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University alliance awarded £2m to train a new generation of freshwater leaders

River freshwater

Press release issued: 7 November 2017

Bristol researchers are part of the UK’s first doctoral training programme in freshwater bioscience.

The GW4 Alliance will receive £2 million from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) to establish the UK’s first centre for doctoral training dedicated to freshwater bioscience and sustainability. The project will address challenges for rivers, lakes and wetlands as the world’s most important but most threatened natural resources.

Sustaining the world’s freshwater ecosystems - while meeting the water demands of a growing population – requires new thinking. The programme will address emerging risks, develop new monitoring tools, tackle the rapid extinction of freshwater plants and animals, and create integrated solutions to manage sustainability.

Led by Cardiff University’s Water Research Institute, the programme team consists of the four GW4 universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter, along with the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and the British Geological Survey. These six institutions form one of the largest groups of freshwater scientists in Europe, and provide a critical mass of internationally recognised scientists, including empiricists, experimentalists, modellers, and theoreticians in the field of freshwater bioscience and sustainability.

PhD students taking part in this multidisciplinary programme will work on real-life research projects with supervisors from a range of organisations such as Welsh Water, the Environment Agency and The Rivers Trust, enabling them to work side-by-side with the conservationists and commercial businesses that confront the 21st century’s water challenges.

Dr Isabelle Durance, Director of the GW4 Freshwater Centre for Doctoral Training and Director of Cardiff University’s Water Research Institute, said: ‘Freshwater challenges are such that the UK freshwater research community needs a step-change: our vision is to train future leaders with the skills necessary to address the challenges facing sustainability.’

Dr Martin Genner, Reader in Evolutionary Ecology at Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences, said: ‘The award of the new NERC CDT is a direct reflection of the world-leading research reputations of the GW4 universities and their research partners in the freshwater sciences. It provides a wonderful opportunity to bring together our skills and knowledge to train the next generation of bioscientists, in a diverse range of topics relevant to the conservation and sustainable management of freshwater ecosystems.’ 

The programme will run for six years and will welcome its first cohort in 2018.