Biosciences: Fully Funded MSc by Research at Swansea: recreational impacts on freshwater fish

  • Master
  • Full cost of UK tuition fees, plus a stipend
  • 4 June 2021
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Biosciences: Fully Funded KESS II MSc by Research Scholarship: An evidence-based assessment of recreational impacts on freshwater fish

\This scholarships is part funded by the Welsh Government’s European Social Fund (ESF) convergence programme for East Wales.\**

Start date: October 2021

Sustainable access to the natural environment is fundamental to the health and well-being of the Welsh people and is a significant source of tourist revenue. Greater access to the natural environment can also benefit the conservation of biodiversity through increased public appreciation and stewardship. Much recent publicity has been given to the benefits of access to so-called “blue-space”: namely natural waterways and rivers.

Government policy is to make waterways accessible to all parts of society. It supports the greater recreational use of waterways (including the waterside paths where practical) for all. As the navigation authority, Natural Resources Wales is encouraged to increase access to the waterways for the young, disabled and disadvantaged. Wales’ rivers are famous for the quality of fishing available, and many of these are situated within the East KESS area. Amongst the species of interest are: resident brown trout and sewin (sea trout) commonly fished on the Usk, Dee, Ogmore, Severn, Afan, Tawe and Taff; salmon on the Wye, Dee, Towy, Tawe and Taff; barbel on the Wye, Taff, Rhymney, Dee and Severn; grayling on the Severn and Irfon, and pike on the Wye. 

However, these rivers within the East KESS area are also highly valued for recreation by canoeists, kayakers, canyon walkers and wild swimmers. Multiple recreational users accessing the same resource can result in conflict. Anglers often argue that other users and water sports enthusiasts disturb fish, impacting on fish natural behaviour and catchability. However, the scientific basis for this claim is uncertain as the topic has received little research attention.

Meetings with stakeholders, especially NRW and Canoe Wales who are co-funding this MSc by Research, have identified a need to quantify how fish respond to disturbance by users to develop appropriate river user management plans. Current research on the topic is extremely limited so stakeholders are relying on anecdotal information. The insights gained through this MSc by Research will play a critical role in providing this evidence using lab-based experiments, literature surveys and river-user questionnaires.

The appointed student will join a team of scientists at CSAR (Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Research, Swansea University) to design some laboratory experiments to assess the behavioural response of fish to disturbance by river users. The lab experiments will be undertaken in a flume tank with juvenile brown trout, and will try to mimic the overhead disturbance caused by the passage of a canoe or kayaker, a swimmer, or the presence of a wading angler. Behavioural response will be assessed using overhead video cameras. Field studies (assuming they can be undertaken, this depends on covid-restrictions) might involve the use of sonar to monitor the behaviour of shoals of adult salmon and/or sea trout at known resting pools before and after canoe passage, as well as questionnaires to assess public attitudes to different river uses.

This KESS 2 EAST scholarship is a collaborative award sponsored by NRW and Canoe Wales. The scholarship provides 1-year funding with a 3-month period to complete the thesis. The achievement of a postgraduate skills development award, PSDA, is compulsory for each KESS 2 EAST scholar and is based on a 40 credit award.
Swansea University
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Swansea University

Swansea, is a coastal city and county, officially known as the City and County of Swansea in Wales.

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Candidates should have a 2.1 or above in their undergraduate degree in the biological sciences.

They should also be eligible for UK Fees.

We would normally expect the academic and English Language requirements to be met by point of application. For details on the University’s English Language entry requirements, please visit –

For this scholarship students must also have:
  • a home address in East Wales (details below)\* at the time of registration and enrolment
  • the right to take up paid work in the East Wales Area\* on completion of the scholarship

East Wales area covers: Vale of Glamorgan, Cardiff, Newport, Monmouthshire, Powys, Wrexham and Flintshire


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The studentship covers the full cost of UK tuition fees, plus a stipend. The bursary will be limited to a maximum of £11,937 p.a. dependent upon the applicant's financial circumstances.
There will also be additional funds available for research expenses.

Please note that students receiving KESS II EAST support are not eligible for Postgraduate Master's Degree loan.


Please visit our website for more information.
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