Project title: Restoring oil palm rivers: assessing the effects of riparian re-vegetation and in-channel modifications on biodiversity and functionality
Location: University of Nottingham
I completed my undergraduate degree in BSc Biological Sciences (Zoology) at Cardiff University in 2019 and my master’s degree in MSc Conservation Biology at the University of Derby in 2020. Since, I’ve volunteered abroad at conservation NGOs, undertook research roles at the University of Nottingham (UoN) and Nottingham Trent University (NTU), and assisted ecological consultancies with protected species surveys on a freelance basis. Whilst consultancy work is varied, spanning multiple ecosystems, research conducted at UoN and NTU has been freshwater-focused: investigating riverine biodiversity across the UK and South-East Asia.
As a Research Assistant at UoN, I analysed metabarcoding data to assess freshwater invertebrate diversity and distribution across Peninsular Malaysia, conducted IUCN Red List assessments of two newly discovered freshwater mussel species endemic to Borneo, and was awarded EU funding from COST Action CA18239 – Conservation of Freshwater Mussels, for a short-term scientific mission to CIIMAR / CIBIO, University of Porto. As a Research Fellow at NTU, I co-produced a report for the Environment Agency on the current and future effects of climate change on English chalk streams. The report synthesised and evaluated current literature to determine the potential responses of floral, faunal and microbial communities to climate change and the subsequent consequences for ecosystem functioning and service provision.
My PhD project will assess the efficacy of in-stream and riparian restoration strategies at mitigating the negative impacts of oil palm plantations (OPPs) on riverine communities and ecosystem functioning. Whilst OPPs are known to reduce habitat heterogeneity, driving declines in terrestrial biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, little is known about their impacts on freshwater habitats, but include increased sedimentation, bank erosion and pollution, and altered river morphology and hydrological regimes. To identify optimal freshwater management strategies for OPPs I will join a long-term riparian restoration experiment in Sumatra, Indonesia – the Riparian Ecosystem Restoration in Tropical Agriculture (RERTA) Project and conduct fieldwork at plantations owned by project partner, SMARTRI.