PhD Researcher Profile: Dan Mills

Dan Mills is a NERC-funded PhD researcher studying with King’s Water on a London Doctoral Training Partnership Studentship. NERC-DTP offers students the chance to explore environmental science issues through PhD research supported by additional programming focused on multidisciplinary learning, employability skills, and science policy. Researchers spend the first term of their four DTP years in joint workshops on core research and professional development training conducted by the various partnering institutions. The bulk of the studentship is then spent as a doctoral researcher at one of the partner universities, with regular events further building skills. The programme builds a network of young professionals partnering across London institutions and departmental boundaries.

A 2014 London NERC-DTP Student, Dan began his work in the Department of Geography in April 2015. He wasn’t new to King’s College London, though, having completed a MSc in Aquatic Resource Management with King’s Water in 2012 after graduating with a BSc in Geography from Newcastle University. Dan then spent time working with the UK Environment Agency and Environmental Consultancy APEM Ltd. before applying for the PhD. Dan’s current work revolves around the ‘quagga mussel’. He wrote about the quagga on WaterWords at the beginning of his DTP tenure in October 2014. You can learn more about the species and why it matters for UK policy in the “Arrival of the Quagga Mussel” post and a recent episode of KCL Radio’s Footnotes Programme.

Dan Mills holds a tray of quagga mussels for sorting and analysis

Dan’s PhD is supervised by King’s Water members Mike Chadwick and Rob Francis to explore:

“The Ecological Impacts and Environmental Challenges of a New Invasive Species in UK Rivers: The Quagga Mussel Dreissena bugensis

The Ponto-Caspian bivalve Dreissena bugensis (the ‘Quagga Mussel’) has become established in rivers in west London. This species was placed first on a CEH (Centre for Ecology and Hydrology) list evaluating the top-30 potentially environmentally threatening non-native species for the UK. There should be great urgency towards achieving a better understanding of its current and potential implications for native ecology. Dan’s PhD aims to:

  • evaluate the biological impacts of Dreissena bugensis in its known UK range;
  • evaluate the challenges faced by conservation bodies and competent authorities in the face of Dreissena bugensis invasion in in UK rivers;
  • compare benthic macroinvertebrate community structure and function between a series of reference and invaded sites in rivers colonised by D. bugensis;
  • compare shifts in phytoplankton community structure between a series of reference and invaded sites in rivers colonised by D. bugensis;
  • examine the extent of facilitation between Dreissena spp. and other Ponto-Caspian Invasives in UK rivers;
  • assess D. bugensis habitat preferences within its invaded UK range;
  • simulate D. bugensis veliger dispersal and clarify the potential rate and downstream distribution of D. bugensis from a point source;
  • investigate the impact of D. bugensis on Environment Agency water quality indices; and
  • promote the use of invasive vs. native biomass ratios for providing clear boundaries when determining the ecological quality of invaded UK rivers under the EU Water Framework Directive.

PhD researcher Dan Mills collects samples in his river site

When not collecting samples in his study river, Dan advocates for the importance of fieldwork and academic outreach. He helps organise the Department of Geography’s Intrepid Explorers programme, where researchers and adventurers share stories and tips of travel and expeditions. Dan also enjoys enjoys helping out and demonstrating for undergrads and postgrads and assists with the Department’s work in local secondary schools. He recently served as a mentor at Exceptional DESiGN run by Norfolk County Council, where A-level students transformed an interview on his research into ecological poetry and accessible artwork.


Dan’s WaterWords:








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