The first seminar of the semester was given by Professor Guy Woodward of Imperial College London about the DURESS project, which he is a member of.

The DURESS project is a research council that was launched in 2012,  led by Cardiff University. The aim of the project is to test the hypothesis that “biodiversity is central to the sustainable delivery of upland river ecosystem services under changing land use and climate.”

The majority of his work involves looking at food webs, with specific focus on how external factors such as pollution such as pesticides and the acidity of the waters, affect the relationship between the body size and trophic level hierarchy in freshwater river systems.

The work for DURESS involved the Professor looking at 99 historical sites, 50 sites that already had detailed food web analysis and 8 sites that were experimental.

The findings of this was that as the pH of a site decreases, so does the biodiversity. This is due to a shift in the top predators, such as Trout.

In the presence of pesticides, there is an increasing impact on freshwater systems due to the alteration of the middle trophic web levels due to the loss of detritivorous consumers, which have impacts on the entire system.

These findings can allow for predictions to be made about the future of ecosystems and the changes that may take place in the future.

My thoughts

I found this seminar very interesting, especially when the findings of the research was presented, as I find this branch of ecology is especially relevant in the face of climate change and the increasing industrialisation of the planet.

The findings we were presented with show that there are potentially huge implications for the freshwater ecosystems if the human population continues to grow and allow pollution to enter the water systems.

One thing that I would have liked to learn more about were the methods that were used to collect the data and the techniques that were used to analyse them, as it is always interesting to learn about new methods and how to get the best out of any data that is collected.

This seminar has increased my interest in the fields of both freshwater and molecular ecology, and I would like to do some further research into both fields to see if there is the potential for any future work in these fields.