Assessing exposure risks of pharmaceuticals in the environment to wild birds

Sophia Whitlock


Start Year: 2014, 1st cohort

Host University: The University of York

Department: Enviroment

Supervisors:  Dr Kathryn Arnold; Prof Richard Shore, Dr Gloria Pereira, CEH

CASE partner collaborator: Dr Will Peach, RSPB


sophia whitlock

Academic profile


BSc (Hons) Chemistry, University of Nottingham, UK, 2008-2011

Work experience

Temporary Assistant Research Advisor at NHS Research Design Service, August 2011 – October 2011

Research Facilitator at NIHR Research Management and Governance, October 2011 – August 2012

Derivatives Analyst at Shell Trading and Shipping Company, August 2013-July 2014

Skills and relevant qualifications

Analytical chemistry: liquid chromatography, mass spectrometry, sample clean-up and extraction;
Ecotoxicology: aviary ecotoxicology experiment, field ecotoxicology study

ACCE PhD Research topic

Assessing exposure risks of pharmaceuticals in the environment to wild birds

In a world of increasing pharmaceutical consumption, more and more pharmaceuticals are being literally ʺflushed out” into the environment through our sewage, where they pose a risk to ecosystem health. It is only in the last decade that modern analytical chemistry techniques have been sensitive enough to detect the very low concentrations of pharmaceuticals present in the environment. However pharmaceuticals are, by their very nature, designed to have high impacts at low doses. To date, there has been little research on the effects of this medical pollution on higher vertebrates. Birds often sit in high trophic levels in food webs and are thus useful sentinels for ecosystem health. This project will investigate both the exposure risk and the behavioural effects of select pharmaceuticals on wild birds. The focus will be on terrestrial habitats since sewage sludge (bio solids) spread on agricultural land is a significant exposure route, which is currently less well studied than freshwater exposure routes.