Mapping whitewater rivers in the Balkans

Mapping whitewater rivers in the Balkans

Mapping whitewater rivers in the Balkans

Supervised by: 
David Farò
Prof. Guido Zolezzi 
Prof. Davide Geneletti
At the: University of Trento, Department of Civil, Environmental and Environmental Engineering

Performed as: Master thesis

Duration: 6 months (can be discussed, depending on study programme), ideally starting in February/March


The Balkan Peninsula is home to many of the last free-flowing rivers in Europe. These rivers are hotspots of biodiversity, but also provide a variety of ecosystem services for locals and a wider society. They are an essential part of the life and identity of local communities, and attract visitors from abroad for their recreation opportunities and beautiful landscapes. Currently, many of these rivers are under threat due to the planned construction of more than 3000 dams in the region. The cultural ecosystem services (CES; such as recreation, landscape aesthetics, and identification) that will be strongly affected by dam construction, are often not considered in the decision-making process of hydropower development.

In this thesis, you will develop hydro-morphologically based indicators to map and assess whitewater recreation potential (for e.g. canoeing, kayaking, rafting) of Balkan Rivers, with a focus on the Sava catchment. Hydro-morphological descriptors  (such as channel width, average slope and habitat heterogeneity) will be assessed using a combination of remote sensing, citizen science and field surveys.

You will have the opportunity to participate in a field measurement and citizen science campaign on the Sava river and its tributaries in May 2020, organized in collaboration with Balkan River Defence ( and River Intellectuals (


  1. Map hydro-morphology and whitewater conditions for the Sava River and its tributaries
  2. Develop hydro-morphologically based indicators for whitewater recreation potential


  • Background in environmental engineering, environmental science, geography, landscape ecology, or similar
  • Knowledge of GIS (e.g. ArcGIS or QGIS) and statistical programming (e.g. R, python, matlab)
  • Knowledge of a local language (e.g. Croatian, Serbian, Slovenian) and kayaking/rafting experience are an advantage. 

Did this project catch your attention?!

For more info, send an email to: