£1.1 million UKRI Future Leader Fellowship – Dr Kate Mathers

Geography and Environment at Loughborough University will welcome back an outstanding researcher who has been awarded a prestigious Future Leaders Fellowship from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), receiving funding for her project worth £1.1 million.

Dr Kate Mathers recently completed her PhD in the Department of Geography, and will return as a UKRI Future Leader Fellow. This scheme aims to support new and innovative research leaders with links across different sectors and disciplines by awarding early-career researchers with funding of between £400k-£1.5 million across four years.

This grant will support the recipient with their challenging and ambitious project as well as their career development, covering the costs of equipment and team members’ wages amongst other needs.

Dr Mathers’ Fellowship will support her research on freshwater ecosystems, one of the most endangered habitats in the world. One of the primary causes of reduced riverine ecosystem health is the loss of habitat linked to excessive fine sediment deposition (particles less than 2mm). Although a natural part of river systems, changes to land use over time, such as intensive farming and hydrological extremes caused by climate change, have significantly increased the quantity of fine sediment found in river channels. This causes the habitat to become unsuitable for flora and fauna to thrive in, affecting all components of the food chain.

Dr Mathers’ research project aims to understand which environmental factors influence the severity of fine sediment effects for river communities, to provide a framework which determines where and when rivers are most at threat from fine sediment pressures, within the UK and across the world.

Her research will focus on macroinvertebrates such as insects and crustaceans, and she will work alongside agencies such as the Environment Agency of England, Scottish Environmental Protection Agency and the River Restoration Centre. The research will have important ramifications for how stakeholders effectively use resources, monitor and manage UK riverine ecosystems to produce optimal conservation and restoration plans.

Dr Mathers added: “I am incredibly grateful and delighted to be awarded a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship. Having worked on the ecological consequences of fine sediment within rivers for over nine years, I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to pursue this further and to work with some of the leading researchers and industry partners across the world.

“I am looking forward to the opportunities but also the challenges that such a flexible and sizable fellowship award brings with it. I would like to extend a huge thank you to all my collaborators and mentors who I have worked with over the years and the project partners and colleagues who assisted in getting the proposal over the finish line, which was no small feat!”

Sir Mark Walport, Chief Executive of UK Research and Innovation, commented: “The Future Leaders Fellowships are UKRI’s flagship talent programme, designed to foster and nurture the research and innovation leaders of the future.

“We are delighted to support these outstanding researchers and innovators across universities, research organisations and businesses."