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Delivering long-term change for Bristol


Improving availability, access and use


New technology could improve future flood forecasting


Living on the sharp end of environmental uncertainty

Cabot Institute

I have just celebrated my first anniversary as Director of the Cabot Institute. It has been an exhilarating year characterised appropriately enough by change but also by expansion of our community both within and beyond the University. The breadth of talent and interest is profound, and we have met brilliant academics in every faculty and over twenty schools. Importantly, this community continues to grow; over a dozen new academics have joined the Cabot Institute in the past year, with expertise in urban resilience, biogeochemistry, political economy, seismic risk and environmental philosophy.

We have harnessed that energy and growth by launching International Development and Policy Engagement working groups, which are building new communities to position us more strongly with our partners across the globe. We have also met with over 50 external partner organisations - including industry, government and NGOs in order to build the relationships required to conduct truly novel and engaged research.

The next year looks even more exciting. We will build on our contributions to understanding past and future climate change during the lead-up to the COP21 climate negotiations in Paris. We will create a dynamic forum in which academics, business leaders and policymakers can share and develop ideas. We will continue to expand and train our postgraduate population via new collaborations and international partnerships.

This growth of the Cabot Institute community has been facilitated by our excellent team. Working alongside this dynamic group of people has been a profound pleasure and made my first year as Director far easier - and appear far smoother - than I could have hoped for.

We are also planning numerous events as part of the Bristol European Green Capital in 2015. We are working with artists, the City Council, community groups and businesses to foster a culturally and intellectually rich 2015 and to use Bristol’s unique creativity to better understand our increasingly uncertain world. We are also working with the City of Bristol and civic and industry partners to launch a new collaborative framework for innovation and learning together.

Thanks must also go to numerous members of Research and Enterprise Development, the Campaigns and Alumni Relations Office and Professional Services, who have been essential to our accelerated growth over the past 12 months. Particular thanks go to Professor Sir John Beddington, who has challenged and encouraged us, and whose advice has helped us build vital new relationships. Our expanding team, the wider academic community and our deeper partnerships will be essential to tackling the risk, security and resiliency challenges we face in the coming years. We will continue to build from our successes, some of which are described inside this issue. We are using drones to monitor the Fukishima disaster site; helping to provide energy, food, and water security in East Africa; providing advice to the Government and re-insurance industry on increasingly complex flood risks; and working with Small Island States that are experiencing the sharp end of environmental uncertainty.

Our ambitions go beyond 2015 though. The year ahead will be a celebration of our successes, but it will also be a platform for learning, challenging and changing our city - as well as the wider world.

Professor Rich Pancost, Cabot Institute Director

CONTENTS page 2 page 4 page 8 page 12 page 16

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Welcome Food Climate Flooding Working internationally

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Working locally Supporting innovation After Fukushima Cabot Institute in numbers Contact us


What we do at the Cabot Institute

Credit: Robert Crowe Team members from left to right: Mike Harris, Amanda Woodman-Hardy, Rich Pancost, Hayley Shaw and Amanda Gray.

The Cabot Institute fuels scientific exploration in response to some of the most pressing global challenges. Food, water, low carbon energy, global change, natural hazards and future cities are the central themes that bind our research community. We connect people, disciplines and initiatives to catalyse new ideas and maximise our impact. Drawing together experts from across six faculties (engineering, science, social sciences and law, arts, medicine and dentistry, and medical and veterinary sciences), we are now connected to over 600 researchers and academics. In response to this unprecedented growth, we have invested in new resources and skills to help our community thrive. We have new capacity to engage with businesses (Mike Harris) and city stakeholders (Philippa Bayley), offer administrative and event support (Amanda Gray), widen our outreach through events and communications (Amanda Woodman-Hardy), develop student opportunities for community based learning (Hannah Tweddell) and capture our impact (Nayuta Shoji). It is with this renewed energy and skill that we move into 2015 - ready to make a profound local impact during Bristol’s year as European Green Capital, and a major international impact through cutting-edge research and engagement. By listening to, exploring with, and challenging our stakeholders, we seek to develop a shared response to 21st Century challenges. Hayley Shaw, Cabot Institute Manager

Our research themes

In the knowledge economy, creating meaningful long-term partnerships is the foundation for success. These partnerships help transform research into usable solutions for industry while directing resources into priority areas. The Cabot Institute’s corporate engagement programme explores and directs industry partners interested in pursuing significant, multi-year, multi-disciplinary involvement with the Institute. The aim is to develop alliances that address broad needs and interests for mutual benefit. In response to demand, the Cabot Institute is launching a new Corporate Club in 2015. This is a forum for club members, leading academics, and invited leaders from the public and private sector to explore and exchange ideas that will help define future academic research and its value. Knowledge exchange and impact will be embedded throughout its activities. For the Cabot Institute’s academic community, the club will cultivate relationships that support internationally acclaimed research and education to produce impactful outcomes and high calibre graduates with industry exposure. Furthermore, connecting people with overlapping interests from a variety of backgrounds and viewpoints will continue to foster the interdisciplinarity that thrives within the Cabot Institute. If you are interested in connecting with the Cabot Institute, please contact cabot-business@bristol.ac.uk

Editor’s note




This is my third year as editor of the Cabot Institute’s magazine and it has been wonderful to watch it evolve. With each year we have become more confident in our process, yet our biggest struggle has not diminished with experience - deciding what to include in each issue. I continue to be amazed by the breadth of research carried out by members of the Cabot Institute. My message this year is simply that for every story that appears on these pages, please remember there are a dozen more that are equally interesting. We will get to them all... eventually! Nicola Temple, Editor

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Credit: Mark Bolton

Food security is one of the Cabot Institute’s most vibrant research communities. We are finding ways to feed humans and animals sustainably whilst managing the increasing uncertainties associated with global food production. Our researchers have a broad depth of knowledge that ranges from plough to plate, from science to policy, from local to global. Here we look at the breadth of research under our food security theme and how interdisciplinary and collaborative approaches are helping build resilient food systems for the future.

CREATING RESILIENT FOOD SYSTEMS Food security is built on three pillars: availability, access and use. Amanda Woodman-Hardy and Sarah Jose explore how Cabot Institute members are collaborating to help build resilient food systems that could improve availability and access to food in the future. Concerns over food security have existed throughout our history. When Charles Dickens wrote Oliver Twist to demonstrate the plight of the poor in 19th century workhouses, there were an estimated 1.2 billion people on the planet and food security issues were rife. Today, there are 7.2 billion people and over 870 million of them are still affected by food poverty. Food security remains one of society’s greatest threats.

Building resilience through disease-resistant livestock Credit: Eric Morgan

Dr Eric Morgan, in the School of Veterinary Sciences, is looking at breeds that are naturally more disease resilient in order to reduce routine drug treatment of livestock.

