Doctoral position on "Behavioral responses of young fish to hydropeaking"

100%, Zurich, fixed-term

The Chair of Groundwater and Hydromechanics in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering is seeking a dynamic and motivated doctoral student to study the fine-scale movements of young fish in response to hydropeaking in laboratory-based settings.

Keywords: ecohydraulics, hydropeaking, early life stages, movement behaviour

Project background

Switzerland’s Energy Strategy 2050 aims to increase hydroelectricity production in Switzerland as a source of renewable energy. Over the same period, the Swiss Water Protection Act requires the ecological improvement of the country’s waterways, restoring or protecting habitats for the aquatic biota, particularly fish populations. These opposing objectives bring enormous challenges to both the hydropower industry and environmental protection. For example, the operation of high-head storage hydropower plants can generate hydropeaking, an unnatural and abrupt change in river discharge in downstream river reaches. The resulting changes in habitat availability and location can adversely impact aquatic biota along affected river reaches. These rapid alterations in discharge threaten, in particular, the early life stages of riverine fish species due to their reduced swimming ability in the face of their high need to disperse. The ability of young fish to move along spatial gradients of flow depth and flow velocity will determine the effects of hydropeaking.

Job description

You are expected to develop a flume-based experimental approach, based on an existing flume and imaging technology, to quantify fine-scale movement responses of early life stages of fish to laboratory-simulated hydropeaking scenarios. The project will build upon recently developed methods that combine state-of-the-art imaging-based tracking techniques in a laboratory flume. You will address questions such as: how do young fish exploit their hydrodynamic environment under different hydropeaking conditions? What are the main hydrodynamic cues that trigger changes in fish behaviour? Does habitat cover, such as surrounding vegetation, influence fish responses? Do the different stages of hydropeaking (up-and down-ramping rates) lead to negative impacts such as stranding or enforced burst swimming?

Your profile

You will have the opportunity to learn, develop and apply a range of cutting-edge experimental and modelling techniques, state-of-the-art image analysis, and animal tracking methods. You will work in a highly interdisciplinary, fast-paced research environment, interact with researchers from many different disciplines, gain skills in several technologies, and learn about fundamental ecological processes in riverine ecosystems, as well as river hydraulics and hydropower operation. Therefore, you should demonstrate an interest in interdisciplinary work, particularly experimental approaches at the interface of hydraulics and ecology. The candidate will also have the opportunity to interact with a team of world-class collaborators as well as with relevant institutions (e.g. BAFU) and stakeholders (e.g. hydropower companies).

You will be jointly supervised by Dr Luiz G. M. Silva and Prof. Roman Stocker.

Your workplace

We offer

ETH Zurich is a family-friendly employer with excellent working conditions. You can look forward to an exciting working environment, cultural diversity and attractive offers and benefits.

Working, teaching and research at ETH Zurich

We value diversity

In line with our values, ETH Zurich encourages an inclusive culture. We promote equality of opportunity, value diversity and nurture a working and learning environment in which the rights and dignity of all our staff and students are respected. Visit our Equal Opportunities and Diversity website to find out how we ensure a fair and open environment that allows everyone to grow and flourish.

Curious? So are we.

We look forward to receiving your online application including:

  • a CV
  • full transcripts from undergraduate studies (both Bachelor and Masters)
  • a brief (1-2 page) statement of research interests
  • at least 2 (preferably 3) letters of reference

The review of applications will begin on May 16, 2022, with the position to start on September 1, 2022, or thereafter.

Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through the ETH online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered. For questions regarding the position, please contact Joëlle Robinson by email at joeller@ethz.ch (do not send applications please).

About ETH Zürich

ETH Zurich is one of the world’s leading universities specialising in science and technology. We are renowned for our excellent education, cutting-edge fundamental research and direct transfer of new knowledge into society. Over 30,000 people from more than 120 countries find our university to be a place that promotes independent thinking and an environment that inspires excellence. Located in the heart of Europe, yet forging connections all over the world, we work together to develop solutions for the global challenges of today and tomorrow.