Retreating glaciers and toxic rivers: disentangling the history of water quality in the deglaciating Peruvian Andes

About the project or challenge area

Peru holds >70% of the world’s tropical glaciers, all of which have undergone high rates of mass loss in the last three decades due to changing climate. In the Cordillera Blanca (Peru), many rivers have become toxic as the ice has retreated, displaying high acidity and heavy metal concentrations. This is becoming an issue for water supply to local populations and croplands. This project is part of a wider UK-Peruvian collaborative research project and aims to employ scientific/ethnographic data and historical archives to contribute to current knowledge of when, how and why Peruvian glacier-fed rivers became toxic. This is a unique inter-disciplinary project traversing the disciplines of glaciology, hydrology, history and language to enrich our understanding of Peru’s evolving toxic rivers.

Why choose this opportunity?

You will have the opportunity to join a field trip to the Peruvian Andes and to meet with local experts (suitable experience permitting).

About you

A background in History, Latin American Studies and/or Geography (including a flair for the interpretation of both qualitative and quantitative data) would be advantageous, as would a strong grasp of Spanish. To participate in fieldwork, some prior outdoor experience is required.

How to apply

All students can apply using the button below, following the Master's by Research Admissions Statement. Please note that this is an advertised project, which means you only have to complete Section A of the Masters by Research Statement Template (Office document, 68kB).

Before applying, we recommend getting in touch with the project's supervisors. If you are interested in this project and would like to learn more about the research you will be undertaking, please use the contact details on this page.


Your supervisor for this project will be Jemma Wadham in the School of Geographical Sciences. You can contact her at

Find out more about your prospective research community

The Environmental Change theme is a vibrant community of researchers who integrate expertise across multiple disciplines to provide the evidence base and solutions to tackle the world's most pressing environmental challenges. Find out more about the Environmental Change research theme.

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