Three Research Posts Available - University of Nottingham’s Malaysia Campus

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Three research posts available:

Post-doctoral Fellowship (3 years) and 2 funded MRes studentships

Habitat dynamics in the Baleh River, Sarawak, Malaysia


The project is looking to make three research appointments on a project focused on understanding physical habitat integrity in the Baleh River, Sarawak.

The project will involve assessment of the interactions between the river’s hydrological regime and several aspects of habitat –bed material transport and fine sediment dynamics, hydraulic habitat heterogeneity and connectivity, and river temperatures. The work is funded by Sarawak Energy as part of its policy to help develop environmental flows for regulated rivers in this part of Malaysia.

The Post-Doctoral Researcher should have or expect to soon complete a PhD in hydrology, fluvial geomorphology, fluid dynamics or eco-hydrology.  For the MRes students (one year Masters by Research) we are looking for individuals with a good first degree (First class or high 2:1 grade) in an environmental science subject, ideally including some hydrology or ecology.  Skills in GIS and/or remote sensing would be advantageous for all positions, as would experience working in large rivers.  The project involves fieldwork in remote areas.

You will be based in the School of Environmental and Geographical Sciences at University of Nottingham’s Malaysia campus, on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. Salaries and stipends will be in Malaysian Ringgit (RM).

Further information and application procedure. Contact Prof. Chris Gibbins, for an informal discussion about the project. To apply, please send a CV and letter; the letter should outline your relevant skills, experience and your motivation for applying. Deadline for applications is 15 June 2019.


Project details

Sarawak Energy has plans to develop a hydroelectric project in the upper reaches of the Baleh River, Sarawak (Malaysian Borneo).  The Baleh is a headwater tributary of the Rajang, one of the main rivers on Borneo. Sarawak Energy is guided by the International Hydropower Association’s Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol, and as part of this the company is undertaking work to assess the environmental impacts of proposed dam schemes and identify appropriate mitigation wherever possible. This project forms part of their work under the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol and will develop a scientific understanding of key habitat-forming processes in the Baleh River prior to dam construction. This understanding can then be used to underpin evidence-based decisions about appropriate regulated flow regimes –i.e. to identify regimes that do not compromise important habitat-forming processes.

The aim of the project is to identify a set of flows that drive geomorphic processes in the river and which are therefore important for shaping physical habitat conditions.  It will focus on the links between discharge and (i) flow hydraulics, (ii) transport of coarse and fine sediment, (iii) changes in bed topography and sediment grain-sizes, (iv) habitat connectivity, and (v) water temperatures. The work will focus on a 25-km reach immediately downstream from the proposed dam site.  Specific objectives of the research are to:

1.Identify the flows needed for the entrainment and transport of coarse riverbed sediment;

2.Identify the discharges that maintain hydraulic habitat diversity and connectivity;

3.Identify the critical discharges that cause thermal stress associated with extreme water temperatures;

4.Assess fine sediment concentrations and loads, and relations between discharge and fine sediment transport; and

5.Use information from 1-4 to identify discharges that are important for maintaining habitat integrity.

The Post-Doctoral Fellow will help manage the project overall, and plan, co-ordinate and undertake fieldwork related to all the project objectives. He/she will have responsibility for helping supervise the MRes students. Project management will include preparing progress reports for Sarawak Energy and setting up and maintaining a project website and database. He/she will play a key role in preparing academic papers –leading on some and supporting on others.  The MRes projects will focus on individual objectives. One will focus on thermal conditions; it will involve using loggers and aerial images collected from drones to understand spatial and temporal patterns of water temperature and the implications of these for aquatic invertebrates. The second MRes project will focus on either fine sediment dynamics or hydraulic habitat heterogeneity and connectivity.   

The post-doc and MRes students will work closely with a PhD student who has already been appointed on the project. All will be based at the University of Nottingham Malaysia campus, but spend periods in Sarawak undertaking fieldwork.  All research costs, and MRes registration fees will be covered by the project. The post-doc will receive a monthly salary of RM 8,000. Given the relatively low cost of living in Malaysia, these rates will allow the researchers to enjoy a standard of living /disposable income similar to equivalent positions in Europe.

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