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PhD Studentship: Assessing the Impacts of Floodplain Rehabilitation on Fish Population Dynamics

University of Hull

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Kingston upon Hull
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: From £18,622 per annum (22/23 rate)
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 30th November 2023
Closes: 5th January 2024

Supervisors: Dr Andy Nunn, Dr Jon Bolland, Dr Brian Hayden

Enquiries: eei@hull.ac.uk

Project description:

River flood plains are biodiversity hotspots and provide essential nursery habitat for multiple riverine fishes. Many rivers, however, have been extensively modified and, in a significant proportion of cases, separated from their flood plain. Such modifications reduce habitat complexity and connectivity, resulting in detrimental impacts on fish populations. Although the potential impacts of habitat fragmentation on longitudinal (upstream-downstream) migration are now widely appreciated and increasingly being mitigated, impediments to lateral (river-flood plain) migration have received far less attention. This is important because the life cycles of some fish species are intrinsically linked to flood plains, and many generalist species use such habitats on a facultative basis.

Natural floodplain waterbodies, such as oxbow lakes, are reputed to enhance the recruitment of riverine fish populations via provision of spawning and nursery habitat, refuge from floods, and increased availability of planktonic food resources compared with main river channels. It is frequently assumed, therefore, that man-made waterbodies (e.g. flooded gravel quarries; so-called ‘fish refuges’) can be connected to river channels to rehabilitate riverine fish populations where natural floodplain features have been lost. However, although some such waterbodies certainly support large numbers of fish, their origins (riverine vs. flood plain), movements and contributions to production in the main stem of rivers are poorly understood. Similarly, although some man-made waterbodies provide excellent feeding opportunities for planktivorous fishes, the importance of such food sources to riverine food-webs is unclear. Such information is essential to improve our understanding of fish population dynamics and to be able to assess the effectiveness of rehabilitation efforts.

The aim of this interdisciplinary study is to assess the impacts of floodplain ‘rehabilitation’ (connecting man-made waterbodies to river channels) on fish population dynamics.

This project will provide students with a full PhD studentship. This consists of:

  • a personal stipend (tax-free allowance that you don’t have to pay back) at Research Council UK (UKRI) rates for 3.5 years
  • university fees
  • generous support for research costs, fieldwork, training and conference travel.

Eligibility:

  • Minimum 2:1 Bachelors’ degree in a field linked to the PhD project. Note that we have recruited successful PhD candidates that changed fields completely. Quite often your skills are more important than specific knowledge that you have.
  • You can apply straight after a Bachelors’ degree, but you will need to show how you are competitive with those with a Masters:
  • Draw on skills you have developed in situations other than your undergraduate project e.g. student work experience, programming etc.

Apply now, by clicking the 'Apply' button, above

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