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PhD Studentship - Phenology and Ecology of the Critically Endangered European Eel During their Marine to Freshwater Transition

Bournemouth University - Faculty of Science and Technology

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Bournemouth
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: £15,225 to £15,255 Maintenance grant per annum
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 13th March 2020
Closes: 14th April 2020

Lead Supervisor name: Professor Robert Britton

Project description:

This PhD aims to overcome the considerable knowledge gaps in the migration phenology of juvenile European eel and the ecology of their transition between marine and freshwater environments. As this aspect of the lifecycle of this critically endangered species is relatively poorly understood, then this PhD works at two spatial scales to overcome this, working closely with the project partners (Environment Agency and Zoological Society of London) to achieve the research aims.

The first research aim evaluates the migration phenology of glass-eel in Europe, with testing of relationships between the timings of freshwater arrival with latitude and longitude, and sea and freshwater temperatures, and asses their probable migration routes in relation to ocean currents. This is then complemented by quantifying the length, age composition and trophic (feeding) ecology data of glass-eels and elvers across European rivers, where ages are derived from otolith analyses. The second research aim uses the River Frome, Dorset as the study river (where eel remain relatively abundant) to test the temporal and spatial relationships between juvenile eel stage (glass/elver/yellow eel) and their lengths, ages and trophic ecology, and how this changes across their initial years of freshwater residence.

This PhD studentship comprises of both field and laboratory work, and will require establishing research networks with eel researchers across Europe for completing the first research aim, with this assisted by the project partners. It is expected that applicants will have some field and laboratory experience, and are proficient in statistical analyses and modelling (preferably in R). It is desirable that applicants have previously worked with eel and/or have some experience of preparing and analysing otoliths. 

What does the funded studentship include?

Funded candidates will receive a maintenance grant of £15,225 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 and 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 and 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.
  • It is expected that applicants have experience of working on migratory species and have a balance of field and laboratory experience. It is desirable (but not essential) that applicants have some experience of working with European eel and/or dissecting, preparing and analysing otoliths for ageing.

In addition to satisfying basic entry criteria, BU will look closely at the qualities, skills and background of each candidate and what they can bring to their chosen research project in order to ensure successful and timely completion.

Closing date: The first call for applications will close on 14 April 2020.

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

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