Page 1



Making our cities liveable and resilient for future generations


The volcanoes on our doorstep that could threaten lives and livelihoods


Taking stock of energy in the UK and new developments


Greening the city after Paris and European Green Capital 2015

Cabot Institute

This is our fifth birthday year. The University of Bristol’s Cabot Institute was officially launched in November 2010, before we had a team, a Manager or even a Director – my predecessor Paul Bates officially started in January 2011. We launched boldly because there was such a strong desire amongst our academic community and our partners for this vision: to foster new communities unbounded by traditional disciplinary silos, to work more closely with partners beyond the University’s walls and to collectively find solutions to some of the world’s most profound environmental challenges.

The last year was a genuinely historical year for the Cabot Institute and for Bristol. Many of us in the Institute and across the University, from estates to academic staff to students, worked extensively with the City to host the European Green Capital 2015 and contribute substantively to the Paris COP21 Climate summit. Working both in the city and internationally, we have directly shared the fruits of Cabot Institute research with over 100,000 people. It is clear that a strong partnership with a thriving and global city will be essential for 21st century universities, and we are proud that so many members of the Cabot Institute have contributed to building a strong relationship with our own thriving, complex, and edgy city. This past year has been an opportunity to meet new partners and to make a step change in existing partnerships, to provide new research to support policy-making, and to launch new joint initiatives. Among these new collaborations are UKCRIC (UK Collaboratorium for Research in Infrastructure & Cities) and Bristol is Open, and new initiatives covering diverse topics such as environmental uncertainty and resilience, sustainable livestock, global insecurities, urban pollinators, local manufacturing and flood forecasting.

These efforts have happened because of an academic community keen to work outside the University to solve some of society’s greatest challenges, but they have also been supported by the core Cabot Team, our research community leaders and our Advisory Board, chaired by Professor Sir John Beddington. Looking back, I must thank all of you within the University and beyond who have led or contributed to these achievements. After five years, we are still very much ‘in it for good’ and the next five years promise to be as exciting as the first five. Please do follow updates and announcements via our newsletters or the Institute website. The environmental challenges we face are growing, but so are the creative, innovative and unexpected solutions that will address them. We remain committed to tackling those challenges with a positive and optimistic spirit of exploration.

Professor Rich Pancost, Cabot Institute Director

CONTENTS page 4 page 8 page 12 page 16 page 20 page 22 page 24

page 2

Bristol 2015: European Green Capital - our legacy Future-proofing our cities and communities Living with volcanoes Low carbon energy Seeding innovative research Looking forward Contact us

Cover: The artwork on the front cover of this magazine was created by Alex Lucas of

What we do at the Cabot Institute The Cabot Institute fuels research that responds 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 shape our research community, with cross-cutting themes of risk, resilience, regulation and development. We connect people from both within and outside our University community to catalyse new ideas and maximise the impact of our research. Our internal community includes 600 people at all career stages and from across the University’s six faculties. We are constantly building our capacity to support our members; in the past year we have invested in partnership working and research bid development, and we have grown our communications activities. It is with this renewed energy and skill that we have greeted 2016 – ready to build on the significant investments in Bristol’s year as European Green Capital, and to grow our international impact through cutting edge research and engagement.

Message from our new Vice-Chancellor

The stories within this year’s issue showcase some of the amazing things that happened through our involvement in the European Green Capital year as well as our nationally and internationallysignificant work. We’ve cultivated new ideas and new solutions, but only because of existing and new collaborations. The Cabot Institute is nothing without the people we work with and bring together, and the benefits of this are reflected within these pages.

This is such an exciting time to be in Bristol. Over my first nine months as the new Vice-Chancellor at the University I have been talking with our staff, students and stakeholders about our future strategy. I have been struck by a real sense of ambition, and by the importance of our relationship with the city and other partners in achieving our goals. Our University Research Institutes, including the Cabot Institute, are flagship entities that help us to address global challenges, bringing together academics from different disciplines to tackle the major issues facing society and proactively engaging with our local, national and global partners.

