Nature-based solutions for warming impacts on river ecosystems

(OGORMAN_E24ARIES) CASE studentship with IHCantabria

Nature-based solutions for warming impacts on river ecosystems

(OGORMAN_E24ARIES) CASE studentship with IHCantabria

Project Description


Dr Eoin O’Gorman, University of Essex – Contact me

Dr Martin Wilkes, University of Essex, School of Life Sciences

Dr Alexia Gonzalez-Ferreras, IHCantabria

Dr Jose Barquin, IHCantabria

Scientific Background

Climate warming exerts immense pressure on ecosystems across multiple levels of biological organisation. Iconic species like Atlantic salmon are disappearing from the southern limit of their distribution; simplified communities with fewer species and trophic connections are less resilient to extreme events; and amplified energy fluxes through food webs may increase carbon emissions to the atmosphere, intensifying the rate of climate change. Freshwaters are particularly vulnerable due to greater oxygen limitation and reduced rates of dispersal compared to terrestrial and marine environments. Human activities have also compounded these effects through land-use change, particularly deforestation for agriculture or urbanisation. The physical shading, hydrological stability, and allochthonous energy sources provided by riparian vegetation could offer a vital nature-based solution to warming impacts on freshwaters, but studies are needed to quantify the benefits of forest cover for individual physiology, food web structure, and ecosystem processes.

Research Methodology

This project will examine changes at the individual (physiological), community (food web structure), and ecosystem levels (carbon cycling) in rivers across a forest-cover gradient in the Cantabrian Mountains, Spain. Extensive datasets are available from sampling of >50 rivers across the region over the past decade, including biomasses of fish, invertebrates, and diatoms and estimates of ecosystem metabolism from dissolved oxygen probes. Analyses of these long-term datasets will be supplemented with processing of archival samples for food web quantification through gut content analysis. Original fieldwork will be conducted to fill gaps in the forest cover gradient and to quantify metabolic rates of fish and invertebrates using in situ respirometry.


The candidate will join the Ecology and Environmental Microbiology Group at the University of Essex and will also work with researchers at IHCantabria in Spain. 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, 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.


  • 1 O’Gorman EJ, Petchey OL, Faulkner KJ, Gallo B, Gordon TA, Neto-Cerejeira J, Ólafsson JS, Pichler DE, Thompson MS, Woodward G (2019) A simple model predicts how warming simplifies wild food webs. Nature Climate Change. 9, 611-616.
  • 2 Kordas RL, Pawar S, Kontopoulos DG, Woodward G, O’Gorman EJ (2022) Metabolic plasticity can amplify ecosystem responses to global warming. Nature Communications, 13, 2161.Kordas RL, Pawar S, Kontopoulos DG, Woodward G, O’Gorman EJ (2022) Metabolic plasticity can amplify ecosystem responses to global warming. Nature Communications, 13, 2161.
  • 3 Estévez E, Álvarez‐Martínez JM, Álvarez‐Cabria M, Robinson CT, Battin TJ, Barquín J (2019) Catchment land cover influences macroinvertebrate food‐web structure and energy flow pathways in mountain streams. Freshwater Biology, 64, 1557-1571.
  • 4 Rodríguez-Castillo T, Estévez E, González-Ferreras AM, Barquín J (2019) Estimating ecosystem metabolism to entire river networks. Ecosystems, 22, 892-911.
  • 5 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.

Key Information

  • This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC DTP and will start on 1st October 2024. The closing date for applications is 23:59 on 10th January 2024.
  • Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship, which covers fees, stipend (£18,622 p.a. for 2023/24) and research funding. International applicants are eligible for fully-funded ARIES studentships including fees. Please note however that ARIES funding does not cover additional costs associated with relocation to, and living in, the UK. We expect to award between 4 and 6 studentships to international candidates in 2024.
  • ARIES students benefit from bespoke graduate training and ARIES provides £2,500 to every student for access to external training, travel and conferences, on top of all Research Costs associated with the project. 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.
  • 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 follow the instructions at the bottom of the page or click the 'apply now' link.
  • 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.
  • ARIES funding is subject to UKRI terms and conditions. Postgraduate Researchers are expected to live within reasonable distance of their host organisation for the duration of their studentship. See for more information

Applications Open

To apply please email a CV and cover letter to