Nicholas Lugg profile picture

Nicholas Lugg

University of Birmingham


High frequency water quality sensor networks for monitoring hot spots and hot moments of urban and rural water pollution in real-time


  • Professor Stefan Krause, University of Birmingham
  • Professor David Hannah, University of Birmingham
  • Dr Kieran Khamis, University of Birmingham
  • Dr Glenn Watts, Environment Agency

PhD Summary

There continues to be growing concern about the water quality of our worlds river systems, as increasing pressure grows to provide safe water supplies to ensure and promote water and food security throughout the world while ensuring sufficient supplies exist to support healthy and diverse ecosystems. Within the hydrological science community, we are currently experiencing a revolution in environmental monitoring techniques, offering unprecedented opportunities to take high resolution pulses of water quality extremes in complex landscapes. This project will combine the application of novel types of water quality sensor networks and numerical models, to further improve our current mechanistic understanding of the evolution of source-area activation within a catchment and identify event-based dynamics of pollution sources. The outcomes of this study will directly support the development of more evidence-based prediction and management of river basins.

Previous activity

Before starting my PhD I studied a BSc in Geography at the University of Plymouth (2020). My dissertation investigated the long-term, ~90 years, implications of coniferous afforestation on channel morphology, through comparing data collected 50 years after afforestation with morphological surveys I conducted. This was followed by an MSc in River Environments and their Management at the University of Birmingham (2021), my master’s thesis examined the immediate impact of fascine installation, a nature-based solution, on hyporheic thermal dynamics in a lowland agricultural catchment.

Why did you choose doctoral research?

Throughout my bachelors’ and masters’ courses the more I learnt about hydrological science and the current state of global riverine environments, the stronger my passion and curiosity grew. Therefore, the only logical next step for me was to undertake doctoral research which would allow me to further my understanding, contribute to current knowledge, and put my waders back on!

Why did you choose CENTA?

A CENTA studentship offers numerous opportunities that I believe are essential to ensure not only the successful completion of my PhD, but to develop me into a well-rounded scientific researcher. A significant factor that led me to choosing this DTP was the close partnership I would have with the Environment Agency, British Geological Survey, and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. This allowing me the unique opportunity to be exposed to the knowledge and experience of both academic and professional hydrologists, during this key stage as an early career scientist. Alongside this CENTA offers access to training focused on both technical and soft skills, which will be crucial to eliminate some of the barriers often experienced while completing a research project, while offering great transferability to careers in either academica or industry.

Future plans

At present I am open to all career paths, however, I am certain that whether I remain in academia or go into industry my future will revolve around our riverine environments. I believe that through the opportunities that arise from being both a CENTA and University of Birmingham student, these will help me identify the different aspects and tasks that I enjoy most of my project, therefore directing me towards a career path that will be both fulfilling and rewarding.