Institute for Biodiversity and Freshwater Conservation


A PhD student working in the Rivers and Lochs Institute laboratory

At the Institute for Biodiversity and Freshwater Conservation, we seek to understand how biodiversity is generated and maintained and thereby guide its conservation and management.

Our researchers work nationally and internationally with a broad range of academic collaborators and stakeholders including fisheries and conservation managers, businesses, government agencies, and local communities.

Our work spans the breadth of environments, with a particular focus on temperate and sub-arctic habitats such as rivers, lochs, forests and peatlands. In particular, our research team has expertise in Population Genetics, Genomics, Environmental DNA, Evolutionary Biology, Freshwater and Wildlife Ecology, Forest Pests and Diseases, Social Dimensions of Habitat Management, and Forestry Education.

Our research addresses fundamental questions and helps support conservation and management decision making on a landscape and catchment scale around topics such as rewilding, land-use change, landscape management and climate change.

We work predominantly within the following themes:

  • Monitoring biodiversity change: we use eDNA, genetic metabarcoding and other emerging technologies to monitor the response of biological communities to anthropogenic influences including climate change, aquaculture impacts, pollution and habitat restoration.
  • Evolutionary and ecological drivers of biological diversity: we carry out fundamental research to understand local adaptation and life history diversity and the interaction between biodiversity, environment and ecosystem stability.
  • Species conservation and ecology: we characterise the distribution, population structure and population size of priority species using molecular and conventional survey methods, and develop bespoke genetic tool kits for species conservation.
  • Freshwater fisheries management: we provide the evidence basis for the management of key species such as salmon– including assessment of genetic stock structure, guidance and monitoring of stocking activities, eDNA detection of native and invasive species, and monitoring of hybridisation between native and non-native fishes.
  • Forest resilience and climate change: we explore the impacts of forest management in a changing environment, addressing forest health including emerging diseases, climate smart approaches and importance of productive forestry under diverse land use.
  • Nature and people: we seek to understand people’s perceptions of habitat management, restoration and rewilding working closely with the Centre for Living Sustainability. This includes the social implications of change including impact on livelihoods and communities, public communication of the science underpinning policy and decision making and evaluating the effectiveness of Citizen Science approaches.