Funded projects starting 2024

Projects registered at University of Roehampton

River Rights and Representation

Supervisor: Jérémie Gilbert

Rights of Nature (RoN) is increasingly being proposed as a solution to our complex socio-ecological challenges, but its potential as a new governance model has not been evaluated. Using a novel legal-ecological interdisciplinary and comparative analysis of case studies, the doctoral scholar will analyse how RoN could generate new participatory approaches and understandings to socio-ecological resilience. They will consider Multispecies Justice to explore the human-environmental relations that exist across time and space and how it can be applied to the study of social movements and local communities mobilising to defend and restore river ecosystems.

Recreational Fishing: Communities of Concern and Care for Riverine Environments

Supervisor: Garry Marvin

This project will use theory and qualitative approaches from anthropology, social sciences and ecology to assess the motivation, perspectives on nature and environment interactions of recreational anglers. There are 750,000 regular river anglers in the UK, but recreational anglers and fishers remain a scarcely studied community from social and cultural perspectives. By exploring their goals, concerns, and approaches to care of the riverine, we will better understand how this pastime contributes to both socio-human connections with rivers and river ecosystem form, complexity and function.

Monitoring river health and restoration success through citizen science

Supervisor: Daniel Perkins

Many rivers have been physically altered by humans and require extensive restoration to recreate lost habitats, restore biodiversity and improve ecosystem function. However, there is a dearth of evidence for restoration success, which means that restoration outcomes are rarely scientifically validated and subsequent restoration projects cannot build on best practice. This project will address this shortcoming through the application of established (physical, chemical and ecological) river restoration monitoring techniques alongside developing a novel, volunteer-based monitoring protocol. In doing so, this project aims to promote public involvement in river conservation, building closer links between volunteer groups, River Trusts, and environmental scientists to explore the effectiveness of methods to reinstate river biodiversity and ecosystem processes.


Projects registered at Cranfield University

From top-down to bottom-up – enabling a new collaborative approach to abstraction management to protect river ecosystems

Supervisor: Ian Holman

Water is abstracted from rivers and aquifers to support the production of high-value fruit and vegetables. This agricultural demand for water is in competition with other users of water, including public water supply, energy generation, and ecological restoration of peat soils to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to Net Zero. A changing climate change will exacerbate the current situation through increased drought risks and more frequent low river flows. This PhD will integrate environmental science, ecology, engineering and philosophy to explore the legal frameworks, farmer and regulator perspectives, water resource needs and evidence that would enable collaborative approaches to agricultural water management. In doing so, engagement is likely with a range of organisations, such as the Environment Agency, Natural England, National Farmers Union, Internal Drainage Boards and farmers. The PhD may involve literature review, document analysis, qualitative data collection and analysis (e.g. interviews); quantitative spatial data analysis and modelling.

Integrated indicators of ecological health for rivers

Supervisor: Robert Grabowski

Pollution has resurfaced as a critical issue for the health of river ecosystems. Community groups and the media have highlighted persistent and emerging water quality problems, forcing regulators to reassess monitoring and assessment approaches. However, we lack integrated approaches to assess water quality impacts in consideration of the physical and ecological characteristics that influence how a river copes with pollution. In this project, you will advance new indicators of river health based on modern metagenomics techniques that integrate the impacts of water quality pressures, hydromorphological alteration and ecological degradation. In partnership with key stakeholders, you will collect samples of riverbed biofilms for metagenomic sequencing and analyse the results in consideration of environmental data collected by other organizations and citizen scientists. You will have the flexibility to expand the interdisciplinary elements that interest you the most, such as the microbiology of riverbed biofilms or community perceptions of naturalness and health.

The hybridity of polluted freshwaters

Supervisor: Alesia Ofori

In this project, the PhD student will adopt a critical perspective on the cause and effect of polluted freshwaters. Using actor-network theory, you will examine the complex network of actors, networks, and actants in the pollution of freshwater and its consequences on socio-hydrological systems. Assigning anthropogenic activities as a key factor in polluted freshwater ignores pollution as a manifestation of complex socio-hydrological effect. The research will employ ethnographic, historical and hydrographic research tools to explore the co-production of pollution in the dormancy of everyday lives. It will demonstrate the 'interconnectedness' between freshwater, societal values, norms, political economies, cultures and discourses. It will also demonstrate how the co-production process manifests beyond pollution to encompass the reformation of cultures and the creation of environmental identities. Working closely with stakeholders and local communities will help ensure that findings from the project informs communication and engagement activities in the case studies.