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Cardiff School of Biosciences: Landscape Controls on Downstream Energetics for River Ecosystems Functions and Services (PhD Studentship)

Reference Number: R990
Closing Date: Closed for applications
Duration: 3 years
Funding Amount: UK/EU fees plus stipend
Level of Study: Postgraduate Research
Regions: EU (Non UK), UK
This funding opportunity is now closed for application

Key Studentship Information

Project Title: Landscape Controls on Downstream Energetics for River Ecosystems Functions and Services

Project Description: This PhD will integrate three seminal components of river ecosystem theory in that: i) catchment character exerts major controls on downstream ecological structure and function (Hynes 1975) ii) rivers are characterized by upstream-downstream fluxes of matter and energy through the ‘river continuum’ (Vannote et al. 1980) and iii) river biodiversity and ecosystem functions deliver services of major societal value (Maltby & Ormerod 2011). In combination, these three concepts predict that land-use should determine key energetic subsidies to headwaters (e.g. through canopy leaf fall) that are then transported through river networks to affect ecosystem structure, function and services downstream.

This studentship will investigate these upstream-downstream linkages, specifically testing the overarching hypothesis that ecological structure, function and services in Welsh main rivers depend on energetic supplies from catchment headwaters. Any such energetic dependency on allochthonous (i.e. terrestrial) sources has potentially far-reaching consequences for wider landscape management and conservation.

The research will be tied closely tied to the large <a href="">NERC-funded DURESS project</a> researching the role of river biodiversity in sustaining ecosystem services in upland rivers. This £3 million NERC-funded endeavour is led by the project supervisors at Cardiff University, and it provides extensive data and investigative opportunities to support the PhD.
The student will address the project’s themes and questions using some combination of i) landscape-scale GIS; ii) modeling energetic sources and network fluxes; iii) energy source attribution using stable isotopes from river ecosystem components (e.g. seston, biofilms, invertebrates, fish, river birds…); iv) species’ composition, traits and productivity in main rivers draining contrasting headwaters; v) biofilm microbial function determined using molecular techniqies; and vi) experimental manipulations.

The supervisors (Dr Isabelle Durance, Prof Andrew Weightman and Prof Steve Ormerod) blend world-class expertise in spatial analysis, ecosystem ecology, molecular ecology and freshwater sciences and the student will gain transferable skills such as GIS, remote sensing, multivariate analysis, experimental ecology and the use of stable isotopes.

Supervisors: Dr Isabelle Durance (primary), Professor Andrew Weightman and Professor Steve Ormerod


The award includes full UK/EU tuition fees plus a doctoral stipend matching UK Research Council National Minimum (£13,590 p.a. for 2012/13, updated each year).


Academic Criteria: Students should have at least a 2:1 UK honours degree/equivalent or Master's degree

English Language requirements: IELTS with overall score of 6.5 and minimum score of 5.5 in each skill area (or equivalent qualification)

Residency: To be eligible for fees and stipend applicants must be a UK national/ EU national who has been resident in the UK for three years prior to their application/ EU national who has migrant worker status. EU nationals who have not been resident in the UK for three years prior to application/ who do not have migrant worker status are eligible for fees only.

How to Apply

Applications can be submitted via Cardiff’s Online Application Service.

Please indicate in the ‘Funding’ section of the Online Application Form that you are applying for this studentship.

Application Deadline: 15th February 2013

Further Information

For more information please contact Dr Durance on

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