Department / group: Biological & Environmental Sciences
Institution URL: https://www.stir.ac.uk/

Research interests:

I am interested in international development and the techniques by which societies can achieve the sustainable development goals. I am interested in the different roles various stakeholders take to achieve sustainable development, and how adaptable implementation techniques are to the varying environmental stressors in different regions. I am particularly interested in environmental pollution and human health in sub-Saharan African regions, where there tends to be the greatest poverty and thus greater environmental pollution and negative health effects. Building national capacity to address the sustainable development goals in these poorer regions is urgent.

Career history:

University of Stirling
October 2018 – Current
PhD in Environmental Science (funded by NERC)
Dissertation: Environmental pollution and human health in Malawi’s informal settlements (slums)

Imperial College London
October 2016 – September 2018
MSc Environmental Technology with Water Management and Anglian Water Placement
Grade: Distinction

Imperial College London
September 2012 – July 2016
BSc Biology
First Class Honours

My time so far in education has enabled me to develop:

• Advanced research skills through working independently to review literature and to plan and carry out the MSc thesis, 2nd and 3rd year dissertations, experimental projects and a bioinformatics project. I conducted my 3rd year dissertation on the effects of diet on swarming behaviour in Aedes aegypti mosquitoes and this involved spending three months at Imperial’s Silwood Park campus to collect data. The results of this project are published in the Journal of Medical Entomology (IF 1.712).
• Leadership skills through demonstrating in undergraduate practical’s during my PhD
• IT and statistical skills, including the use of R, through laboratory and project write-ups.
• Interpersonal skills through team based learning exercises, group work and consultancy-style group projects.
• Written and oral presentation skills through essays, reports and presentations.

Active research projects:

Environmental pollution and human health in Malawi’s informal settlements

Exposure to environmental pollutants can significantly impact an individual’s well-being, health and productivity. Today, the United Nations (UN) estimate that globally, one in eight deaths are caused by air pollution, with respiratory infections being the leading cause of death in developing regions. Furthermore, WHO currently estimate that at least 2 billion people around the world drink from a water source contaminated with faeces, making a significant contribution to the burden of diarrhoeal disease. Overall, these environmental burdens are much greater in low income than high income countries. In low-income urban areas, poor planning means people’s access to vital infrastructure (i.e. water, sanitation) may be limited, and this, combined with congested and poorly serviced housing, exacerbates environmental pollution problems. Today, 27 of the 34 low income countries are in sub-Saharan Africa. According to UN projections, over 50% of the world’s population growth over the next half century will occur in Africa. More people means more environmental pollution, making it vital to develop techniques to tackle environmental pollution in African regions.

The aim of this project is to engage with communities in Malawi’s informal settlements to understand the current health burden caused by environmental pollution, to help people to develop individual and community strategies to reduce their exposure to environmental pollution and to investigate the success of a participatory intervention in reducing exposure to environmental pollution. The informal settlements within Blantyre will be the geographical foci for the work. The key objectives of the project are to:

1. Undertake baseline measurements to quantify exposure to air and water pollution in Malawi slums using (i) a citizen science approach, and (ii) environmental analytical techniques
2. Facilitate a participatory intervention in which groups are supported through an action-learning cycle, involving discussion of the environmental pollution challenges in their communities and the formulation of strategies to reduce environmental pollution exposures and improve health
3. Undertake follow-up measurements of population exposure to air and water pollution and use these data to determine whether the intervention was successful in reducing exposure.

This project will generate a deeper understanding of the main routes of exposure to air and water pollution, and the barriers to behaviour change. Additionally, this project will result in an increased awareness of air and water pollution in slums among slum dwellers and local stakeholders. Lessons learned from this project are hoped to inform and improve the success of future interventions in Malawi and other parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

Recent publications:

Prior to starting my PhD, I was involved in the following publications:

Lang, B. J., Idugboe, S., McManus, K., Drury, F., Qureshi, A. & Cator, L. J. (2017) The Effect of Larval Diet on Adult Survival, Swarming Activity and Copulation Success in Male Aedes aegypti (Diptera: Culicidae). Journal of Medical Entomology.

McManus, K. (2015) Can maternal diet affect offspring behaviour in the guppy (Poecilia reticulata). The Fisheries Society of The British Isles.