Future climate patterns will likely lead to unpredictable parasite infection events; milder temperatures may prolong the infectious season for some parasites, for example. Climate based models can help Romney sheep are more resistant to disease. predict parasite disease risk, but increased resilience to parasites is urgently needed to combat the problem. It’s a strategy that comes with a compromise most farmers are unable or unwilling to make - less intensive farming with more resilient, but slower growing, locally traded breeds. Sheep breeds, such as Easycare, Charmoise or improved Romney, for example, are more resistant to disease but grow more slowly than more popular breeds, which currently make them a less economically viable choice. Farmers of the future, however, may be forced into growing more sustainable breeds if drugs start to fail and we have a limited ability to replace them. “In recent decades we have made rapid genetic improvements in the productivity of sheep and cattle breeds”, said Eric. “These advancements were made in a situation where we had excellent parasite control, but we can’t rely on these conditions for the future. That is why we’re studying how genetic resistance to parasitic disease can help mitigate intense and unpredictable disease threats that happen as a consequence of climate change and drug failure.” Eric is working with farmers as well as international governments to make sure his research findings feed into better practices and policies.

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Sharing information to improve global wheat production Overcoming food insecurity requires a collective global response – people working together and sharing information. With over 97 per cent of countries reliant on wheat as a staple crop, we need to work efficiently to improve the resilience of wheat species to environmental change and disease. This is notoriously hard to do because of the complexity of the wheat genome. Cabot Institute researchers and their collaborators were among the first in the world to sequence a large portion of the bread wheat genome and make this information freely available through the development of an online searchable database, named CerealsDB. The database also hosts data on molecular markers, which act like DNA bookmarks for traits of interest, such as disease resistance, high yield and drought tolerance. These markers are used in breeding programmes to screen thousands of plants for desirable traits early in their development, which saves time and resources in the improvement of wheat crops.

The researchers, in the School of Biological Sciences, have now identified hundreds of thousands of molecular markers for a diverse range of wheat species, all of which are available on CerealsDB. These markers have been adopted as industry standards and are being used in plant breeding programmes around the world. “When data is shared, effort is not duplicated and every contribution counts. We hope that by making our data available without restriction, we will encourage other wheat geneticists to do the same.” said Dr Amanda Burridge, Research Assistant with the Cereal Genomics Group. CerealsDB is available at cerealsdb.uk.net



Supporting local communities in developing local food systems Local food systems aim to improve the economic and social health of communities and link those living in poverty with healthy, sustainable food. The Soil, Seeds and Social Change project - seed-funded by the Cabot Institute - is taking a collaborative approach to understanding local food links in both rural and urban settings. The researchers are working with local experts in a rural community in El Salvador and an urban community in Bristol to examine how different approaches are being used to create social change and establish control over food systems. Dr Naomi Millner and Dr Mark Jackson, both from the School of Geographical Sciences, are the project leads for El Salvador and Bristol, respectively. In both locations, Naomi says “people are experimenting for social change through the way they produce food”. New, transnational networks between small-scale agricultural producers are working to defend traditional ecologically robust agricultural practices, whilst also pioneering innovative ways of sharing and testing agricultural know-how. The project encourages knowledge sharing between diverse experts and explores how this expertise can be used to empower collective solutions to food poverty and environmental change. As individuals and communities take ownership of their own local small scale food production (eg, permaculture) and gain independence from larger governing bodies, such as NGOs, government and large scale industrial farming, they also reduce their reliance on the state and charities to provide food. To find out more about this project, including how you can support it, visit soilseedsandsocialchange.org

Credit: Naomi Millner

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Food poverty is a local issue

Eight strategies for rearing livestock sustainably

By Patricia Lucas

Credit: Fareshare Oxfam reported a 54% per cent increase in the number of people using food banks in 2013/14 over the previous year.

The implications of the increase in food poverty in the UK are worrying. Food poverty is about having nutritious food, as well as having enough food. Families with children and households with lower incomes consume less fresh fruit and vegetables, skimmed milk, fish, fruit juices and breakfast cereals, despite spending a greater proportion of their income on food than those who are better off. Poor diet, particularly during childhood, is a major contributor to lifelong poor health. Diets low in fruit, vegetables and fibre and high in sugar, salt and saturated fat are associated with adult cancer, coronary heart disease and diabetes. Children with poor nutrition are more likely to experience tooth decay, be overweight and develop diabetes, and their capacity to learn may be compromised. Global economic forces have driven up food costs while driving down income. In the UK, food prices increased by around 12% in real terms between 2007 and 2012, and more so for fresh fruit (23%) and vegetables (24%). At the same time, the number of people in the UK living in poverty has increased in the last 30 years. The number of people lacking three or more “necessities of life” has increased from 14% in 1983, to 33% in 2012. In tough economic times, people’s food purchasing decisions change – shifting away from nutritionally rich foods, such as fruit and vegetables, and toward calorie dense foods, such as processed foods. Families, particularly those on the lowest incomes, seek out cheaper food and meals children are certain to eat, which are often less healthy.



½ million adults


Local policy also has an impact on food poverty. Changes to the welfare system (such as replacing cash loans for people in financial crisis in the UK with food bank vouchers) can push families into using food banks. Food banks are an important emergency provision, but they tackle hunger not poor nutrition, nor the causes of food poverty. Conversely, there is evidence that the UK Healthy Start scheme, which provides vouchers that low income families can use to buy milk, fruit and vegetables, does help families to afford nutritious food, and helps broaden children’s diets. The links between global food insecurity and local food poverty are complex, and food access depends on local social and political context. A resilient food system will be one that provides food which is sufficient, nutritious and affordable for all. Dr Patricia Lucas is a Senior Lecturer in the School for Policy Studies and member of the Cabot Institute. In 2012/2013 Patricia led a review of the Healthy Start scheme, commissioned by the Department of Health, which provided evidence of its high uptake by eligible families, analysed the scheme’s strengths and shortcomings, and offered recommendations for its further improvement. She is the co-lead for the Bristol Network for Early Years Health and Wellbeing (BoNEE), which is improving the health and wellbeing of young children across Bristol.

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Globally we are consuming more animal protein in our diets. This is partly due to an expanding middle class in developing countries, but also because one billion of the world’s poor rely on livestock for their livelihoods.




There are many nutritional benefits to eating animal products - children require high quality protein for their cognitive development, for example. While some animals, such as pigs and chickens, are reared on grains that could be fed to humans, ruminants, such as cattle and sheep, convert inedible forage, such as grass, into protein. Professor Mark Eisler and Dr Michael Lee, both from Bristol’s School of Veterinary Sciences, are exploring strategies for rearing ruminant animals more sustainably. In March 2014, Mark and Michael worked with colleagues to outline eight strategies to cut the environmental and economic costs of rearing these animals while also improving the quality and quantity of the food they produce. The eight strategies detailed in their Nature paper are:

1. Feed animals less human food 2. Raise regionally appropriate animals 3. Keep animals healthy 4. Adopt smart supplements 5. Eat quality not quantity 6. Tailor practices to local culture 7. Track costs and benefits 8. Study best practice The full paper, Steps to sustainable livestock, can be found in the 6 March 2014 issue of Nature (Vol 507: 32-34).

