PhD Studentship – Engineered solutions for reconnecting fragmented habitats: quantifying multi-species responses to fish passes on multiple weirs

Bournemouth University

Project Title- PhD Studentship – Engineered solutions for reconnecting fragmented habitats: quantifying multi-species responses to fish passes on multiple weirs

Funding amount: £17,668 maintenance grant per annum

Lead Supervisor name: Prof.Demetra Andreou

Project description

Habitat connectivity is critical to enable animal populations to access the range of functional habitats they require for completing their lifecycles. However, the anthropogenic alteration of river  systems (e.g. dams, weirs) causes habitat fragmentation, with fish unable to migrate easily, with their access to spawning areas being blocked. The net result is populations of species that are already being threatened by issues such as climate change are then threatened further by  their inability to access their former functional habitats. Populations of anadromous fishes are usually considered as being most impacted by fragmentation due to blocked access to reproductive grounds, but river-resident species can also be impacted (e.g. European barbel Barbus barbus & chub Squalius cephalus). 

Solutions to river habitat fragmentation include removing the structures that prevent animal movements (e.g. dam removal programmes), but this is often not feasible. Instead, these fragmented habitats are reconnected using engineered solutions that facilitate fish movements across the barriers, i.e. fish passes (or fish ladders). For example, the construction of fish passes has been used to reconnect the River Severn, where structures constructed in recent years on four weirs in the lower river now enable both anadromous and river resident fishes to more easily access areas of river that are not impounded, including spawning areas (see https://www.unlockingthesevern.co.uk ). 

This PhD will thus assess the efficacy of engineered fish passage solutions that are designed to resolve habitat fragmentation. This will be completed using the River Severn weirs & its new fish passes as the study area, with analyses of the behaviour & passage rates of a range of fish species. A multi-method approach will be used that is likely to include acoustic and passive integrated transponder (PIT) telemetry and video technology, with analyses testing differences in passage rates within and between species, and according to environmental conditions.

This fully funded PhD studentship is part of a larger project at Bournemouth University on sustainable solutions for preventing biodiversity loss involving other PhD and post-doctoral researchers, & external partners, including the Environment Agency.

What does the funded studentship include?

Funded candidates will receive a maintenance grant of £17,668 per annum (unless otherwise specified), to cover their living expenses and have their fees waived for 36 months. In addition, research costs, including field work and conference attendance, will be met.

Funded Studentships are open to both UK/EU &  International students unless otherwise specified.

Eligibility criteria

Candidates for a PhD Studentship should demonstrate outstanding qualities and be motivated to complete a PhD in 4 years & must demonstrate:

  • Outstanding academic potential as measured normally by either a 1st class honours degree (or equivalent Grade Point Average (GPA) or a Master’s degree with distinction or equivalent
  • An IELTS (Academic) score of 6.5 minimum (with a minimum 6.0 in each component, or equivalent) for candidates for whom English is not their first language and this must be evidenced at point of application.

Additional Eligibility:

Candidates are expected to have some relevant field-based experience & knowledge of the application of acoustic telemetry to assessing animal migrations.

Closing date: The first call for applications will close on 30 June 2023.

For further information on how to apply click the ‘Apply’ button below or email [email protected]  

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