Amanda Woodman-Hardy, Cabot Institute Coordinator

Professor Hugh Brady, Vice-Chancellor

We hope you’ll join us in tackling some of the most exciting, difficult and pressing global challenges of the 21st Century. Philippa Bayley, Cabot Institute Manager

Editor’s note

Our research themes NATURAL HAZARDS









WATER page 3

Bristol 2015:


Credit: Jon Craig

The Cabot Institute invested in building new partnerships, particularly working with the city-wide Bristol Green Capital Partnership and its 800 member organisations. After many years of close involvement with the Partnership, including Philippa Bayley co-chairing it in 2014, the University has become one of the Founding Strategic Partners, helping to ensure the Partnership’s effectiveness and longevity. The Partnership will now continue to build on the foundation laid during the Green Capital year by the Bristol 2015 Company, as well as on the city’s deep green roots.

During 2015, the city’s universities worked together to deliver 100,000 hours of student engagement within social, economic and environmental sustainability. The University of Bristol Sustainability pledges were agreed in 2015 and include ambitions to be a net carbon neutral campus by 2030; reduce our transport footprint; ensure sustainability is embedded in the student curriculum; and entrench improved environmental and social conditions into our procurement processes. Bristol 2015: European Green Capital has created a lasting legacy at the University on which we continue to build.


100,000 h ours of student engagement WITHIN SOCIAL, ECONOMIC AND ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY page 4

2015 was an incredible year for the city of Bristol and the University of Bristol as we embraced and celebrated the award of European Green Capital. A host of activities took place across the city and beyond to build on Bristol’s long history of green success.


I would say that the University legacy is probably one of the most advanced examples from the year. My impression is that students, estates, professional services, researchers and the leadership of the University have all engaged and are working together. I think that has produced a sea change in attitudes towards the environment, and I believe that the activities started in 2015 will have long-term sustainability. An important goal for the 2015 year was to put Bristol more firmly on the map... I think we’ve achieved that.


Dr Andrew Garrad, Chair of the Bristol 2015 Company and member of the Cabot Institute Advisory Board

page 5

European Green Capital:

HIGHLIGHTS ARTISTIC COLLABORATIONS The Cabot Institute worked with world-renowned artists Luke Jerram on Withdrawn, Fujiko Nakaya on Fog Bridge, local artist Alex Lucas on Uncertain World and London-based artist group Fourthland on Back to where we have not quite been. Find out more at

A BLUE MARVEL! Cabot Institute climate scientists collaborated with the At-Bristol 3D planetarium team to create the groundbreaking show Blue Marvel, which is about how our planet is changing. Almost 4,000 members of the public saw the show during its run from July to December 2015.


: Freya



Luke Jerram installed fishing boats in the middle of Leigh Woods to encourage visitors to think about climate change, extreme weather, falling fish stocks and our impact on the marine environment.

INTERNATIONAL OUTREACH We supported the Bristol City Council delegation to the Cities and Regions Pavilion at COP21 to show how smart and engaged cities can provide global sustainability leadership. We want to prove that ‘cities act and countries talk’. For more information on our COP21 highlights, visit


page 6

en Lee Pull

Our researchers helped to create a ‘buzz’ around the city through the Get Bristol Buzzing project. They are supporting Bristol City Council and other partners around the city to grow special mini-meadows in planters that will brighten up the city streets and show members of the public what we can all do to help threatened pollinators.

LIVING IN AN ‘UNCERTAIN WORLD’ The Institute’s Uncertain World Summit discussed the impact of the uncertain effects of climate change on society, systems, economy and the environment. We invited a vibrant mix of scientists, philosophers, policy makers and industry leaders to a series of events. Contributions came from a range of sectors including health, defence and agriculture, as well as from global change researchers on topics such as sea level rise, ocean acidification and land use change. The events led to new partnerships and catalysed existing ones, including with Bristol’s Ujima Radio, Green Capital Partnership and City Council; and DNV-GL, the Met Office UK and the Ministry of Defence. We engaged people across Bristol in the research behind ‘Uncertain World’ at events including Make Sunday Special, the Festival of Nature, a public dialogue event and a Question Time event featuring Mayor George Ferguson, ARUP’s Senior Sustainability Consultant Ann Cousins, Carbon Brief ’s Leo Hickman, former advisor to Comic Relief Peter Macfadyen, and Bristol’s Youth Mayor Neha Mehta.You can watch the full discussion at Find out more about our Uncertain World and outputs from the events at