Global Farm Platform launched Since their publication, Mark and Michael have launched the Global Farm Platform - a network of individual model farms, which will be used to investigate and promote these strategies for rearing livestock sustainability. From the North Wyke Farm Platform in the temperate grasslands of the UK to Thiruvazhamkunnu Farm in the humid tropics of India, these locations not only represent different climatic zones, but also a wide range of production systems, cultures and socioeconomic situations. On 19 September 2014, the University of Western Australia became the first partner institution to sign a joint Statement of Intent, which outlines a plan to use this global network to develop solutions to the challenges of rearing ruminant livestock sustainably. The Statement was developed by delegates at a Worldwide Universities Network (WUN) workshop held in Perth, Australia, who represented ten universities and research institutes from six continents. To learn more about the Global Farm Platform, please visit the website at globalfarmplatform.org

Credit: Nadine Mitchunas

From our allotments to our city farms – pollinators are critical to food production and if we want to build local food systems, we need to encourage pollinators in our urban habitats. The Urban Pollinators project, led by Cabot Institute member Jane Memmott, Professor of Ecology at the University of Bristol, has been investigating pollinators in urban centres around the UK for three and a half years. It is the first national study to assess the biodiversity of pollinators in urban areas – not only putting it in context of the surrounding rural landscape, but also mapping urban biodiversity hot-spots. Furthermore, the team is testing if the addition of flower meadows improves pollinator diversity and abundance in urban habitats. In September 2014, the project team shared their research findings with over 100 practitioners – including city council ecologists, parks and green space managers and Wildlife Trusts conservationists. Though the project has involved local authorities and Wildlife Trusts from its outset, this was the first step in sharing the findings and recommendations with the wider practitioner community. “The team, working under the jointly-funded Insect Pollinators Initiative, has come up with some really important findings about how urban habitats are good for pollinators and ways these habitats can be improved,” said conference attendee Dr Sarah Webster, Head of the UK Biodiversity Policy Unit at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. “The project findings and practical advice will be tremendously helpful in taking forward the National Pollinator Strategy, developing proposals for Bristol Green Capital 2015 and meeting a range of challenges faced by practitioners, from local authority staff to gardeners.” To learn more about the project, visit urbanpollinators.org

Bee2B: sharing pollinator findings with businesses Dr Katherine Baldock has been the post-doctoral researcher for the Urban Pollinators project since it began in 2011; she has developed protocols, coordinated and trained field teams and led the data analysis. Now she is embarking on a three year Knowledge Exchange Fellowship funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, and supported by the Cabot Institute, which will enable her to share the project findings with a wider audience. The Urban Pollinators project is already working closely with local authorities, but Katherine’s KE Fellowship will allow her to take their findings to businesses and gardeners. Car parks and private gardens account for a considerable portion of the urban environment. These land owners can therefore make a substantial contribution to improving it for pollinators. “We need to consider providing incentives for businesses,” said Katherine, “and this may simply be increased public recognition, especially here in Bristol with it being European Green Capital in 2015.” Katherine will also use the Fellowship to engage more with decision makers. The scientific evidence gathered from this national project will support development of the UK’s National Pollinators Strategy. Businesses that wish to engage in the project by creating habitat for pollinators, either on their premises or by sponsoring sites on public land, please contact Katherine at k.baldock@bristol.ac.uk


It will be enormously beneficial to work with the Cabot Institute in knowledge exchange and impact work because they have extensive knowledge and experience – particularly in terms of informing policy and making links with other departments in the university. Dr Katherine Baldock


Urban pollinators key to urban food production

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Our members are making significant contributions not only to our understanding of how the Earth’s climate is changing, but also how plants and animals, and human societies, are responding to these changes. We are engineering solutions to mitigate the effects of climate change and building predictive tools and models to help visualise our possible futures. Most importantly, we are talking about climate change - we are speaking with government, industry and the public to make sure our science is in the minds of those who need it.

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COMMUNICATING CLIMATE SCIENCE Climate science is complex. Difficult terminology and scientific uncertainty can create confusion and a sense of hopelessness. Hayley Shaw explores why we need to be more effective in how we communicate climate change and the scientific uncertainty that surrounds it - and how wizards and hobbits can help.

The Climate of Middle Earth - A fusion of literary heritage and cutting edge climate science Professor Dan Lunt, School of Geographical Sciences, has over fifteen years of experience developing and running climate and Earth system models in order to address questions related to past and future climate change. Last year, Dan won a grant from the Natural Environment Research Council to explore three key questions:

1. 2.

Action in the face of uncertainty Scientific uncertainty is frequently cited as a reason to delay action on climate change, but Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, Cabot Institute member and Chair in Cognitive Psychology in the School of Experimental Psychology, is making waves to change this through his research into the actual implications of scientific uncertainty surrounding climate change. Contrary to public perception, his recent work suggests that scientific uncertainty actually provides an incentive for action - under most circumstances, the greater the uncertainty, the greater the risk from climate change. It is increasingly important that we communicate climate uncertainty effectively and ensure that it is no longer an excuse for inaction. In September 2014, Stephan hosted an international conference that brought together scientists and practitioners to develop more effective means to communicate and deal with uncertainty in decision making. “Our research tells us that the public feel the scientific community is split in its opinion on anthropogenic climate change,” said Stephan, “but in reality, there is 97 per cent consensus that it is real and happening. We are keen to engage the public with the idea of consensus.” Over a two month period, Stephan, Professor Rich Pancost and their international collaborators (John Cook and Michael Mann), drew audiences of over 900 people for a series of public talks, and also contributed to the 97 hours of consensus campaign.

The Uncertain World



The uncertain world is not a complete unknown. As we look to the future, we have high confidence that temperature and sea level will rise, though there is uncertainty around how much and how quickly. In 2015, the Cabot Institute will host a variety of collaborative events, in Bristol and beyond, to explore how lessons from Earth’s past can help us predict potential futures; how future scenario planning can inform the decisions we make today; and most importantly, how we build the necessary flexibility into social structures to thrive in this uncertain world.


How did the changing physical landscapes from 145 million to 35 million years ago affect climate? During this same time period, what was the response of the Earth to a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations (ie, what was the Earth’s climate sensitivity)? How can we use the answers to these questions to understand modern climate sensitivity?

