• MSc Environmental Monitoring, Modelling and Reconstruction (Manchester) - 2010
  • BSc Geography and Geology (Manchester) - 2009

Research project

Spatial and temporal variations in physical and chemical character of natural organic matter in natural waters

Supervised by:

Research interests

For large parts of the UK the runoff collected from upland catchments serves as a major source of drinking water. The frequent rainfall and impervious bedrock geology of many of these catchments has lead to the formation of overlying peat, imparting a highly variable rainfall runoff relationship and generating runoff with solute and particulate loads dominated by natural organic matter (NOM). This project will analyse the physical and chemical character of this NOM load through a combination of size separation and chemical characterization techniques, making use of the world-class facilities within the Williamson Research Centre for Molecular Environmental Science at the University of Manchester.

The dataset compiled over the course of this project will be used to calculate the fluvial carbon flux from an instrumented upland peatland catchment at a spatial resolution higher than that of comparable existing studies of peatland NOM loads and to determine whether the fluvial carbon flux is balanced by the formation of new peat. This instrumented catchment contains several sub-catchments affected to differing degrees by erosion, therefore provides a well defined spatial and temporal context for samples of NOM. The dataset generated will also be used to quantify the short term fluctuations in NOM load that currently present difficulties for water treatment, as well as identify any longer tem trends attributable to climatic change or changes in catchment management practices.

This project will also quantify the gaseous carbon flux of several peat sub-catchments through the in situ monitoring of methane and carbon dioxide emissions and identify the relative importance of the gaseous peat carbon flux. The bacterial populations that control these gases fluxes and their response to changes in climate and catchment hydrology will also be analyzed using a variety of analytical organic geochemical techniques.

Presentations and posters

  • April 2013 - Rae, S., C. Robinson, B. E. van Dongen and S. Boult. Impact of peatland restoration on water treatability. European Geosciences Union General Assembly (Soil System Sciences Division). Vienna, Austria. Poster.
  • July 2011 - Rae S., P. D. Do, B. E. van Dongen and S. Boult. Microbial controls on methane peat fluxes in peatland. British Organic Geochemistry Society meeting. University of Swansea. Oral presentation.


  • April 2013 - Outstanding poster award at the European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2013 (Soil System Sciences Division), Vienna, Austria.
  • February 2013 - Awarded the Brian Hitchon postgraduate student travel fund to attend the 2013 International Meeting on Organic Geochemistry, Tenerife.