The Rivers and Lochs Institute (RLI) aims to deliver a programme of research to support management for change and adaptation in freshwater biodiversity. The RLI brings together a network of environmental scientists and academics working with the university to achieve this aim.

research imageOur research focuses on the rich biodiversity Scotland's Rivers and Lochs, particularly in the Highlands and Islands. This locally focused expertise has global application and the RLI collaborates on a range of national and international projects.

Our staff and associate staff have research specialisms in the following areas :

  • aquatic biodiversity and management
  • river conservation and management
  • molecular genetic research
  • fish genetics research, with special interests in Atlantic salmon, Brown trout and Arctic Char
  • ecological and population genetics
  • sustainable resource management and conservation
  • fisheries management and conservation
  • impacts of changing river flows
  • effectiveness of fish passage facilities at hydro dams
  • conservation strategies for fisheries including stocking

View details on the RLI research staff

View details on the RLI research publications

Projects and Activities

River Carron Research Project

Compilation and analysis of historical data sets, rearing and stocking of salmon, analysis of genetic data and modelling of stocking impacts, on the River Carron in Wester Ross, Scotland. The River Carron Research Project was formally established in August 2009 but is founded on the long standing work of salmonid aquaculture expert and River Carron Project Manager, Bob Kindness of Inverness College UHI.

SALSEA-MERGE Follow-on Project

The RLI is involved in the analysis and publication on the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization (NASCO) sponsored and EU funded SALSEA-MERGE project results.  The molecular genetic baseline on European Atlantic salmon stocks was developed to assign marine samples to region of origin and advance understanding of the species’ marine ecology and factors underlying marine mortality.  At recent project meetings in Geilo, Norway, the application of the genetic baseline application in new studies of salmon caught in the Faroese and West Greenland fisheries has shown that 15-20% of Faroese fish are of North American origin while the majority of European fish in West Greenland (~60%)are from Britain and Ireland.  A number of new publications have been submitted and further publications are in preparation.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Study

The RLI led study for Fisheries and Oceans Canada examined the potential genetic impacts on wild Atlantic salmon stocks in Newfoundland as a result of importation and use of European farm strains of Atlantic salmon in the local aqauculture industry.  The study involved an international group of scientists. (see publications)

MDA Contract

A critical scientific review of the way molecular genetic information is used in the definition of conservation units is being undertaken.  Led by Aberdeen University this review will be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal for publication within the next 3 months.


RLI attended a Nordic Council of Ministers, NordForsk workshop on their research programme “Climate effects on primary industries” in  Copenhagen 16 – 17 October 2013, the programme of which NORDCHAR is a part. RLI, an associate partner in NORDCHAR, has provided technical backup to the lead Icelandic Partner, Matis.  The analyses of mitochondrial DNA variation of Arctic charr and its adaptive response to climate change, is currently in the final stages.  RLI, which has provided samples of Scottish charr for this Holarctic study, is contributing to this analysis.

SALARC (Atlantic Salmon Adaptation Research Consortium)

The RLI is producing a popular science review document describing case studies of salmon restoration from across Europe for SALARC and is involved in the organisation of the SALARC annual meeting, which is to be held in Scotland at Berridale in June 2014.

Meetings Attended

Des Saumon et des Homme2” Collouque International

10-12 October, Brioude, France

  • presentation by RLI Director, Prof. Eric Verspoor, entitled “Review of Salmon Restoration Programmes in Europe”, an overview arising from the SALARC Project.
  • exploratory talks with individuals associated with the French “Marathon du saumon” festival in relation to the development of the Inverness Salmon Festival.


AST-IBIS Stocking Meeting

27-28 November, Glasgow, Scotland

  • two presentations by RLI Director, Prof. Eric Verspoor, entitled “The Importance of genetics - an explanation of salmon genetics, including population structure and natural adaptation” and “The Carron – understanding the role of stocking in stock recovery”
  • development with other scientists of a consensus view on the science related to salmon stocking


RLI Advisory Work

  • Tay Foundation Board
  • Loire-Allier Salmon Scientific Council : The RLI is a member of advisory panel of scientists reviewing Atlantic salmon restoration programme for the Loire-Allier.