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Modelling the influence of aquatic plants on rivers’ flood conveyance capacity

This project will address the controversial and highly topical question of how we ensure that rivers do as good a job as possible of transporting water and thus reducing flood risk, whilst at the same time maintaining them as ecologically-healthy, aesthetically-pleasing elements of the landscape.

Central to solving this conundrum is the need to understand the relationship between river vegetation and flow. Vegetation distributions in rivers are significantly controlled by in-channel hydraulics. Conversely, river plants can strongly influence river flows, by acting as physical obstacles. This can increase both flood risk and the resilience of rivers and their floodplains to drought.

Currently, interactions between fluvial vegetation and flood flows are poorly understood. The aim of this project, therefore, is to improve our understanding of the interactions of fluvial vegetation and flood flows via a two-pronged approach of field data collection and dynamic process modelling.

The work will involve both fieldwork and numerical hydraulic modelling, so it would suit someone wishing to take their ecological, physical or engineering understanding of rivers and expand it to help to develop a fuller, more joined-up understanding of these vital systems. A crucial aspect of the project will be working with the project’s commercial partner, HR Wallingford, on developing their flood risk management software in the light of the results of the project fieldwork.

The successful candidate will benefit from working with CEH – the UK’s national environmental research organisation; the Lancaster Environment Centre at Lancaster University – a large, world-class department at a Top-10 UK university; and HR Wallingford – a world-leading environmental research and consultancy company, and will receive extensive training from all three in everything from plant identification to how to engage the public with the findings of your research.

Applications are welcomed from anyone with a first or upper second class honours undergraduate degree, and/or a Master’s degree, or equivalent, in Ecology, Engineering, Geography, Environmental Science or a subject cognate. We encourage candidates who may be unsure of whether their qualifications are suitable to apply, or to contact us to discuss their application.

Please direct all enquiries to Dr Matthew O’Hare (, Tel: 0131 445 8516) or Dr Andrew Folkard (, Tel: 01524 593893).