Postgraduate Research Opportunity

Using biochronologies and chemical tracers to track salmon movements and growth in a changing world

Details

Title: Using biochronologies and chemical tracers to track salmon movements and growth in a changing world

Funding: The studentship will provide the PhD candidate with a costs of living stipend equal to UKRI rates and cover UK resident tuition fees. International applicants are eligible to apply but they would have to demonstrate they have funding to cover the difference between UK and International tuition fees, that difference is approximately £14,800 per year at time of advertising.

Application deadline: 6th February 2023 (interviews to take place later in the month).

Start date: October 2023

Duration: 3 years (full time)

Location: Colchester Campus

Based in: School of Life Sciences

Background

Salmon have great cultural, economic, and ecological value, yet they are experiencing unprecedented declines.

Changes in the marine environment are often cited as the primary cause of population crashes, yet we still have large gaps in our understanding about their migration pathways and foraging strategies at sea.

We also have large gaps in our understanding about how the freshwater phase of the lifecycle affects marine survival (so-called “carryover effects”), for example by influencing growth and migration size/timing, potentially resulting in juveniles being mismatched with marine prey availability. The importance of different stressors also varies over their geographic range, with lower latitude populations exposed to increasingly high river temperatures.

Approach

This PhD will use archival tissues (otoliths, eye lenses, scales) that encompass both freshwater and marine phases to understand the factors driving life history choices and mortality in salmon.

The successful student will use state-of-the-art techniques on Atlantic and Pacific salmon from multiple populations and countries (including the UK, Ireland, Spain, Greenland and USA) to reconstruct patterns in habitat use, migration phenology, growth rate and diet. They will use these data to explore intraspecific variation in movement and growth to reveal carryover effects and identify factors associated with poor return years.

There are extensive samples and data already in hand, but the student will also have the opportunity to travel to the study sites to collect additional samples.

Training

The candidate will join the Ecology and Environmental Microbiology Group at the University of Essex and will benefit from the broad expertise offered by the large team of supervisors and collaborators.

The student will be trained in a variety of laboratory, field, data analysis and science communication skills that are transferrable across a range of career paths. Specific techniques include otolith, scale and eye lens preparation, trace element and isotopic analyses, bioimaging, growth analyses, and Hidden Markov and machine learning modelling.

Along with the supervisors listed below, you will also work with the following team of collaborators:

  • Tim Sheehan (NOAA, USA)
  • Rasmus Lauridsen (Game & Wildlife Trust, UK)
  • Marcus Walters (Deveron, Bogie and Isla Rivers Charitable Trust, UK)
  • Russell Poole (Marine Institute, Ireland)
  • Chris Conroy (Atlantic Salmon Trust, UK)
  • Philip Rudd (Environmental Agency, UK)
  • Jonathan Archer (Tweed Foundation, UK)
  • Alexia Maria Gonzalez Ferreras (IH Cantabria)

Funding

The studentship will provide the PhD candidate with a costs of living stipend equal to UKRI rates and cover UK resident tuition fees.

International applicants are eligible to apply but they would have to demonstrate they have funding to cover the difference between UK and International tuition fees, that difference is approximately £14,800 per year at present.

Supervisors

Dr Eoin O'Gorman

Co-supervisor

School of Life Sciences, University of Essex

Dr Nora Hanson

Co-supervisor

Salmon Assessment International Group Leader, Marine Scotland

Dr Rachel Johnson

Co-supervisor

Research Fisheries Biologist, NOAA and UC Davies

Biography in the context of the person module

Dr Colin Bull

Co-supervisor

Teaching Fellow, University of Sterling and Atlantic Salmon Trust

Criteria

We are looking for a candidate who is enthusiastic about fish ecology, global change biology, quantitative ecology, freshwater and/or marine biology, with a degree in biology, zoology, ecology, environmental sciences or chemistry.

How to apply

Please email a CV, University grade transcript and cover letter (outlining your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake the PhD), to Emma Revill (ecrix@essex.ac.uk).

The deadline for applications is Monday 6th February 2023.

If you have any questions please contact the lead supervisor, Dr Anna Sturrock (anna.sturrock@essex.ac.uk).