Doctoral position: ABSYS – Advancing Bypass Systems for Downstream Migration of European Key Umbrella Fish Species

ETH Zürich

Zürich, Switzerland 🇨🇭

Water and ice are our passion at the Laboratory of Hydraulics, Hydrology and Glaciology (VAW), in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering (D-BAUG) at ETH Zurich. We work in the domains of hydraulic engineering and structures, river engineering, numerical modelling, and glaciology. Our fields of activity are inland waters, hydropower, glaciers, natural hazards, river restoration, and river infrastructure. We contribute to the availability of clean and renewable electricity, protection against floods and cryospheric hazards, and sustainable watercourses.

Project background

Hydropower plants interrupt the longitudinal connectivity in river networks, which among others hinders downstream fish migration and puts fish passing through turbines or over weirs at risk to sustain considerable injuries. Among other factors, this has led to a decline in fish stocks. For certain fish species, fish guidance racks with adjacent bypass systems are effective fish-guiding structures that mitigate such effects. However, especially with the bypass, there are open questions regarding its design and operation. The ABSYS project aims at increasing fish guidance efficiency of such systems by conducting a systematical investigation to improve current bypass designs and develop an innovative bypass for European key umbrella fish species. To reach this goal, numerical simulations and subsequently etho-hydraulic experiments will be carried out at VAW and the Vattenfall laboratory in Sweden. The fish behavior is analyzed using a video fish tracking system. Finally, recommendations will be given for the design and operation of bypass systems. The target fish species are European eel, Broun trout, Common Barbel and Chub, and optionally Atlantic Salmon.

The ABSYS project represents a unique research team (VAW and Institute of Environmental Engineering IfU of ETH Zurich, NINA (Norway) and Vattenfall (Sweden). You will work in close collaboration with IfU and other project partners.

Job description

The ABSYS project consists of four main tasks linked to the work packages to reach its overarching goals. In Task I is devoted to a literature review of laboratory and field studies on various bypass systems. In Task II, hydraulic and live-fish tests of innovative bypass system layouts will be conducted in a large etho-hydraulic flume at VAW. The bypass system designs will be numerically developed by the Computational Fluid- and Morphodynamics (CFM) group of VAW and constructed in a 1:1 Froude model in the flume. In Task III, the hydraulic and live-fish tests of the optimum bypass layouts will be conducted with the partners in a semi-natural flume in the Vattenfall laboratory, Sweden for 6-8 weeks. Task IV investigates operational aspects of the innovative bypass system such as clogging by sediment and floating debris in the etho-hydraulic flume.

In the laboratory tests, Acoustic Doppler Velocimetry (ADV) will be used to measure flow velocities, and video-based 3D fish tracking systems are employed to determine fish tracks and concomitant swimming kinematics. Hydraulic and fish data will be analyzed to investigate the effect of turbulent flow structures generated by the different bypass layouts on the swimming behavior of target fish species and determine their fish passage efficiency under various flow conditions. Live-fish tests will be conducted at VAW and Vattenfall laboratories in collaboration with the IfU of ETH Zurich, NINA, and Vattenfall AB. Strong Python (mainly) and MATLAB coding for camera calibration, image analysis, and animal tracking and data analysis skills are required for the position.

You will conduct the research activities defined in the four tasks of the project, publish the research results in scientific journals and present them at international conferences and workshops. The candidate will take fish handling courses to conduct live-fish tests in the laboratory and other courses required in the scope of the doctorate at ETH Zurich (a total of 12 ECTS).

Your profile

  • Excellent Master’s degree in civil or environmental engineering (or equivalent), with a specialization in hydraulic engineering
  • Demonstrated background in hydraulic experimentation, ability and willingness to work mainly in a hydraulic laboratory and partly in the field (fish collection)
  • Knowledge in coding and advanced data analysis (Python as well as MATLAB for image processing and R for statistical data analysis)
  • Conducting live-fish tests potentially at night in autumn seasons
  • Ideal background knowledge of applied fish biology or fish migration
  • Highly motivated, committed, and creative candidate with outstanding organization and communication skills, able to work with an international team of scientists from various disciplines and stakeholders
  • Proficient command of the English language, written and spoken
  • German knowledge is an asset
  • No travel restrictions since this position requires some weeks of work in Sweden

Working in a top-level research environment with advanced laboratory infrastructure, you will have a unique opportunity to develop your research abilities.

We offer

  • Opportunities to engage in cutting-edge research with the potential for high impact in the field of hydraulic engineering,
  • Opportunities for professional development,
  • Opportunities to engage with different communities bridging civil and environmental engineering and biology  leading to high-impact publications,
  • You will be part of a highly motivated, diverse, friendly and collaborative team,
  • You will be able to attend relevant (inter-) national conferences to increase your visibility and present the project outcomes,
  • You will be involved in the supervision of students theses projects and teaching activities of the lab.

More information is available on the ETH website regarding doctoral studies at ETH and the employment conditions of doctoral students.chevron_rightWorking, teaching and research at ETH Zurich

We value diversity

In line with our values, ETH Zurich encourages an inclusive culture. We promote equality of opportunity, value diversity and nurture a working and learning environment in which the rights and dignity of all our staff and students are respected. Visit our Equal Opportunities and Diversity website to find out how we ensure a fair and open environment that allows everyone to grow and flourish.

Curious? So are we.

We look forward to receiving your online application with the following documents:

  • comprehensive CV (maximum 5 pages),
  • short description of your motivation and research interests (1-page cover letter),
  • complete academic transcript including undergraduate and graduate courses,
  • abstract or summary of own research work, e.g. Master’s thesis (1-2 pages),
  • contact information including e-mail addresses of at least 2 referees (preferably 3).

Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered.

The starting date is the beginning of October or November 2023. The planned project duration is up to 4 years. You will be jointly supervised by Dr. Ismail Albayrak (main supervisor) and Prof. Dr. Robert Boes. Dr. David Vetsch, head of the CFM group, is a partner and the project is closely linked to the CFM group of VAW for the CFD simulations of the bypass systems. Dr. Luiz Silva from IfU will supervise the live-fish tests as a project partner. Dr. Ana Silva from NINA is an external project partner.

The deadline for the applications is 31st August 2023.

Further information about the Laboratory of Hydraulics, Hydrology and Glaciology (VAW) can be found on our website. Questions on the position should be directed to Dr. Ismail Albayrak [email protected] (no applications) or Prof. Dr. Robert Boes, e-mail: [email protected] (no applications).

About ETH Zürich

ETH Zurich is one of the world’s leading universities specialising in science and technology. We are renowned for our excellent education, cutting-edge fundamental research and direct transfer of new knowledge into society. Over 30,000 people from more than 120 countries find our university to be a place that promotes independent thinking and an environment that inspires excellence. Located in the heart of Europe, yet forging connections all over the world, we work together to develop solutions for the global challenges of today and tomorrow.





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