We know that changes in the physical landscapes - such as the continental positions, mountain extents and height, and ocean floor depth - have influenced climate and climate sensitivity in Earth’s past, but the extent is unknown. Dan’s work will provide fascinating insights into how our planet operates on long (multi-million year) timescales, using observations and models of past warm climates to predict future climate sensitivity. These insights could shape how we adapt to future climates, but the complex terminology and theoretical concepts associated with paeleogeography, climate science and geological periods such as the Cretaceous, makes engaging non-academic audiences notoriously difficult! Dan, however, resolved to make his research relevant and understandable to the layperson in an entirely unique way. As well as using models to simulate our Earth’s climate, he also carried out a simulation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth using the physical landscapes drawn by Tolkien in his books, such as The Lord of the Rings. Dan’s model simulation of the world inhabited by Tolkien’s elves, dwarves and hobbits allowed him to study the wind direction for elvish sailing boats, the effect of heat and drought on the vegetation of Mordor and the rain-shadow effects of the Misty Mountains. In addition, Dan compared the climates in today’s Earth with those of Middle Earth. He found that the climate of Tolkien’s Mordor was most similar to that of Los Angeles in today’s Earth while the climate of The Shire resembled that of Lincolnshire in the UK. The results of Dan’s simulations were published in a mock scientific paper (authored by the wizard “Radagast the Brown”) and distributed in a university press release. The release gained the immediate attention of the public. Over 13,200 people were reached by retweets within the first 45 mins of the release and 100,000 people were reached within the first 8 hours. The research was published in The Guardian, Scientific American, PBS, Daily Telegraph and over 35 other leading publications, in addition to stories on Heart FM and BBC Radio Bristol. The story was shared from the Guardian blog 5,400 times on Facebook alone. These figures show how creative communication can engage thousands of people in climate science. The serious project behind the Middle Earth exercise, however, is new climate science that will make huge leaps in our understanding of climate sensitivity. This knowledge will help us be better prepared for future climates, and through channels such as the IPCC, influence policy decisions for a more resilient future - even if we need a few wizards and hobbits to help us explain it all! For more information about Dan’s Middle Earth simulations, please visit bris.ac.uk/cabot/news/2013/390

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Credit: Katherine Mitchell

Cabot Institute members are engaging on climate with... ...government

...the public


Our members made significant contributions to all three working groups of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s Fifth Assessment Report - leading on the topics of changes in the cryosphere, sea level change, ocean systems, and agriculture, forestry and other land uses.

Our Director, Professor Rich Pancost, was part of the 97 Hours of Consensus campaign to raise awareness of how many climate scientists are in agreement about global warming. The campaign was retweeted by Barack Obama and reached 46 million people.

We are working with Arup to develop a new ‘Future Cities Collaboratory’ that will allow people in industry, academia, policy and the public to experiment with change together.

Dr Emma Stone hosted Dr Alan Pitt, Secretary for the Council for Science and Technology, at the University as part of the Royal Society’s Pairing Scheme that pairs scientists with parliamentarians. Dr Pitt said his visit to the University of Bristol transformed his view on science in action. Parasitology expert, Dr Eric Morgan, presented his report on the effects of climate change on parasite transmission in livestock to government officials from Uzbekistan and the UK in March 2014. Our External Advisory Board member, Claire Craig, is helping connect our research with decision makers. Claire leads the Government Office for Science, which ensures government decisions and policies are informed by scientific evidence and strategic long-term thinking.

Cabot Institute member Professor Jonathan Bamber appeared on the Emmy Award winning Brian Lehrer Show to discuss his latest research on sea level rise and the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

We are launching a corporate network that will galvanise our relationships with industry and deliver new insights on the latest climate, future cities, energy, food, natural hazards and water research to our partners.

We helped organise a live recording of two episodes of BBC Radio 4’s popular radio series Shared Planet. Presenter Monty Don and a special panel of guests discussed two critical questions concerning our rapidly expanding population and how this affects wildlife and the environment.

Working with the Willis Research Network, Cabot Institute academics have developed a new highly efficient formulation of a flood inundation model, which has been included in the extensive toolbox Willis uses to conduct climate related risk analysis.

Cabot Institute members provided a climate science plot for street theatre performed at Bristol Bright Night. Playwright Katherine Mitchell met with the academics to translate their research into original pieces of street theatre.

Academic and industry experts are joining forces to address some of the major engineering, scientific and societal challenges related to civil nuclear power generation as part of a new hub for nuclear energy research hosted by the University of Bristol. Industrial stakeholders include EDF Energy, the EDF Group, Areva, Sellafield Ltd and Rolls Royce.

Dr Tamsin Edwards discussed the importance of digital public engagement of climate change on Sky News. In February 2014, Professor Rich Pancost delivered his inaugural lecture about the global climate system through Earth’s history.

Rapid evolution in response to climate change The UK’s brown argus butterfly is evolving a narrower diet in response to recent climate change. Warmer conditions have enabled the butterfly to extend its habitat north in the UK and with this move it has developed a preferential taste for widespread wild Geranium, which is far more abundant in northern habitats. Specialisation - or a loss of adaptive variation - in a trait such as diet preference could compromise the species’ ability to adapt to future environmental change.

Credit: B.J. Schoenmakers

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Dr James Buckley and Cabot Institute member Dr Jon Bridle published these findings in the October 2014 issue of Ecology Letters (17 (10): 1316-1325).

Questioning current understanding of global warming Cabot Institute researchers and their colleagues challenged the widely held understanding that the Earth’s temperature in tropical regions has remained relatively stable over time. The researchers, led by our Director Professor Rich Pancost, used a combination of geochemical records to reconstruct sea surface temperatures in the South China Sea. They found that tropical sea surface temperatures were warmer sometime between five and three million years ago, when evidence suggests CO2 concentrations were elevated. These findings indicate that the tropics are not likely to escape the impacts of global warming. This research was originally published online in June 2014 in Nature Geoscience (7: 606-611).

Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) image of the fossilised shell of planktic foraminifer Globigerinoides ruber. Planktic foraminifera are a highly abundant group of unicellular calcifiers that live in surface or nearsurface waters of the open ocean. Credit: Richard Abell

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A succession of major storms in late 2013 and early 2014 resulted in severe flooding across the UK, with more than 6,000 properties flooded. Transportation infrastructure was affected, crops were lost and livestock had to be evacuated. Researchers within the Cabot Institute’s water theme are working on many aspects of flooding. Their research is improving the data used in flood models and forecasting, improving our understanding of how agricultural soils will respond to long-term inundation and developing tools that can be used globally to assess flood risk.

PRECIPITATING IMPROVEMENTS IN FLOOD FORECASTING From rating curves to cosmic rays, Nicola Temple looks at how Bristol research could help improve our ability to model and forecast floods in the future. January 2014 was the wettest winter month in the UK in almost 250 years - soil moisture was high, rains were relentless and people lost their homes, their farms... their livelihoods. Like any crisis, it was a time fraught with anger, frustration and desperation. People wanted answers, they wanted action and they wanted somewhere to lay blame. Cabot Institute academics were there, however, to remind us that flooding is not a straightforward issue with simple solutions. There are a multitude of complex causes underlying flooding events and Bristol researchers brought these into the discussion through the media - providing facts during a political and emotional public dialogue.

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The expertise offered by Bristol researchers stems from a foundation of world-class hydrological research and at the core of this are hydrometric data.These are the river flow, rainfall and groundwater measurements that feed into all hydrological models.The models used to estimate the extent of flood inundation or flood forecasting are only as good as the information put in and without robust data, the tools we use in decision-making are limited. Cabot Institute members are helping improve the quality of these data in two ways: they are looking back at historical data to assess their reliability and they are looking forward at new technologies that will provide data at scales that were previously impossible. Two very different approaches that could both help improve the future of flood forecasting.

