The Rivers and Lochs Institute

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A PhD student working in the Rivers and Lochs Institute laboratory

The Rivers and Lochs Institute supports freshwater biodiversity management through research, training and education.

Established in 2012 by Professor Eric Verspoor, the Institute specialises in molecular genetics research to aid in the conservation and management of all biodiversity in rivers and lochs, including fish stocks. Professor Verspoor has worked in the field of aquatic biodiversity for over 35 years, including 22 years as a principal scientific officer to the Scottish Government. He has authored more 150 peer-reviewed scientific papers, reports and book chapters. Having retired from the Director role, he continues to work part-time with the RLI as a senior scientist, supporting the development of research and early career researchers.

Our researchers work with local communities, freshwater and fisheries managers, businesses and government agencies to provide scientific support to protect and conserve freshwater biodiversity and manage sustainable wild fisheries.

Our laboratory is equipped with state-of-the-art technology for molecular genetics analyses, including a high throughput Next Generation sequencing machine (MiSeq). Researchers use a variety of molecular markers to characterise fish stocks using population genetics and the use of eDNA to identify defined targeted species or to explore and reconstruct full communities.

Current projects range from the conservation of species - from Atlantic Salmon and Arctic Charr to Flame shell, Pearl Mussels and Slender Naiad - to using eDNA to map entire ecosystems, from observing the effects of dams on freshwater biodiversity to monitoring the seabed below cages to support aquaculture management.

Our research falls broadly within five themes:

  • Fish and fisheries genetics
  • Biodiversity management (eDNA)
  • Catchment management
  • Aqauculture-environmental interactions
  • Biodiversity management and socioecology

In addition, the Institute supports interdisciplinary research into freshwater history, heritage and conservation to support the tourism sector and contribute to the understanding of the socioecological changes associated with river and water use over time.

We collaborate with our research colleagues across the University of the Highlands and Islands partnership including the Aquaculture Research NetworkEnvironmental Research Institute, the Scottish Association for Marine Science, the Centre for History, and Sabhal Mòr Ostaig.