ESR05 - Hydrodynamics of swimming fish: drag, propulsion, and fish bioenergetics

Host Institution: UNIABDN - University of Aberdeen

Location: Aberdeen (UK)

Doctoral degree: PhD in Engineering at the University of Aberdeen

Job description: Fish hydrodynamics influences nearly all aspects of fish life-cycles and thus has significant implications for fish conservation. Nevertheless, precise aspects of fish swimming mechanics remain largely unknown and many fundamental questions are still the subject of debate. This project will focus on fundamental aspects of flow-fish interactions using laboratory experiments and employing advanced facilities and instrumentation.  Among others, the project will investigate the links between turbulence dynamics, fish propulsion, drag, and bio-energetics. The experiments will employ state-of-the-art techniques in fish tracking and flow measurement such as a custom-made robotic multi-camera 200Hz Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV) system allowing simultaneous high-resolution stereoscopic measurements of both fish movement and 3D velocity fields near moving fish and far away. The obtained data will be used to (i) identify key flow patterns, drag-forming mechanisms, and propulsion strategies in controlled conditions; (ii) quantify locomotor dynamics that maximize swimming performance and assess potential implications for fish bioenergetics; and (iii) develop a new framework where fish biomechanical properties can be used in designing safe fish passages through a variety of hydraulic structures in rivers.The project will advance fundamental knowledge on flow-fish interactions by pursuing two key objectives: (1) to enhance current capabilities to measure turbulent flow fields in proximity of swimming fish; and (2) to identify key flow patterns, drag-forming and propulsion mechanisms for selected fish species, to be identified at the initial stage of the project. To help achieve these objectives, the successful candidate will have some background knowledge of fundamentals of fluid mechanics, fish biology and physiology, laboratory experimentation, instrumentation, and computations.

Workplace: The successful applicant will join the Mechanics of Fluids, Soils and Structures Research Group at the School of Engineering as well as be associated with the School of Biological Sciences. The applicant’s research will be supported by the state-of-the-art Fluid Mechanics Laboratory that operates a range of advanced instruments (Acoustic Doppler Velocimeters and Profilers, Sonar, several Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV) systems) and five hydraulic flumes and water tunnels, which will be available for this project. The biological elements of the project will be supported by the School of Biological Sciences with an extensive range of fish laboratories and recently refurbished Aquarium Facilities.

Secondment period (to be confirmed): Expected duration: 4 months; Hosting institutions: SOTON (University of Southampton - Southampton, UK), IGB (Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries - Berlin, Germany), UNIPD (Università degli Studi di Padova - Padova, Italy) and CBAR (Consorzio di Bonifica Acque Risorgive - Venezia, Italy)

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Candidate requirements:


  • BEng/MSc/MEng in Engineering (either mechanical, environmental, civil, bio-engineering, or aerospace; BSc/MSc in Biological Sciences (Fish Biology and Physiology specialization is preferable); or BSc/MSc in Physical Oceanography 
  • Applications from candidates not yet graduated by the call deadline (with Diploma foreseen at the latest by the end of July 2020) are accepted

Specific mandatory skills:  

  • General mathematical and physics skills (advanced statistics is an advantage)
  • Programming skills using Matlab, C++ and/or other computing languages 

Specific desirable skills: 

  • Fish handling skills
  • Operating skills for Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV) systems

Specific requirements of the Doctoral School:

Entrance requirements for a PhD candidate at the University of Aberdeen are either a Master’s degree or a first or upper-second class Honours degree in an appropriate area from an approved university (or an equivalent qualification, see To study for a degree at the University of Aberdeen it is essential that you can speak, understand, read, and write English fluently. These skills will allow you to understand lectures, produce high standards of written work, and perform well in examinations. If you hold a degree from a UK University, then evidence of proficiency in English language may not be required. If your degree is not from a UK University, then some evidence of English knowledge and skills needs to be provided (see details at

Mobility rule:

Applicants must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in UK for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the recruitment date. Compulsory national service, short stays such as holidays, and time spent as part of a procedure for obtaining refugee status under the Geneva Convention are not taken into account.

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Contact person(s): 

Vladimir Nikora

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Work package