How reliable are streamflow data in the UK? The answer could help calibrate flood models The UK has a network of approximately 1500 flow-measurement stations that provide data on the amount of water being discharged by streams throughout the country. These data inform how we manage our streams and, more generally, help to underpin water policy, management protocols and legislation.Yet, until now, the reliability of these measurements has not been considered in large-scale hydrological analyses. Researchers at Bristol have developed a framework that has quantified some of the uncertainty associated with these streamflow data, which is likely to have a significant impact for hydrology in the UK. Streamflow (or discharge) is estimated from water level using a rating curve, which is a model of the relation between streamflow and water level derived from measured data (see inset). The accuracy of this model, however, is affected by multiple uncertainty sources. Gemma Coxon, PhD student in the School of Geographical Sciences, and Dr Ida Westerberg, Marie Curie Research Fellow in the Faculty of Engineering, analysed data from over 500 gauging stations in England and Wales to derive an estimate of uncertainty for each location. By estimating the uncertainty in the measurement and the rating curve calculation, Gemma and Ida were able to add confidence limits to these curves at different flows. “There is an assumption behind the rating curves that discharge and water level have a perfect relationship,” explained Ida, “but this isn’t always the case and this is where uncertainty is introduced. Another source of considerable uncertainty is that the very highest and lowest flows can often go unmeasured, which means the rating curve needs to be extrapolated for those values.” The availability of measured data in combination with the local conditions at each gauging station not only affected the magnitude of discharge uncertainty between streams, but also within a single stream at different flow rates. For example, one location may have very high uncertainty associated with low flows, but confidence in the data improves as flow rate increases; another location may be the exact opposite. “We found a wide range of discharge uncertainties throughout England and Wales,” said Gemma. “In some cases the uncertainty range was more than 40 per cent for high flow points. In practice, this means that a return period flow of a river could be estimated at 100 cubic metres per second, when it could actually be as much as 120 cubic metres per second. This could mean the difference between a river overflowing its banks or not, so understanding and accounting for this uncertainty is critical for flood management as well as water resources planning more generally.” This is the first study of this kind in the UK and it’s likely to have a significant impact on hydrological modelling as well as practical applications in terms of calibrating predictive models, such as those used in flood forecasting.

The rating curve explained

Streamflow (Q)

Rating Curve

Stage-Discharge Measurement

Water Level (h)

It is not always possible to take direct measurements of streamflow and as a result hydrologists use a model known as a rating curve to estimate flow based on the water level of the river at the gauging station. The curve is derived using actual flow measurements that correspond with measured water levels; these measurements provide a scatter of data points to which the curve is fitted. This curve can then be used to estimate flow data from water level time series data. The rating curve is different for every river and needs to be updated if the relation between water level and streamflow changes. This could happen because of seasonal changes in vegetation, for example, but there is often uncertainty about when and how changes occurred. Infrequent flow measurements for a stream means that its rating curve is based on very few data points, which can introduce considerable uncertainty in terms of the reliability of the data.

New technologies for measuring soil moisture could improve future flood forecasting The amount of water in the soil determines how much rainfall infiltrates into the soil and how much runs off the landscape. Soil moisture content therefore plays a key role in the hydrological cycle and the models that simulate these processes. “Imagine you have a bucket,” explains Dr Rafael Rosolem, Lecturer in Water and Environmental Engineering in Bristol’s Faculty of Engineering. “You need to know how much water you can add to the bucket before it begins to overflow.You can add a lot less water to the system before the bucket overflows if it’s already half full. A hydrological model is similar.You need to know how much water is in the soil already before you can run a simulation to understand how much runoff will be associated with a rainfall, for example.” Despite its importance, our understanding of how individual physical factors control soil moisture dynamics has been limited by an inability to make measurements at relevant scales. However, Rafael, member of the Cabot Institute, is leading a new Natural Environment Research Council-funded project that uses new technology developed at the University of Arizona to monitor soil moisture at an unprecedented sub-kilometre scale. The technology uses a cosmic-ray sensor, which measures the number of neutrons that are directly associated with the amount of hydrogen in the system - a link that can be made based on the energy level of the neutrons. All other known sources of hydrogen can then be removed and what remains are the hydrogen atoms in the water contained by the soil. The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) has funding to put in place a national network of cosmic-ray neutron sensors to monitor soil moisture content at near realtime in the UK - part of the COsmic-ray Soil Moisture Observing System (COSMOS) UK initiative. Rafael is working closely with the CEH and, as part of his research, is helping evaluate the uncertainty associated with observations made with the new technology and how it compares with traditional pointscale measuring techniques and satellite remote sensing. Not only will Rafael’s research assist in understanding operational challenges associated with acquiring data from a new national network in more humid environments, such as in the UK, his findings will expand our understanding of soil moisture and its relationship with key hydrometeorological processes, including flooding, which could improve the quality of future flood forecasting.

Credit: Gemma Coxon

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How important is it for scientists to comment in the public debate?

It’s good to see that the wealth of academic expertise from the UK is finally being given a platform to put some expert opinion into what has been a political or emotional debate thus far. So refreshing to read a well-informed article... Thank you. You’ve restored my hope for the future.

Thanks so much for such an informative article. The public are being so badly let down by not getting access to this kind of knowledge from the media. This article is one of the few islands of sanity, in a flood of nonsense and uninformed opinion.

These and other comments associated with the article “Flood crisis: dredging is a simplistic response to a complex problem” (The Guardian, 12 February 2014), can be found online at theguardian.com/environment/2014/feb/12/flood-crisis-dredging-climate-change

Overcoming the conflicts of competing resource demands The challenges we face for the future - a changing climate, clean water and food scarcity, and a need for low carbon energy - seem immense when considered individually; combined, they can seem insurmountable.Yet not only do we face these challenges at once, but the positive steps we make in resolving one can impair our progress on another; growing more food, for example, will put unprecedented demands on our water sources. It is this area of conflicting demands that Professor Penny Johnes is interested in exploring as a member of the Cabot Institute. Penny joined the University of Bristol’s School of Geographical Sciences at the beginning of 2014. An environmental scientist by background, she has 25 years of experience working on the biogeochemistry of aquatic systems, and the impacts of food production and environmental change on the quality of inland and coastal waters. Penny’s ongoing research programmes use novel analytical and onsite monitoring technologies to understand fine scale fluctuations of nutrient transport in catchments as this varies from source to sea. This knowledge can be used to diagnose the stresses on these systems and how they might respond to upstream changes. Penny has advised the UK Government and international agencies on the nature, consequences and strategies for controlling nutrient fluxes from landbased sources in freshwater and coastal ecosystems. This has put her research findings directly in the hands of decision-makers, providing key scientific evidence to underpin the development of water management policy. This is particularly important with the pressures of securing food and energy in a period of marked global change. Working with researchers across diverse disciplines, Penny is looking for ways to overcome the inherent conflicts that arise from the competing demands of water, food and energy. It’s a reflection of her broad research interests. “I saw the potential at Bristol to bring all my research interests together,” said Penny. “My approach to research is very much aligned with a way of thinking that already exists at Bristol. There is a culture of conducting integrated research, encouraging new ideas and a real desire to work with others on these complex issues.”

