Supporting and Funding Research


The Technical Advisory Panel (TAP) supported the Vitacress Conservation Trust (VCT) in identifying, scoping, scrutinising and overseeing research projects aligned to delivery of the Trust’s objectives:

Preserve and conserve wildlife and habitats associated with watercress and other salad crops for the public benefit

To undertake research and analysis into wildlife associated with chalk streams and other habitats associated with watercress and other salad crops and to disseminate the useful results for the public benefit with a view to increasing public knowledge and awareness thereof

Research initiatives deemed worthy of progressing were recommended to the VCT Trustees as projects to fund and the appropriate subsequent management of those projects was overseen by the TAP on behalf of the Trust.

2013 Forum

The TAP representation comprises:

  • Dr Steve Rothwell (Chair), VCT Trustee and Vitacress Limited.
  • Graham Roberts, VCT Trustee and Chair of the Upper Itchen Initiative.
  • Dr Pete Shaw, University of Southampton and Chair of the Bourne Rivulet Initiative.
  • Matthew Norris-Hill, Sparsholt College.
  • Dr Ben Rushbrook, Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust.


Measuring and Optimising Multiple Ecosystem Services Provided by Chalk Streams

Jen Ball, University of Southampton

Phosphorus in the perennial headwaters of chalk streams

Funded by the Vitacress Conservation Trust, the Test and Itchen Association, and the University of Southampton’s Faculty of Engineering & the Environment. Other partners include the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, Environment Agency, and the Campaign to Protect Rural England. View the latest on this research project here.

Test & Itchen Winterbourne PhD

This project is a collaboration between Nottingham Trent University (NTU), the Environment Agency (EA), The Vitacress Conservation Trust (VCT) and the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust (HIWWT). The goal is to better understand the ecology of temporary chalk streams – Winterbournes – dynamic ecosystems valued for recreation, water quality and biodiversity, but also subject to many human pressures. This improved understanding will underpin enhanced monitoring and management to better protect Winterbourne biodiversity and ecosystem functioning.

The first chapter of Kieran’s thesis was published late 2022, which you can read here. The paper uses a citizen science habitat survey to characterise riverine habitats. The team and Kieran then used the habitat surveys to predict how many species should be present and how rare they might be. They detail how this may help to monitor and guide management of riverine habitats (e.g. by allowing a prediction of terrestrial richness, even when terrestrial critters can’t be sampled because the winterbourne is flowing). View the latest on this research project here.


The fractionation of phosphorus in UK chalk stream surface waters and its relevance to the regulation and management of water quality

Shaw, Leung and Clarke published their findings on phosphorus in UK chalk stream surface waters in July 2021 in the Journal of Environmental Management.

Key findings include:

  • Monitoring P in rivers should be viable for regulators and scientifically meaningful.
  • P in chalk streams is mainly in soluble and reactive form, and routinely monitored.
  • Non-regulated forms typically account for 15–20% of reactive P in chalk streams.

The Effect of Watercress Farming on Fish Populations

Asa White, a VCT sponsored PhD student at the University of Brighton, conducted a research project to determine the impacts that discharges from watercress bed irrigation and salad wash effluent may have on fish populations. 

Watercress and Water Quality: The Effect of Phenethyl Isothiocyanate on the Mating Behaviour of Gammarus pulex

In 2008, Melanie Dixon, a student at the University of Southampton, supervised by Dr Pete Shaw, embarked on a three year study, which addressed three main themes:

  • How and why water used in watercress production and processing affects ecosystems in receiving streams.
  • The potential for on-site mitigation of ecological impacts of PEITC.
  • How the artificially maintained discharges from the St Mary Bourne site can be used to benefit local habitats and biodiversity.

Our Other Activities…



Our forums encourage discussion and new ideas for the management of the wellsprings of some of Europe’s most ecologically important rivers.

Riverfly Monitoring Initiative


From river monitoring to supporting wildlife populations, we hold many ongoing projects that involve local schools and communities. Learn about our past projects and ongoing research.