MAKING A CASE FOR A LOW CARBON CITY We commissioned a report, The Economics of Low Carbon Cities: A Mini-Stern Review for the City of Bristol, which reviews the cost and effectiveness of a wide range of low carbon opportunities for local Bristol households, industry, commerce and transport. These opportunities could cut energy-related emissions by more than a third with a payback period of only two years, whilst continuing to deliver savings that could be reinvested in other low-carbon initiatives in the city. The report has been used as a basis for Bristol City Council’s Transformative Action Plan and in informing the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate. The report can be downloaded at

ENERGY EFFICIENT TOWN PLANNING By engaging with stakeholders through the Systems Thinking for Efficient Energy Planning (STEEP) project, Cabot Institute researchers have helped to facilitate a more sophisticated approach to the issue of energy planning at the district and city level. This approach, implemented in Bristol, San Sebastian and Florence, is helping to achieve carbon reduction targets. The successful partnerships of this project have led to a new, larger European initiative called REPLICATE, which you can read more about on page 9.


carbon reduction targets page 7

Given that UN estimates suggest that 70 per cent of people around the globe will be living in cities by 2030, a key research challenge is what those cities will look like and how they will operate. Cabot Institute researchers are exploring what being a resilient, smart, sustainable and inclusive city requires.

page 8

EMPOWERING CITIZENS Friendly cities for all Cities can sometimes be lonely, anonymous places - denselypopulated but with few knowing their neighbours and a lack of community cohesion. Professor Keri Facer and Dr Helen Manchester, from the Graduate School of Education, have explored how important it is to design cities that meet the needs of multiple generations, and that promote socialising between those generations. In their major Future Cities Catapult Report, Towards the All-Age-Friendly City, Keri and Helen recommend radical digital innovations such as ‘digital dogs’ that encourage people of all ages to playfully interact in shared spaces and connect with each other. Most importantly, these recommendations must be co-designed with the people that will use them. Helen and her colleague, Dr Debbie Watson, School for Policy Studies, are exploring this in practical ways in Bristol. Collaborating with three city organisations – the Architecture Centre, Room13 and Playing Out - they will address the exclusion of children and young people in cities. Ultimately, they are looking to develop a blueprint for Bristol as a childfriendly city, co-designed with young people, to increase their inclusion, freedoms and access.

REnaissance of PLaces with Innovative Citizenship And Technologies (REPLICATE) project Bristol, San Sebastián and Florence, are sharing a €25 million award to create integrated smart city solutions to tackle familiar urban problems, such as traffic congestion, poor air quality and unsustainable energy use. This project will primarily focus on East Bristol and aims to look at how we can further develop technology in order to create efficient, integrated and interactive urban environments that empower citizens. This interdisciplinary project sees the collaboration of Bristol academics from engineering, social sciences and mathematics, with Bristol engineer Dr Mike Yearworth leading the group. Academics from both the University of Bristol and the University of the West of England (UWE) are involved in the project’s research and evaluation work and they are engaging with a large number of diverse groups from local and international industry, SME and third sector partners to ensure the right people are at the table from the start. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 691735.

Credit: Paul Bates

MANAGING THE RISK OF URBAN FLOODS World-leading global flood models, developed by Cabot Institute researchers, are now being used by the World Bank and Google because of their speed and level of detail. These models are able to identify areas at risk of flooding at an unprecedented resolution. In the same research area, Dr Sean Fox and Dr Jeff Neal are working to combine data on areas at risk of flooding with information about the likely vulnerability of the people who live in those areas. Focussing on cities in South and South East Asia, the outcomes of this work will help to inform policy and decision making in developing countries, helping to reduce property damage, injury and death from flooding.