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The following comments were received in response to a Guardian article on dredging, written by Cabot academics: Professor Paul Bates, Professor Penny Johnes (both Geographical Sciences), Professor Rich Pancost (Chemistry) and Professor Thorsten Wagener (Engineering). These comments speak to the importance of researchers providing facts and lending expertise to public discussions during the UK flood crisis:

Major award for water resources management Dr Francesca Pianosi, Research Associate in the Faculty of Engineering, received the European Geosciences Union 2015 Arne Richter Award for Outstanding Young Scientists. Francesca received the award for her work on mathematical models to advance the understanding of water systems and to support the sustainable management of water resources. The award is given annually to only four researchers across all areas of geosciences.

First students to get WISE In 2014, the first group of 16 students entered their four year PhD programs with the Centre for Doctoral Training in Water Informatics: Science and Engineering (WISE). The students are funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and are part of the GW4 collaboration between the University of Exeter, University of Bristol, Cardiff University and University of Bath. The WISE centre of excellence creates a strong research hub in the South West - building on the existing internationally competitive research programmes of each of the four institutions. WISE is the only UK doctoral programme focussed on computer applications in water science and engineering, which are needed for working in the current world of big data. The programme offers students an opportunity to undertake an optional industrial or overseas placement to spend three months engaging in industry-relevant research or working overseas with other world-leading institutions. To find out more about this programme, please visit wisecdt.org

A regional flood hazard map of South East Asia - one of the first regions SSBN completed using their global flood methodology.


Late in 2013, four members of Bristol’s Hydrology Research Group Dr Christopher Sampson, Dr Andrew Smith, Professor Paul Bates and Dr Jeffery Neal - formed the start-up company SSBN Ltd. The co-founders realised there was a need within the insurance and re-insurance industry for cost effective flood risk tools in areas of the world where there is little information on flooding. “The insurance and re-insurance industry is increasingly working in developing areas, such as South America and Southeast Asia,” said Andrew. “Insurance companies don’t have the information they need in these regions to assess flood risk. The Hydrology Group at Bristol is extremely good at building data-scarce models where there is very poor information and so our business idea was to build a global flood model using only satellite data. This would allow us to build models that simulate flooding all over the world.”

SSBN will translate the group’s extensive knowledge of the mechanisms behind flooding into the tools needed to make informed decisions around risk. However, contrary to most business models, SSBN aims to deliver these tools in an open and transparent way publishing every stage of product development. “This is a very different philosophy to other groups that do this type of work,” said Andrew. “Often clients are given a product of what’s been termed a black box model. In other words, the group provides the client a product without revealing how they got there.”

Eight months ago we were just lowly PhD students and now we’re speaking to people that we would never have otherwise been talking to at this early stage in our careers.


Start-up flows out of hydrology group

Andy Smith, Co-founder of SSBN Ltd.

In 2014, the SSBN team were finalists in the University’s New Enterprise Competition and the cash award was used to help get the business off the ground. The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) also supported the development of the business through their impact accelerator funding. Though SSBN’s target audience was originally the insurance and re-insurance industry, the team was soon approached by a far broader community. Collaborative work with Google integrated some of their flood hazard information into the widely-used Google Earth platform. A grant from NERC and further support from Google is helping the team develop global hazard flood map layers for Google Earth for 2015. SSBN also recently secured a contract with the World Bank to provide flood hazard data to some Caribbean governments. If you wish to learn more about SSBN and what they do, please visit their website at ssbn.co.uk and follow them on Twitter @ssbn_ltd

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There is huge potential to share our science on an international platform, but in order to be truly effective, scientists must understand and engage with local and global socio-political systems. There is a wealth of expertise across the university - 90 experts to date - who are learning from and learning with the developing world to build long-term resilience. The Cabot Institute is drawing together this expertise from across food, water, health and insecurity disciplines to share knowledge and experience on applying science in developing contexts to help increase our impact overseas.

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MoSSaiC: reducing landslide risk in vulnerable communities

Learning from the sharp end of environmental uncertainty in small island states by Terra Sprague and Michael Crossley

Developing countries in the tropics are highly susceptible to rainfall-triggered landslides. Rapid urbanisation forces many of the poorest people to build unauthorised homes in hazardous areas, such as steep hillsides. Densely populated communities are growing on these landslide-prone slopes, further increasing the risk of landslides. New approaches to reduce landslide risk in such vulnerable communities are urgently needed. What can the international community learn from the experience of environmental uncertainty in small islands? How can their distinctive encounters with climate change inform learning and adaptation in larger countries, international development agencies and multidisciplinary research communities? These are some of the questions being addressed by the Graduate School of Education’s Education in Small States Research Group (EiSSRG) global network. On the 17 and 18 of July 2014, the EiSSRG joined forces with the Cabot Institute and Sazani Associates - a Wales, Zanzibar and Belize based non-profit research and development organisation - to host over 100 researchers, policy makers and practitioners for a one-day conference and related one-day research planning workshop. The presentations emphasised the realities of living with environmental uncertainty in the small island states of the Caribbean, Indian Ocean and Pacific regions. Her Excellency Dame Pearlette Louisy, Head of State and Governor General of Saint Lucia, examined recent responses to climate change across the Caribbean region in her keynote address. Other plenary and breakout sessions shared recent developments in research, and practical interventions and adaptations spearheaded by universities, international agencies and aid organisations in small island states worldwide. The event is already having a positive impact through the establishment of a new UN-accredited Research and Development Partnership. Twenty-two organisations from the Bristol event and the EiSSRG membership have come together to support a wider global process for learning from the ‘sharp end’ experience of Small Island Developing States (SIDS). The EiSSRG, which is part of the Research Centre for International and Comparative Studies at the Graduate School of Education, serves as the Secretariat for this new Partnership, titled ‘Learning from the Sharp End of Environmental Uncertainty in SIDS’. The Sharp End Partnership supports collaborative research between UK and small state universities. Work being carried out with the University of the South Pacific is looking at the implications of environmental uncertainty and sustainable development for teacher education in the Pacific Islands. A second study is using qualitative and locally-grounded research methodologies to examine the concept of environmental resilience in small island states. The aim is to understand what resilience means from the SIDS perspective, including how it is learned and taught, with the intention of introducing this knowledge to the wider Western-dominated discourse on resilience.

