Principle Research Officer, Wetland Science

olly.vanbiervliet@wwt.org.uk

About me

My eyes were opened to the importance of inter-relationships between freshwater environments and their catchments in 2007 while studying differences between invertebrate communities in streams surrounded by native vegetation and those that intersect tea plantations in the Usambara Mountains of Tanzania. This was one the experiences that brought me “inland” following my undergraduate degree in Marine Biology at the University of Liverpool (2004-2007). I then qualified as a teacher and taught high school biology and sports physiology and psychology for four enjoyable years before “returning to the water” to study the multi-disciplinary Aquatic Sciences MSc led the inspirational Professor Carl Sayer at UCL.

I then embarked on roles as both a Projects Officer with Norfolk Rivers Trust (NRT) and as a Visiting Lecturer at Saint Mary's University, London where I contributed to modules including: Water in the Environment, Process Geomorphology and Ecology and Conservation. During this time, at NRT, I project managed the installation, and studied the effectiveness of the first Integrated Constructed Wetland (ICW) on the UK mainland. Following this pilot study, ICWs have been constructed by both water companies and other Rivers Trusts. I then moved to South East Rivers Trust (SERT) where part of my role was to assess multiple interventions for improving urban water quality as well as building catchment partnerships and managing river restoration projects. It was a fantastic experience to be part of the SERT team, led by Dr Bella Davies, that achieved the first urban water body in the UK to reach Good Ecological Potential (Carshalton Arm, River Wandle).

Recently, for my PhD based at UCL/ the University of Stirling/ UK CEH, I studied the hydrological effects of beaver dams and built the first successfully calibrated and validated hydrological/hydraulic model to represent beaver dams. In additional to gaining a hydrological skillset, and an insight into how beaver dams cause their effects, this exposed me to one of the estates (Bamff Estate) leading the way in minimum-intervention and process-based rewilding. I am currently working on publications concerning beaver dam hydrology and rewilding. With the ink still drying on my PhD submission I was excited to join WWT in May 2022 where I am working on understanding how creating and restoring wetland environments on floodplains can enhance both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.

Work

I am a Principal Research Officer at WWT within the Wetland Science Team in the Conservation Evidence Department. As winged insects emerge from their larval (swimming/crawling) stages and fly into the air, previous research has shown that ponds provide “insect chimneys”. These “chimneys” of insects provide food for terrestrial species such as bats, spiders and swallows. Initially, my work at WWT involves further investigating the role that ponds on floodplains have in providing food resources (“aquatic subsidies”) that may support terrestrial insectivores as part of the Flourishing Floodplains project. I look forward to further developing research projects that relate to landscape-scale restoration (and rewilding) of aquatic habitats while considering the all-important interactions with the surrounding catchments. I very much enjoy collaborating with people and organisations, and look forward to working with partners in making the case for ambitious and evidence-based nature restoration.

Skills

  • Project management and delivery, such as physical habitat and water quality projects including aspects of design, risk management and financial management, and fundraising for research.
  • Hydrological/meteorological monitoring and analysis (including stream flow, soil hydrology, shallow groundwater and meteorological datasets), water quality monitoring and analysis and sediment surveys analysis.
  • Ecological monitoring (plant and invertebrate surveys) and topographic survey methods using a differential GPS and drones.
  • Hydrological and hydraulic modelling (using the coupled MIKE SHE / MIKE 11)
  • Coding in R statistical software (using this to automate data handling and analytical processes)
  • Currently developing a deeper understanding of process-based and minimum intervention rewilding approaches.

Publications

van Biervliet O, McInnes RJ, Lewis-Phillips J, Tosney J. (2020). Can an Integrated Constructed Wetland in Norfolk Reduce Nutrient Concentrations and Promote In Situ Bird Species Richness? Wetlands. 40: 967–981

van Biervliet, O, Wiśniewski, K, Daniels, J, & Vonesh, JR (2009). Effects of Tea Plantations on Stream Invertebrates in a Global Biodiversity Hotspot in Africa. Biotropica, 41(4), 469–475

PhD thesis (submitted for examination): The hydrological effects of the Eurasian Beaver (Castor fiber) in a UK headwater stream. Wetlands Research Unit, Department of Geography, University College London.

van Biervliet, O Gilbert, N, Beale Collins, L, Davies. (2016). London Total Suspended Solids Project, Technical Report supported by Defra. South East Rivers Trust and Thames 21.

van Biervliet, O, Webb, D, Davies, B (2015). Silt and Suds, Improving Water Quality in an Urban Environment. Technical Report for the Environment Agency assessing the effectiveness of pollution-reduction measures. South East Rivers Trust.

van Biervliet, O (2014). Five Water Framework Directive Catchment Plans: Rivers: Hun, Mun, Burn, Ingol, Heacham. Norfolk Rivers Trust.