Research and education

The Upper Mersey Estuary is a thriving and internationally-renowned Living Laboratory, offering us lots of opportunities to study our local environment. We are proud to have plenty of university research projects on a variety of topics active in the estuary, and we regularly welcome schools and colleges to visit and learn about the unique features of the area.

Some of our research projects are listed below. The research is guided and endorsed by our Biodiversity and Research Board, a panel of experts who are keen to promote innovative thinking and best practice.

Mersey seagrass project

One of our long–term goals here at MGET is to try and establish seagrass within the River Mersey.  Some of the exciting projects ahead include:

  • Feasibility studies
  • Experimental projects using ex-situ mesocosms
  • Developing a North West Seagrass Nursery
  • Citizen science/student projects assessing potential seagrass introduction sites
  • Phytoremediation

Saltmarsh management 

We use an evidence based approach when developing our long term management strategy for the Upper Mersey Estuary.
Some of our projects around the saltmarsh include:

  • Location specific condition assessment i.e what should a saltmarsh 17 miles inland look like?
  • Quantifying the importance of the Mersey saltmarsh for invertebrates
  • Saltmarsh vs reedbed: do we need to intervene and why/why not?
  • Regular vegetation and invertebrate surveys


MGET is currently working with our partners to try and understand the effects of microplastics within the estuary, through tracking microplastics through the Mersey catchment, using small scale removal methods of microplastics in tidal pools, and identifying if the saltmarsh and reedbeds act as a reservoir for microplastics.

European smelt

This species was considered extinct within the estuary. Surveys commissioned by MGET detected small numbers of smelt in 2018, 2019 and 2021.

Future projects include:

  • Assessing smelt numbers and breeding status within the River Mersey
  • Exploring relatedness between north west smelt populations
  • Species specific habitat suitability surveys


This PhD project is focusing on developing a rapid, accurate, cost-effective species monitoring method in the Mersey using environmental DNA (eDNA: i.e., DNA extracted from environmental samples such as water, soil, and air). Organisms release eDNA particles into their surroundings in a plethora of different forms, ranging from faeces and urine to epithelial cells in external mucus, sloughed scales, and gametes. The collection and analysis of eDNA samples for this project will be used to highlight species diversity and community structures, and to better understand the migratory patterns of several key returning species (e.g., Atlantic salmon Salmo salar, European eel Anguilla anguilla).

Natural Capital 

A PhD on the Natural Capital approach in the Upper Mersey looking into detail how the needs of people and nature can be balanced in the future. The approach includes ecosystem service mapping, ground truthing and stakeholder interaction.

You can read more about Natural Capital in Lucy’s paper here.

Salmon in the Mersey

A Masters study looked for the presence of salmon in the Mersey and the success of monitoring without manual handling of the fish. This included the analysis of data from a fish pass camera, as well as eDNA – tiny fragments of mitochondrial DNA that can detect where a species might have been present from a few days up to a few months.

Shrimp research

A number of separate yet connected shrimp projects were carried out by the University of Salford. Undergraduates, masters and PhD students carried out research projects on the various aspects of the life history of the shrimp and its adaptation to the environment.

Two papers have been published on Crangon crangon written by researchers of the University of Salford. Read for yourself here and here.

 Carbon sequestration

A PhD project looking at how carbon sequestration and climate change mitigation are closely linked. The project aimed to assess the distribution of soil organic carbon found in the Upper Mersey Estuary, considering the various contamination levels and current habitat types.

By understanding the dynamics of carbon sequestration in the estuary, we can adapt our management according to the newest science and local circumstances to support carbon sequestration in the estuary.

Remote Sensing in estuaries

This PhD project looked at the use of remote sensing techniques in estuaries and models of sea level rise. This can help to inform how we want to manage habitats in the long-term and what conservation techniques are appropriate for remote settings.

Rewilding in the estuary

This Masters project looked into the possibilities of rewilding small pockets of urbanised land within the Upper Mersey Estuary, illuminating the drivers and barriers of the natural and social processes pertaining to the rewilding of the Upper Mersey Estuary shaped by direct and indirect human activities.

Ecosystem Services

Ecosystem services are an important element in understanding what nature does for us and what we need to do to protect and enhance its value. This PhD study looked into the ecosystem service provision of the Upper Mersey Estuary, and how these might change under several scenarios. The project will help us to manage the estuary under an ecosystem approach, and adapt our long-term management to the needs of nature and society.