PhD Studentship: Development of behavioural deterrents to protect the European eel at dams and powe

Project Reference: CDT-SIS-311

Future energy and water resource development and management in the UK must be conducted within the constraints of increasingly stringent environmental legislation. The translation into policy of the environmental legislation passed to address environmental concerns associated with river and estuary engineering for the purposes of electricity generation has significant implications for the operation of current and future infrastructure (e.g. hydropower dams and power stations). In response to concerns related to an international collapse in populations of European eel (Anguilla anguilla), all water abstraction points must ensure that they provide screening systems to prevent ingress of adults and juveniles. For the small juveniles, commonly referred to as elvers, traditional mechanical screens are considered by the regulators not to be fit for purpose as they are incapable of blocking the narrow, and long bodied fish which are assumed to become easily entrained through them or suffer high mortalities as a result of impingement under high velocities. As a result there is a drive to retrofit existing intakes with very fine meshed screens. However, behavioural screening devices that employs stimuli as fish repellents, e.g. lights, sound, bubbles, electric and electromagnetic fields, may provide a more cost effective solution. Although such devices have been developed and employed previously, their efficiencies have been highly variable and site-dependent, and often lower than those obtained using traditional physical screens. Urgently there is a need to develop novel behavioural devices from first principles as an alternative to traditional technology, potentially using multimodal systems (acting on more than one sense simultaneously). To do this, it is necessary to return to basics and address our lack of knowledge about eel response to abiotic stimuli (e.g. sound, bubbles, electric fields) and to test devices to ensure solutions developed are effective in the real world. The focus of this project is to concentrate on developing greater understanding of a range of behavioural cues on multiple eel life-stages so that new devices can be created which may be used in conjunction with traditional screening to improve overall efficiency. In-kind and some financial support for this project will be provided by industry partners.

The suitable candidate should have an interest in pursuing interdisciplinary research, and will be expected to have a high class degree in either biological or related sciences, or engineering / physics. The candidate must be able to cross the disciplinary divide (i.e. be prepared to learn about acoustics, electromagnetism if from a biology background, or behavioural ecology if from an engineering or physics background).

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Paul Kemp, Water and Environmental Engineering research group, Email:, Tel: +44 (0) 2380 59 5871.

This project is being run in participation with the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Sustainable Infrastructure Systems (View Website). For details of our 4 Year PhD programme and further projects, please see View Website

To apply, please use the following website: