Skip to main content

Ecology and biomonitoring of the River Eden Catchment

Lead supervisor Dr Philip Barker, Lancaster University, co-supervisor Dr Andrew Large Newcastle University and colleagues drawn from Eden DTC consortium.

DEFRA have funded a consortium of universities, led by Prof Phil Haygarth, Lancaster, Prof Paul Quinn, Newcastle and Dr Sim Reaney, Durham to develop the River Eden as a demonstration catchment to test measures for reducing diffuse pollution from agriculture. The Eden demonstration test catchment (DTC) project presents an excellent opportunity for a PhD student to carry out detailed ecological studies to complement water quality and hydrological assessments being made in the river catchment.  The student will enter a high quality multidisciplinary team and receive training in a wide variety of assessment techniques through the range of institutions in the consortium.  Data generated will address mitigation schemes instigated at Newton Rigg University of Cumbria) and feed into conceptual models of catchment function headed by Durham University.  It will complement fisheries research being conducted by the Eden River Trust and monitoring by the Environment Agency.  The studentship will be based at Lancaster and have a supervisory team drawn from the DTC project.

Biomonitoring within streams presents a complimentary approach to direct chemical measurements as are being undertaken in the other modules. Aquatic organisms integrate both the chemical and physical conditions they experience through time, they respond to the mixture of chemical elements present, and no installation of instrumentation or pre-selection of analytical methods is needed. However, the instrumentation of the catchment is an excellent opportunity to test the sensitivity and utility of assessment measures.  One goal of the DTC programme is to conserve and restore biological communities, it is therefore logical to monitor changes in these communities directly. In addition to the within-stream monitoring, survey of the terrestrial ecology will enable land-water linkages to be traced.  This coupling is essential to deliver insights into water and nutrient transfer.

Members of the consortium possess a broad range of expertise enabling the monitoring network to incorporate: Diatoms: These unicellular algae respond rapidly to changes in water quality and are ideally suited to detecting changes in major nutrients (N, P, Si) as well as pH.  Macroinvertebrates: Assessments based on the taxonomic richness and community composition of this group will be applied to monitoring sites. Terrestrial ecology and aquatic macrophytes: Detailed botanical surveys and assessments of the physical character of sections of the stream bank, will be used to examine the macrophyte community composition. The state-of the-art methods for water quality assessment will give the student an excellent training, however, it is anticipated that the student will also develop new methods.  One of these is faecal indicator organisms that are to be sampled at the sub-catchment sites and it is envisaged that the student will become involved in this work.  A second relatively novel technique will be stable isotope analysis of the catchment soils and in-stream biofilms to trace carbon and nitrogen flows through the catchment. The supervisory team will determine the balance of activity between these different areas in relation to changing project requirements and intellectual input from the student.

Further details available from Philip Barker, [email protected] and

Deadline 25th June.  See for application details.

Recent Posts