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Predictions of river habitat response to climate change across the United Kingdom

PhD Research

Location:School of Biosciences
Duration:3 Years
Closing date for applications:7 December 2012


This project is funded through Cardiff University President's Scholarship Fund. The scholarship covers full tuition fees at UK/EU rate plus annual stipend of £13,590.

Start date of the project:

1st October 2013

Project Description:

Primary Supervisor: Dr Ian Vaughan (School of Biosciences)
Co-Supervisors: Dr. José Constantine (School of Earth & Ocean Sciences), Prof. Steve Ormerod (School of Biosciences)

Rivers are host to a range of habitats that develop in response to prevailing flow conditions. Because discharge varies systematically throughout catchments, unique habitats arise within defined reaches where they can be physically supported. Consequently, any adjustment in river discharge could change the extent and connectivity of different habitats, potentially risking the local existence of many species. This issue is of great concern to statutory and conservation agencies that need to identify at-risk habitats and predict the potential effects of future changes in discharge.

This project will investigate further the discharge-habitat-ecology relationship, building on current work to develop a model that predicts river habitat adjustment. It will use a combination of: i) analysis of existing data describing channel structure, climate and biology; ii) fieldwork to investigate the links between community structure and hydromorphology; iii) modelling changes in habitat structure and biology under different climate scenarios; and potentially iv) field experiments of habitat adjustment to changes in discharge and sediment loading. The PhD will generate predictions of how community structures will be affected during various emission scenarios.

The project is a collaboration between Cardiff University’s Schools of Biosciences and Earth & Ocean Sciences. The combination of hydrological, geomorphological and ecological training in the PhD fits a major skills gap in current river research and management. The student will also benefit from close links with existing multi-disciplinary river research in Cardiff (e.g. £3 million NERC DURESS project

Eligibility Requirements: 

Applicants should have, or expect to be awarded, either: i) a first-class honours degree, or ii) a 2.1 plus a postgraduate Masters degree (or their equivalents). For further information please contact Dr Ian Vaughan ( or Dr José Constantine (

Application procedure:

To apply, please email a CV and covering letter to both Drs Vaughan & Constantine by Friday, 7 December 2012.