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Student Vacation Research Assistant: The importance of microhabitats in bedrock channels to aquatic biodiversity conservation - Open only to current University of Worcester students (see * below)

River systems comprise high variability in form, shape and physical habitat characteristics (i.e. substrate, water depth and velocity). Species diversity has been shown to increase with physical habitat, particularly for benthic invertebrates (aquatic insects) and fish (Kaiser et al., 1999). The rationale underpinning this theory is that physical habitat provides more areas for species to occupy, a wider range of habitats for breeding and foraging, and more places that provide shelter during floods (Ward et al., 1999; Ward and Tockner, 2001). Habitats that provide shelter during floods and low flows are called refugia. The presence of refugia is important within rivers. Refugia increases ecosystem resistance and resilience to flow events by providing aquatic organisms a shelter (Lancaster and Belyea, 1997). Previous research examining the use of refugia has focussed on floods and streambed drying in gravel-bed rivers (Dole-Olivier et al., 1997). Less research has examined the use of pebble clusters as refugia for benthic invertebrates in bedrock channels.

The study will examine pebble clusters as a refuge for benthic invertebrates in an upland bedrock river. The overall aim is to compare the structure and functional composition of benthic invertebrate assemblages within pebble clusters before and after multiple flood events.The objectives are to:

  • Identify the hydraulic conditions of pebble clusters

  • Determine the invertebrate assemblage of a range of microhabitats, including pebble clusters, bare rock surface and cobble/gravel patches

  • Characterise the substrate conditions of different microhabitats within a bedrock and an alluvial reach.

The research project comprises a mixture of fieldwork, laboratory and desk-based study. Fieldwork will be carried out on the River Monnow and the Escley Brook, which forms part of the River Wye catchment in Herefordshire. Fieldwork will be conducted by Tory Milner (principal investigator), Dr Matt Hill (postdoctoral researcher at the UW) and Prof. Paul Wood (Loughborough University) and the VRA. The VRA will undertake fieldwork with a team of researchers and not work independently in the field for H&S reasons.

The next part of the research project will involve sorting and identifying benthic invertebrates within a laboratory at the UW. Other activities will include downloading papers, data entry and checking, copy-editing, and compiling a database of the invertebrate and physical habitat data collected in the field.

*Please note that this post is open only to students completing the penultimate or final year of an undergraduate degree (or equivalent) at the University of Worcester or partner institutions;


Students completing, or who have completed, an undergraduate degree at another university (with 1st or 2:1 predicted/achieved) who are about to commence postgraduate studies at the University of Worcester

Closing date: Monday 29 May 2017

Reference number: STUVRA1701 - 2000

Job details

Job details

Band 3, spinal column point 6, £8.44 per hour, plus £1.18 per hour holiday pay
Flexible up to 37 hours a week maximum
12/6/2017 but open to negotiation
4 weeks full-time or equivalent on part time basis
Responsible to
Dr Tory Milner
Interview date

Institute of Science and the Environment

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“The Institute’s acclaimed research has a common thread: our belief that science should be centred around its impact on people”
Professor John Newbury, Head of Institute



The University of Worcester is funding 20 Vacation Research Assistantships for the summer of 2017. These Research Assistantships will provide undergraduates and recent graduates with ‘hands on’ experience of working on a research project over the summer vacation, enabling them to gain insight into a research career, as well as enhancing their CV. These are prestigious awards, marking out a student as a future researcher and potential academic. In addition, this scheme provides UW staff leading on a research project with invaluable support in taking the project forward and experience of supporting and developing a young researcher.

On completion of the project, the supervisor and student must complete a report providing the following information:

• Objectives set

• Objectives met

• Methods employed

• Results

• Conclusions

• Outputs

• Benefits to the student including training undertaken, skills developed, etc.


Main duties

Main duties

  1. Collecting benthic invertebrates and measuring physical habitat and hydraulics in a bedrock and an alluvial reach in the River Monnow and the Escley Brook, Herefordshire.

  2. Sorting and identifying benthic invertebrates in a UW laboratory.

  3. Characterising the hydraulics of different microhabitats in bedrock and alluvial streams.

  4. Finding papers on the use of refuges in bedrock and alluvial streams. 

  5. Entering hydraulic and invertebrate data into Excel.

  6. Writing a short report outlining the objectives, methods, results and conclusion of the project. This report will be written in collaboration with the principal investigator.

*Maintain personal and professional development to meet the changing demands of the job; participate in appropriate training activities and encourage and support staff in their development and training.

*Take steps to ensure and enhance personal health, safety and well being and that of other staff and students.

*Carry out these duties in a manner that promotes equality of opportunity and supports diversity and inclusion, and takes into account the University's commitment to environmentally sustainable ways of working.



Person specification

Person specification

Please provide evidence of how you meet each of the essential criteria.


1. An interest and experience in river science, freshwater biology and/or hydrology as reflected by the choice of modules and previous research/learning.
2. Experience of identifying macro-invertebrates.
3. Experience of working independently and managing your time.
4. Good written skills.
5. A working knowledge and experience in using MS Excel.


1. Understanding of hydroecology related research.
2. An interest in water resource management.



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