DELIVERING THE FUTURE CITY The city of Bristol is forging ambitious plans for its sustainable development. But how can that be better informed by a wide range of city stakeholders? During 2015, Cabot Institute researcher Caroline Bird worked with members of the Bristol Green Capital Partnership to put together a series of conversations exploring how Bristol could deliver the ‘future city’, looking at what capacities it needs to be resilient, sustainable and successful. These discussions have involved key Bristol academics and city ‘thinkers’ from across public, private and civil society. Visit for more information. page 9

OPENING UP URBAN DESIGN The city of Bristol is well known for its engineers, including Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who designed the Clifton Suspension Bridge and John McAdam who invented Tarmac and revolutionised our roads. Now a new generation of engineers are set to revolutionise the development of infrastructure, as well as the ways citizens interact with and use it.

UKCRIC – a framework for collaboration Inadequate infrastructure costs the nation £2 million a day, and extreme events can cost hundreds of millions more. The University of Bristol is one of 14 university partners in the ground-breaking UK Collaboratorium for Research in Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC). UKCRIC has secured £138 million of funding from the UK Government, to develop aworld-class, UK-based national infrastructure research community. Under Professor Colin Taylor’s leadership, the University will hosttwo national facilities:

Laying the foundations - a new Foundation-Soil-Structure Interaction Lab

A ‘living laboratory’ to inspire city transformation

How major structures like offshore wind turbines, bridges, or rail tracks actually interact with their foundations and the surrounding soil is still poorly understood. This often leads to cautious designs that ramp up costs. This major new facility will test how foundations support infrastructures under many conditions – including in an earthquake. The new, highly adaptable facility will also help developers de-risk their investments in innovation.

In March 2015, a joint venture called Bristol Is Open (BIO) was launched between the University of Bristol and Bristol City Council. The BIO network combines super-fast fibre optic cables under our streets, a mile of novel wireless technologies running from Temple Meads station to the Harbourside and a ‘mesh’ network of 1,500 lamp posts equipped with a range of sensors. Together these technologies provide an experimental and programmable test-bed for research and development on a city-wide scale. UKCRIC investment will help generate new data through city sensors and create ‘collaborative spaces’ throughout the city, which will facilitate and empower citizens to access information about their city, and to experiment for change together. By improving opportunities for collaboration and making data available to citizens, there is a tremendous potential to help us to understand how our city works in practice. As a city, access to these resources could help to pave the way for improvements in a wide range of services, including traffic congestion, waste management, entertainment, digital democracy, and energy supply.







The University is delighted to be playing a central role within the UKCRIC initiative. The new facilities will improve our understanding of how infrastructure actually works at full-scale in the laboratory and in the field. Better understanding will reduce overdesign, costs, and the risks that currently hold back innovation. UKCRIC will also be a unique environment in which the University can provide innovative education for the people who will create and live in our future cities and communities.



Professor Colin Taylor, School of Engineering

What kind of questions could be answered using smart sensing technology? How can ‘shared spaces’ be improved in Bristol?

Could my neighbourhood collaborate to reduce energy use?

Have you ever felt unnerved by a cyclist whizzing by at lightning speed? Or felt intimated by a bus whilst on your bike? Professor Ute Leonards (Psychology), Dr Dima Damen (Vision Sciences) and Dr Suzanne Audrey (Community Medicine) recently launched a social media campaign to identify where pedestrians, cyclists and car users experience problems in ‘shared spaces’. Through BIO and UKCRIC, they hope to install monitors in transport hot-spots to analyse the problems and test interventions.

Using renewable energy means we often have to deal with peaks and dips in supply. Through smart metering and energy sensors, we hope to develop energy systems that allow users to receive alerts when supply is low and encourage them to reduce their consumption, ensuring the whole community can stay online.

Could doctors prescribe a new route to work to improve patient outcomes? Air pollution aggravates asthma, yet it is difficult for GPs to know what patients are exposed to throughout their day. Using streetlevel or wearable air quality sensors, GPs could review pollution hot-spots in the city, prescribe alternative routes to work for their patients, and avoid the need for prescription drugs. Is our infrastructure healthy? When the Clifton Suspension Bridge was designed 150 years ago, its intention was to support up to 200 horses. Now, the bridge carries over 12,000 vehicles a day. New sensing capabilities could help to understand the health of our infrastructure as it ages and changes, and recognise when maintenance is needed.

