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The University of Southampton
Engineering
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Dr Andrew Vowles BSc (hons), PhD

Research Fellow

Dr Andrew Vowles's photo

Dr Andrew Vowles is a Research Fellow in Ecohydraulics and Fisheries Management within the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences at the University of Southampton.

His research interests broadly relate to mitigating anthropogenic impacts on freshwater environments. Initially this was achieved while working for a river restoration consultancy and, more recently through PhD and Post-Doctoral research positions. Andrew’s research is truly interdisciplinary, linking biology and ecology with principles of hydraulic engineering with the aim of advancing river management. Andrew mainly works with fish and adopts a range of techniques, from experimental lab-based studies that allow the fine-scale behaviour of fish to be quantified to field-based research on fish habitat use and community composition. 

He has worked on projects funded by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Devon Wildlife Trust, Environment Agency (England), Fisheries Society of the British Isles, Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust and the EU (FP7 and H2020). Andrew also lectures in the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences, with his teaching being research lead, focusing on topics such as freshwater ecosystems, river restoration and environmental impact assessment and mitigation.

Protecting freshwater fish – University of Southampton

Research interests

Andrew’s research interests are focused on the mitigation and management of anthropogenic activities on the aquatic environment. Particular interests relate to understanding how environmental stimuli influence fish behaviour, methods and approaches of facilitating fish passage at river infrastructure, and river restoration.

PhD research

Experimental quantification of the response of fish to conditions associated with low-head hydropower and fish passage facilities
Supervisors: Dr Paul Kemp and Dr Gerald Müller. Funded by the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement #212423.

Head location (red dots) of eel as they move downstream and react to an artificially lit passage route in a flume
An eel (red dots) reacting to a lit passage route

Fish response to environmental stimuli

Understanding how environmental stimuli influence the behaviour of fish can play an important role in their conservation and management. It can underpin how we manipulate the environment to mitigate negative anthropogenic impacts. For example, an understanding of how fish respond to light may help influence light management strategies in urban areas, reducing impacts of light pollution on freshwater fish. Or, knowing the threshold level of water acceleration that triggers fish avoidance can help in the design of downstream fish passage facilities. These aim to provide a safe alternative route past hazardous river infrastructure (such as turbine intakes), but abrupt accelerations of flow are commonly encountered at their entrance. Many fish avoid these areas leading to delayed migration and increased predation risk. 

A Crump weir unmodified (top) and modified to improve fish passage (bottom)
An unmodified and modified Crump weir

Facilitating fish passage at river infrastructure

The development of effective fish passage and screening strategies are essential for developing environmentally sustainable energy (e.g. hydropower) and mitigating the negative impacts of river infrastructure (dams, weirs, culverts) on fish movements and migration. Utilising large open-channel flumes in the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences, this research quantifies fish passage efficiency at experimental weirs when unmodified and modified with various fish pass designs. The experimental approach adopted allows the hydrodynamic environment to be quantified and the fine-scale behaviour of fish to be observed during passage, something much more difficult to achieve in the field, but which can greatly aid design optimisation.

4 Radio tracking trout.jpg
Radio tracking brown trout on a chalk river

River restoration

Andrew is involved in various field-based research projects which can be broadly categorised as ‘river restoration’.

An increasing number of rivers are undergoing physical habitat restoration in an effort to mitigate the negative impacts of river channel modification and changes in land-use. Monitoring ecological change following river restoration is of key importance in addressing some fundamental questions relating to which techniques work, where and over what time scales. Other field-based research has enhanced our understanding of brown trout habitat use relative to physical characteristics in groundwater-fed chalk streams and monitored fish community composition at sites where the Eurasian beaver has been reintroduced in the UK (e.g. as part of the River Otter Beaver Trial).

Research group

Water and Environmental Engineering Group

Affiliate research groups

Centre for Environmental Sciences, International Centre for Ecohydraulics Research

Research project(s)

Fish passage upstream over gauging structures

Distribution and activity patterns of brown trout in a chalk river

Improving fish passage at low-head river barriers

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Code Title  Role
CENV6172 River and Estuary Restorationn Lecturer
ENVS2003 / 6003 Freshwater Ecosystems Lecturer
FEEG1003 ThermoFluids Lab practical supervisor
FEEG3003 Individual Project Project supervisor
FEEG6012 MSc Research Project Project supervisor
Dr Andrew Vowles
Engineering, University of Southampton, Southampton Boldrewood Innovation Campus, Burgess Road, Southampton, SO16 7QF

Room Number: 178/5017/B1

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