Informing river restoration techniques for freshwater fish populations

Informing river restoration techniques for freshwater fish populations

Informing river restoration techniques for freshwater fish populations

Lead Supervisor: Dr Catherine Gutmann Roberts

Location: University of Plymouth, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Science

Duration: 6 weeks

Suitable undergraduate degrees: Environmental Science

Project background

Elevated fine sediment (fines) levels can have detrimental effects on fish physiology and mortality, and the early life stage for nest building fish are especially vulnerable (Kemp et al. 2011). Temperature can have an interactive effect on the impact of fines due to the rate of development and availability of oxygen (Kemp et al. 2011) and that the egg structure may be locally adapted to these conditions (Bloomer et al. 2019). Whilst the requirements for salmonids in North America have been well studied there remains limited knowledge for freshwater fish species across Europe and there is a particular paucity in knowledge for the cyprinid family.  By combining the outcomes from the biological threshold research, the spawning success for a river can be estimated. Combining this with a map of sites at risk for each species, to be used as an evidence base for effective river restoration and to create healthy environments. This could form part of new environmental regulatory policy in the future as sediments are not currently monitored by UK or European environmental regulators and managers. 

Aim; to determine the quality of fish habitat in the Teign catchment in relation to sediment composition and thermal maximums.


1)  Characterise and quantify the ex-situ subsurface sediment conditions experienced by nest building fish eggs and embryos across catchments to calculate survival rates.

There is scope for independent development of the project with opportunities to modify experimental set ups, chose species of interest and chose additional environmental parameters to measure. There are already external collaborators (Westcountry Rivers Trust and Devon Resilience Innovation Project) interested who can assist with site locations, but this can be flexible dependent on the applicant’s interests.

Project specific training involves a range of laboratory, field and data analysis skill. Personal development will relate to the candidates aspirations and career goals. Communication skills may be built upon through liaising with environmental managers to implement evidence-based conservation. If the candidate was interested, we would help facilitate public engagement sessions or digital engagement strategies.

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