Metabolic drivers of growth and survival in salmonids


Metabolic drivers of growth and survival in salmonids


Project Description


Dr Eoin O’Gorman (School of Life Sciences, University of Essex) – Contact me 

Dr Anna Sturrock (School of Life Sciences, University of Essex)

Dr Tom Cameron (School of Life Sciences, University of Essex)

Dr Rasmus Lauridsen (Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust)

Dr Colin Bull (Missing Salmon Alliance)


Project background

Atlantic salmon and brown trout are two of the most ecologically and commercially important fish species in Europe. Salmon spend up to seven years in the river before undertaking large migrations to sea, where they grow rapidly on nutrient-rich resources. Their size and the timing of their migration can play a key role in the likelihood of their eventual return to spawn in their home river. In contrast, many trout stay in the river throughout their lifecycle, but those that migrate to sea and survive the return journey to spawn tend to dominate the future gene pool in the river. The key drivers of when (or if) these migrations occur are still poorly understood, as is their role in the declining success of salmon and trout in the face of global change.

Research methodology

This project will investigate the role of environment, physiology, and behaviour in determining life history choices in salmon and trout. Individual fish will be tagged using passive integrated transponders, and tracked throughout key stages of their life-cycle using established tracking stations on rivers in England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Norway, and Iceland. Juvenile metabolic rate will be measured for each fish using field respirometry. Growth rate will be estimated by image analysis of annuli from fish scales. Short- and long-term diets will be quantified through microscopy of stomach contents and stable isotope analysis. Resource availability will be characterised through taxonomic identification and biomass estimates of macroinvertebrates and algae in each river.


The candidate will join the Ecology and Environmental Microbiology Group at the University of Essex and will also work with researchers at the Atlantic Salmon Trust and Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust. The supervisory team will offer training in a broad skillset related to ecophysiology, fish biology, food web ecology, freshwater taxonomy, ecological modelling, and science communication. The candidate will also develop extensive field skills in electrofishing, tagging, respirometry, and freshwater ecology.

Person specification

We are looking for a candidate who is enthusiastic about global change biology, freshwater ecology, fish biology, and ecosystem ecology, with a degree in ecology, biology, or environmental science. Please email to apply.


  • 1) O'Gorman EJ, Ólafsson ÓP, Demars BOL, Friberg N, Guðbergsson G, Hannesdóttir ER, Jackson MC, Johansson LS, McLaughlin ÓB, Ólafsson JS, Woodward G, Gíslason GM (2016). Temperature effects on fish production across a natural thermal gradient. Global Change Biology 22:3206-3220.
  • 2) Gregory SD, Ibbotson AT, Riley WD, Nevoux M, Lauridsen RB, Russell IC, Britton JR, Gillingham PK, Simmons OM, Rivot E (2019). Atlantic salmon return rate increases with smolt length. ICES Journal of Marine Science. 76:1702-12.
  • 3) Archer LC, Hutton SA, Harman L, McCormick SD, O’Grady MN, Kerry JP, Poole WR, Gargan P, McGinnity P, Reed TE (2020). Food and temperature stressors have opposing effects in determining flexible migration decisions in brown trout (Salmo trutta). Global Change Biology, 26:2878-2896.
  • 4) Burton T, Killen SS, Armstrong JD, Metcalfe NB (2011). What causes intraspecific variation in resting metabolic rate and what are its ecological consequences? Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 278:3465-73.
  • 5) Auer SK, Bassar RD, Turek D, Anderson GJ, McKelvey S, Armstrong JD, Nislow KH, Downie HK, Morgan TA, McLennan D, Metcalfe NB (2020). Metabolic rate interacts with resource availability to determine individual variation in microhabitat use in the wild. The American Naturalist. 196:132-44.

Key Information

  • This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC DTP and will start on 1st October 2022. The closing date for applications is 23:59 on 12th January 2022.
  • Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship, which covers fees, stipend (£15,609 p.a. for 2021-22) and research funding. International applicants (EU and non-EU) are eligible for fully-funded UKRI studentships. Please note ARIES funding does not cover visa costs (including immigration health surcharge) or other additional costs associated with relocation to the UK.
  • ARIES students benefit from bespoke graduate training and ARIES provides £2,500 to every student for access to external training, travel and conferences. Excellent applicants from quantitative disciplines with limited experience in environmental sciences may be considered for an additional 3-month stipend to take advanced-level courses in the subject area.
  • ARIES is committed to equality, diversity, widening participation and inclusion in all areas of its operation. We encourage enquiries and applications from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation and transgender status. Academic qualifications are considered alongside non-academic experience, and our recruitment process considers potential with the same weighting as past experience.
  • All ARIES studentships may be undertaken on a part-time or full-time basis, visa requirements notwithstanding
  • For further information, please contact the supervisor. To apply for this Studentship click on the “Apply now” link below.
  • ARIES is required by our funders to collect Equality and Diversity Information from all of our applicants. The information you provide will be used solely for monitoring and statistical purposes; it will remain confidential, and will be stored on the UEA sharepoint server. Data will not be shared with those involved in making decisions on the award of Studentships, and will have no influence on the success of your application. It will only be shared outside of this group in an anonymised and aggregated form. You will be ask to complete the form by the University to which you apply.

Applications are open

Apply now