Cabot Institute members, Dr Liz Holcombe and Professor Malcolm Anderson, both from the Department of Civil Engineering, are applying innovative hazard research to deliver on-the-ground landslide hazard reduction measures in developing countries. Physical geographers by training, Malcolm and Liz have had the opportunity to combine their hydrology and slope stability research with knowledge from community residents in order to determine localised urban landslide triggers. Mapping and modelling the slopes then allows networks of surface water drains to be designed and constructed - and the landslide hazard to be significantly reduced. “Working with community residents and local engineers to deliver practical solutions on the ground has shaped my approach as a scientist,” said Liz. “We’ve combined the science with a community-based and evidence-based approach that has led to new landslide risk reduction practice and policy.” The Management of Slope Stability in Communities (MoSSaiC) methodology has been taken up by the World Bank where it will be rolled-out to other countries at high risk of rainfall-triggered urban landslides. To learn more about MoSSaiC, please visit mossaic.org and watch the Cabot Institute-funded animation at youtube.com/watch?v=vEXBIwIx--A

The Sharp End Partnership will help facilitate global dialogue, contribute to theoretical advances and provide high level policy advice. It will develop interventions that strengthen Education for Sustainable Development in practice and for multidisciplinary work on the nature and potential of meeting people’s basic needs with what we already have - the blue economy. Global interest in this partnership continues to grow. To learn more about EiSSRG, please visit smallstates.net. Terra Sprague and Professor Michael Crossley are both members of the Graduate School of Education and the Cabot Institute. Michael is Professor of Comparative and International Education, Director of the Research Centre for International and Comparative Studies and Director of the EiSSRG, which celebrated its 20 year anniversary in 2014. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences.Terra is a Research Fellow and core member of EiSSRG. In September 2014, she travelled to Samoa to launch the Sharp End Partnership at the Third UN International Conference on SIDS.

Timely financial and organisational support from the Cabot Institute helped us bring together over 100 researchers, policy makers and practitioners. This built upon our network of collaborators in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) worldwide, and one immediate impact has seen the development of a United Nations-accredited global SIDS Research and Development Partnership that we now coordinate from the University of Bristol. Professor Michael Crossley, Graduate School of Education



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Bristol - Europe’s Green Capital city 2015 By Philippa Bayley What does it mean to be a European Green Capital city? For this European Commission designation - instituted in 2008 and with five previous winners in Stockholm, Hamburg, Nantes,Vitoria-Gasteiz and Copenhagen - it’s necessary to not only prove that your environmental credentials are second-to-none but to inspire the jury with plans for significant, long-term change in your city. For Bristol, winning the designation for 2015 was not only recognition of the work over many years by people from across all sectors - community and voluntary, third, public and private - but also the level of vision and aspiration for the future of the city. In Bristol it is about the desire to see ‘green’ as integral to a city that is ‘healthy, happy and fair’, combined with a famously Bristolian ‘sense of fun’. In 2015, many of the activities will be delivered by Bristol 2015, a company set up to bring resources into the city, communicate about the year and ensure it has both national and international impact. Close partners to Bristol 2015 are Bristol City Council, who provided the political will and seed funding to launch plans for the year, and Bristol Green Capital Partnership, an umbrella for more than 500 city organisations across all sectors committed to a ‘low carbon city with a high quality of life for all’. The city’s universities, as well as its cultural, media and arts organisations and private sector sponsors are key partners. For the University of Bristol, the 2015 year provides a unique opportunity to contribute to the city’s environmental agenda and ensure that the activities and legacy of 2015 enrich our research and educational programmes, as well as benefit our staff, students and facilities. Proposed activities build on the excellent activity already happening across the University - through the Cabot Institute, Sustainability Team, Education for Sustainable Development programmes, student volunteering and activism, estates and facilities, and through collaboration with the University of the West of England (UWE). Our ambition is to work with UWE to collectively contribute at least 100,000 hours of sustainability-based volunteering in the city. We aim to deliver events in all 14 Neighbourhood Partnership areas in Bristol to ensure our research is accessible and inclusive to all.

Future Cities Collaboratory WE WILL LAUNCH A

THAT WILL HELP COMMUNITIES LEARN ABOUT, AND ACHIEVE CHANGE TOGETHER. We will contribute to a series of global summits leading up to the climate change talks in Paris at the end of 2015. The Cabot Institute will be sharing and promoting all of these activities through the year, and inviting your involvement. Please email cabot-enquiries@bristol.ac.uk to sign up to our weekly newsletter and hear more about our events and activities in 2015.


Bristol’s bid for European

Green Capital


Students get into communities for real world problem solving The Cabot Institute has partnered with the School of Geographical Sciences to create opportunities for MSc students in the Environmental Policy and Management programme to link with local organisations that could benefit from their research skills. For the students, the projects provide an opportunity to take their academic skills into the real world and make contacts with local organisations. In 2014, seven students undertook Community Based Learning projects with local community partners, including Bedminster Energy Group, Bristol City Council, Bristol Power Cooperative, Greater Bedminster Community Partnership, the Soil Association and Transition Bristol. Hannah Tweddell is the Cabot Institute’s Community Based Learning Intern who is helping identify community partners who have research needs that can be met by MSc students. If you are a community organisation interested in working with students on a project, please contact Hannah at cabot-cbl@bristol.ac.uk

Green Deal: Is Bristol City Council delivering? MSc student, Despoina Kyrkili, is working with the Bristol City Council for her Community Based Learning project to assess Bristol’s strategy for delivering a nation-wide energy-saving scheme. In 2013 the Green Deal scheme was launched across the UK to help home owners make energy-saving improvements that would save on long-term heating costs whilst helping the UK meet CO2 reduction targets. The scheme provides up-front capital to improve building efficiency and the repayments are made through energy bills. Bristol City Council has partnered with community groups to spread word of the scheme to local property owners in order to promote its uptake. Despoina is helping the Council evaluate whether this approach for engaging householders has been successful and if not, how it could be improved. By adopting these improvements to overcome some of the challenges with the Green Deal scheme, Bristol has the opportunity to significantly increase its building energy efficiency.

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SUPPORTING INNOVATION... Julia Kole Julia Kole is assessing whether urban wildlife enhancement practices - such as wildlife corridors - are meeting their intended ecological objectives in cities around the UK. As part of her Community Based Learning project (see page 19), Julia is working with the Greater Bedminster Community Partnership and assessing which enhancement practices might be viable in Bedminster and Southville. “It was so rewarding to be able to apply months of academic research to a current issue and receive feedback that the information I provided was interesting, relevant, informative and had inspired discussion and ideas among practitioners.” Julia’s research, conducted as part of her MSc in Environmental Policy and Management, has identified ways biodiversity can be improved in these residential areas of Bristol.

Dr. Mhairi Gibson In regions where infectious diseases - such as malaria - are common, do women give birth at a younger age and produce more children? These are the types of questions being investigated by Dr Mhairi Gibson, an anthropologist in the School of Arts. “We are going to investigate how infection risk - and perception of that risk - influences human reproductive behaviour, in the context of rural Cameroon where risk of infection is an ever present reality. It’s a novel and highly interdisciplinary study that will use methods and data from anthropology, demography and infection biology.” Innovation Funds will support a one-month pilot study in Cameroon involving infection biologists Professor Mark Viney (School of Biological Sciences) and Professor Samuel Wanji (University of Buea, Cameroon).

