidate Pack - 25450.docx – 1867KB 
Converted File Candidate Pack - 25450.docx.pdf – 513KB 

Closing Date:  

17/02/2023, 23:55 hours

Level of security checks required  

Basic Check

Length of contract  

until 31/10/2023

Competence 1  

Scientific Knowledge


This post will provide you with an opportunity for you to apply scientific research knowledge and skills in a working environment. The role will particularly suit a research student who would like to understand how research is translated into regulatory practice.

The use of monitoring data from field studies enables regulators carrying out PBT/vPvB assessments to add to the weight-of-evidence and can be crucial in determining whether or not a substance is bioaccumulative. Currently regulators are often unable to use publications that use stable isotope concentrations to determine the trophic positions of organisms, due poor reporting of, and therefore confidence in, the data. This can lead to the discounting of valuable research in the weight-of-evidence approach. As such, this is a real opportunity to get stuck into a research topic that will enable good science to be used by regulators in chemicals assessment. We are looking for an enthusiastic student who would be willing to take a deep-dive into the research topic. An understanding of stable isotope analysis and its use in environmental bioaccumulation monitoring studies would make for a strong foundation towards a successful internship.

Competence 2  

Environmental Awareness


The Environment Agency works to protect and improve the environment. Acting to reduce the impacts of a changing climate on people and wildlife is at the heart of everything we do. Within England we’re responsible for regulating major industry and waste, treatment of contaminated land, water quality and resources, fisheries, inland river, estuary and harbour navigations, conservation and ecology and managing the risk of flooding. We are looking for a student who is passionate about these issues and is looking for a career in environmental protection.

Competence 3  

Applies Analytical Knowledge and Experience


This internship is a chance for you to apply the analytical skills, knowledge and experience you have gained whilst studying at university. We are looking for a student who is able to clearly demonstrate literature review and data analysis skills.

If you are applying from the Civil Service please note that the Environment Agency is not a part of HM Civil Service and you would not be a Crown Servant in the event of being appointed. Therefore, you will not be eligible for continuous service. For applicants who currently work in local government or other bodies listed in the Redundancy Payments (Continuity of Employment in Local Government etc) (Modification) Order 1999, you may be eligible for continuous service for the purpose of calculating any future redundancy payment. If you are unsure of your status then you should contact your own HR Team.

We are fully committed to having a diverse and inclusive workforce to reflect the communities we serve. We welcome flexible working patterns for all our vacancies, including job share, so please include clearly any information regarding your preferred working arrangements on your application.

We also have a Guaranteed Interview Policy to support those with a disability who are seeking employment. We have committed to guaranteeing an interview to anyone with a disability whose application meets the minimum criteria for the post.

The Environment Agency, as a Non-Departmental Public Body, is committed to providing value for money and utilises Central Government frameworks and contracts for all external recruitment needs. For this reason, we are unable to engage with the market directly through post, email or phone calls . Should you wish to become a support supplier on one of these frameworks or contracts please visit for more information.


The Environment Agency operates at the place where environmental change has its greatest impact on people’s lives.  We work closely with a wide range of partners to achieve a cleaner, healthier environment which benefits people and the economy; to better protect the nation against natural threats and hazards and to build stronger partnerships, while applying the environmental standards within which industry can operate. 

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