Could we ‘manage’ the city better in real time? Traffic jams, emergencies, and essential works all cause disruptions to normal city operations. Smart city technologies could help us to see the problems as they happen in real time and automatically re-route traffic. Could our observations about the city help us to predict the impact of future developments? Bristol will develop a 3D-printed large-scale city model on top of which, real-time data and sophisticated analytics can be projected and visualised. Crucially, the model will build on these observations and allow users to explore the impact of new developments on energy, transport, air quality, noise, light and other factors, as if they were real. BIO, with further investment from UKCRIC, will allow detailed observations of how real city infrastructure systems, including the people who use them, actually work. The system will also enable rapid evaluation of new city technologies in actual city conditions.

Doing it for ourselves: Redistributed manufacturing What would the world be like if we no longer had to rely on getting our goods from across the globe? What if we could make them ourselves in our own cities? We could help ensure profits stayed in local communities and cut down the use of fossil fuels as fewer goods would need to be shipped, flown or driven to their destination. What if we could use the latest advancements in technology to our advantage? As part of a major RCUK-funded network, Professor Chris McMahon, from the Faculty of Engineering, is researching ways into making Bristol’s manufacturing (especially food, energy and engineering) more sustainable through technology that can help to localise and downsize large factories to local networks, workshops and homes (known as ‘redistributed manufacturing’). Industrial manufacturing has changed drastically over the last ten years. Manufacturers often no longer require significant amounts of space in order to operate, and technology such as 3D printing allows us to process materials in highly adaptable ways and on a much smaller scale. We know that increasing citizen capability and minimising environmental cost can work in practice, as can be shown by the Bristol Hackspace - a place where a community of like-minded individuals make and sell electronics, woodwork, jewellery, knitting, robotics, and metalwork. Chris is working closely with experts in the city of Bristol, the University of Bristol and its Cabot Institute on areas such as manufacturing, design, logistics, operations management, infrastructure, engineering systems, economics, geographical sciences, mathematical modelling and beyond. Chris says “I hope to use Bristol as an example to show the potential impact that redistributed manufacturing can have at the city-scale and how this can improve a city’s resilience and sustainability”.

page 11

page 12

Credit: Susanna Jenkins

THE UK’S VOLCANO PROBLEM by Katharine Cashman The UK has a volcano problem – and it is called Iceland. In 2010, an explosive eruption of Eyjafjallajökull volcano closed airports across Europe, an action that had ripple effects around the globe. In 2014-2015, eruption of a large volume of lava (more than one cubic kilometre) released 11 million tonnes of sulphur dioxide (SO2) in six months. Although SO2 levels were sufficiently high to cause respiratory problems in some Icelandic communities, this time the UK was lucky: most of the eruption occurred over the winter, when strong winds rapidly dispersed the gas and winter darkness slowed the conversion of SO2 to harmful sulphuric acid. The UK was not so fortunate during the Laki eruption in June 1783, when even larger volumes of lava poured over southern Iceland, releasing an estimated 122 million tonnes of SO2 to the atmosphere over the subsequent eight months. The impact on the Icelandic population was disastrous, causing the “Haze Famine” that killed more than 20 per cent of the Icelandic population because of crop failure and loss of livestock. The impact on the UK and Europe was severe, as a persistent atmospheric haze caused respiratory problems, crop failures and high mortality rates in the UK and France.

How can the UK increase its resilience to hazards posed by Icelandic volcanoes? Volcanologists at the University of Bristol are addressing this question from several different perspectives. Because of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption, volcanic ash and gas hazards are now explicitly identified in the UK National Risk Register. Current Bristol research on hazards posed by volcanic emissions includes: the development of a free web tool – PlumeRise – to aid models of ash dispersion; detailed studies