Josephine Walker Josephine Walker is studying the transmission of parasites from wildlife to livestock in Botswana. She received Cabot Institute Innovation Funds to travel to Botswana at the start of her PhD, which helped shape her research programme. “The money from the Innovation Funds allowed me to travel to Botswana and determine what the most critical questions were for the farmers, rather than focussing on what I initially thought would be scientifically interesting.” Josephine trained nearly 50 farmers to assess the health of their livestock and found that those implementing the system and using targeted treatment of worms in their goats and sheep had healthier animals.

Dr.Trevor Thompson Dr Trevor Thompson and his colleagues received funding from the Cabot Institute in 2012/2013 to run a consultation seminar around sustainable medical education. The seminar was designed to engage with key stakeholders in shaping learning outcomes to ensure medical graduates are sustainability-literate. “These sorts of small responsive grants are critical to progressing sustainability education projects, which are not quite main stream enough to attract core funding. Thank you Cabot Institute - in this case your investment is already having a national impact.” The outcome of Trevor’s initiative was recently published as an invited correspondence in The Lancet and the full consensus document can be viewed at sustainablehealthcare.org.uk/sustainable-healthcare-education/priority-learning-outcomes

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Who? Postgraduates and post-docs interested in communicating research to the public - whether it’s exploring a career in science communication or improving communication skills as researchers.

...AND SCIENCE COMMUNICATION The Cabot Institute Press Gang

What? We seek out interesting stories from colleagues, at events or through our own research. We work with researchers, the Press Office and the Cabot Institute to turn these stories into press releases and blog posts that help inform the public as well as promote research at Bristol. Why? A combination of training opportunities and hands-on experience makes this a supportive environment to learn and practice communicating with the public. In return, we support researchers, the Press Office and the Cabot Institute by turning more of Bristol’s research into engaging stories. When? We have informal meetings to discuss up and coming events and research, bounce story ideas off one another and explore potential training opportunities. Outside of those meetings, when our schedules allow, we help researchers promote their work by drafting media releases and writing blog posts. Where? We have members from schools across the University, but we are keen to have a Press Gang as diverse as the Cabot Institute’s research interests. If you’re a postgraduate or post-doc at the University of Bristol interested in joining the Press Gang, please contact Amanda Woodman-Hardy at amanda.woodman-hardy@bristol.ac.uk


The Press Gang has given me confidence in my writing and improved my ability to share and communicate science. As a result, I’ve even done some writing for a global health research publication. Sarah Jose, School of Biological Sciences

Press Gang experience is “invaluable” If you think you might be interested in science communication,” advises Frances, “the Press Gang is an excellent way to gain experience. The writing skills that I developed have been invaluable, both for securing my job and for my day-to-day responsibilities. Frances Cartwright

While doing her PhD at Bristol, Frances Cartwright became actively involved in science communication and outreach and soon found she was enjoying these activities more than her research. Now Frances is a Junior Editor for a design, media and publishing agency called Research Media. Looking back, she credits her involvement in the Press Gang for providing her with some of the important skills she has taken with her into a career in science communication.




From left to right: Sarah Jose, Amanda Woodman-Hardy, Marcus Badger, Alice Marzocchi and Dan Lan.

“My work with the Press Gang was one of the science communication activities that I was able to talk about in my interview,” said Frances. “It demonstrated my ability to distil complex scientific research into an easy to understand press release of interest to a broader audience - a fundamental part of my current job.”




In March 2011, the most powerful earthquake and tsunami ever to hit Japan triggered a major incident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Now, thanks to funding from a Bristol alumnus, PhD student Peter Martin (BSc 2013, PhD 2014-) is collecting much-needed data to help with the clean-up.

Peter Martin (BSc 2013, PhD 2014-)

Dr Tom Scott, Reader in Nuclear Materials

Billions of dollars has been spent cleaning up the exclusion zone around the Fukushima plant, but there is limited evidence to suggest the area is safe for residents to return. Part of the challenge is that we don’t know exactly what materials were ejected from the plant.

We were delighted to receive funding from a Bristol alumnus to support Peter’s fieldwork, not just because it created a life-changing opportunity for such a talented student, but also because it meant we could start gathering data quicker than would otherwise be possible.

While for the most part, the radioactivity levels have dropped considerably, high levels of long-lived nuclides in certain areas could still pose a serious toxicological health risk to nearby communities now, and for many more years to come.

We’re also hopeful that Peter’s fieldwork will unlock additional grants for future projects. Collecting data in a pilot project, like Peter’s, can often be the catalyst for getting other projects off the ground projects that will help us develop safe and sustainable nuclear systems, and better our understanding of the socio-economic impact of nuclear energy.

My PhD involves using unmanned aerial vehicles (developed here in Bristol) to rapidly monitor and characterise contamination across the most affected areas, identifying and then sampling contamination hot spots. Back in Bristol, we then subject the samples to high-resolution analysis, to better understand the elemental makeup of individual fallout particles and their evolving condition in the environment.

Low-carbon, secure energy solutions are vital for the future of our planet. And thanks to Bristol’s track record of innovative research in this area, we’ve recently received government funding to support a new nuclear energy research and education hub here at the University.

By providing a detailed and ongoing snapshot of the effects of the fallout, we can then work with our partners in the University of Kyoto to identify and prioritise areas for remediation.

We’ll bring academic and industrial expertise together to address some of the major challenges related to civil nuclear power generation, and train future generations of nuclear engineers.

I feel incredibly lucky to be part of Bristol’s Nuclear Research Centre, where I can work alongside world-class experts in a wide range of disciplines, and access state-of-the-art equipment designed to accelerate results.

If you are interested in supporting Cabot Institute research by making a gift, please get in touch with Katie McKeogh, Campaigns and Alumni Relations, at katie.mckeogh@bristol.ac.uk

However, I’d never have been able to pursue this research without alumni funding. That the funding is independent is also hugely helpful; it means we are able to share data directly with the communities who need it most. The families affected by the nuclear accident need our help, and they need it now, so I’m committed to finding practical solutions as quickly as possible. page 22



The number of people we’ve reached over the last five years through the 250 events we’ve organised.


The number of local organisations we’re partnering with as part of Bristol’s year as European Green Capital, under our Future Cities research theme.

The number of people - academics, external advisors and partners that are part of our community.

£ £

The estimated amount of money we helped secure in 2014 by supporting research proposals.




600 + 1,000 + The number of papers published by Cabot Institute academics in a 12 month period.

The number of news stories generated by the Cabot Institute last year.

100 +

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Contact us For general enquiries or to receive our weekly newsletter, please email cabot-enquiries@bristol.ac.uk or call 0117 954 6339 If you would like to find out more about the Cabot Institute’s Corporate Club, please email cabot-business@bristol.ac.uk or call 0117 331 6737 Contact details for team members can be found on our website at bristol.ac.uk/cabot/contact

bristol.ac.uk/cabot Graphic Design: Dirty Design

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Profile for Cabot Institute for the Environment

Cabot institute magazine 2015  

This is the third annual magazine from the Cabot Institute. Featuring stories on food security, climate change, water and how we are taking...

Cabot institute magazine 2015  

This is the third annual magazine from the Cabot Institute. Featuring stories on food security, climate change, water and how we are taking...