of ash particles to improve models of ash transport and settling; a co-edited book Volcanic Ash – Hazard Observations (Elsevier) that presents state-of-the art techniques to measure and track volcanic ash and gas emissions; and an on-going collaboration with the UK Met Office and with industry to improve volcanic ash forecasts. From a global perspective, Bristol volcanologists have provided the driving force for the Global Volcano Model (GVM), an international platform for compiling and analysing data about eruptions around the world. Importantly, the GVM supports a database of large volcanic eruptions, which provides critical information for statistical studies of future patterns of eruptive behaviour. As a result, the GVM was invited by the United Nations (UN) to contribute the first global volcanic hazard risk assessment – published as Global Volcanic Hazards and Risks (Cambridge University Press) – to the UN’s Global Assessment Report (GAR) 2015 on global risk. New methodologies for volcanic risk assessment presented in this book provide templates for local governments and highlight regions that are particularly vulnerable to volcanic hazards. The global nature of volcanic hazards means that we need to have global techniques for monitoring the potential of individual volcanoes to erupt. The Bristol volcanology group uses satellitebased observing platforms to identify ‘restless volcanoes’, that is, volcanoes showing signs of ground movement that may signal movement of magma beneath the surface. These satellite-based observations inform volcanic risk assessment and can help in very practical ways, for example, to reduce risks related to extraction of geothermal energy. Satellite data can also be used to track plumes of volcanic ash and gases during and after eruptions. Will there be more volcanic eruptions in Iceland? Or around the world? The answer is certainly yes. But researchers at Bristol are working hard with colleagues around the world to develop the tools to help minimise the impacts of those eruptions on local, regional and global populations.

Laki erupted on Iceland between 1783 and 1784 and sent out huge clouds of poisonous hydrofluoric acid and sulphur dioxide which killed over 50 per cent of Iceland’s livestock population and led to severe famine. It wasn’t just Iceland that was affected by the eruption, the UK and Northern hemisphere saw reduced global temperatures and failure of crops due to the wind blowing gases over the country.


All the week long neither sun nor sky could be seen for the thick clouds of fume and smoke which blanketed the area… more poison fell from the sky than words can describe… All the earth’s plants burned, withered and turned grey. Eyewitness account of the Laki eruption in southern Iceland by the Reverend Jón Steingrímsson in 1783

…the peculiar haze, or smoky fog, that prevailed for many weeks in this island, and in every part of Europe, and even beyond its limits, was a most extraordinary appearance, unlike anything known within the memory of man… The sun, at noon, looked as blank as a clouded moon, and… was particularly lurid and blood-coloured at rising and setting.


Eyewitness account of the effects of the Laki eruption in the UK by Gilbert White in 1783

Katharine Cashman (centre) receiving the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Volcanology 2016 on behalf of the Volcanology team at Bristol. Professor Katharine Cashman FRS is Head of the Volcanology research group in the School of Earth Sciences and the Natural Hazards research community co-lead at the Cabot Institute. Katharine holds an AXA Endowed Chair in Volcanology. Credit: Theodore Wood

page 13

THE HUMAN SIDE OF THE VOLCANO By Keri McNamara Volcanology comprises a mosaic of fascinating scientific content that draws researchers worldwide to climb, conquer and consider the products of volcanoes. Amongst the amazing advancements made in the field of volcanology, we should not forget that volcanoes are a lethal hazard that many must live with everyday. Protecting those who live on and around a volcano is a fundamental part of the science, yet riddled with the complexities of cultural context and educational background. Dr Ryerson Christie, from the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies (SPAIS), is working on an EU project called VUELCO (led by Dr Joachim Gottsmann in Earth Sciences). Ryerson is exploring the social side of volcanology, drawing on face-to-face interviews with the local communities living on or close to volcanoes. Cotopaxi volcano in Ecuador is a populous volcano with a lively eruptive history. In 1877, the volcano was responsible for an estimated 1,000 deaths from lahars - a thick concrete-like mix of volcanic ash and water - that swept away towns and villages. The threat from future eruptions and their associated hazards still exists and ensuring the locals are adequately prepared is vital. Ryerson’s interviews are an important way to measure and understand their preparedness. In the summers of 2012 and 2013 Ryerson conducted 350 interviews with Cotopaxi’s residents, revealing some fascinating insights. An outsider might assume those living near the volcano do so not out of choice, but rather an inability to relocate to a safer location. The reality was often the opposite. Many of those interviewed indicated they had actively relocated to the volcano, seeking improved security

away from nearby cities with high crime levels. When asked how they perceived volcanic risk, most were aware of the risk but did not consider it sufficient to warrant living in alternative, and possibly more immediately dangerous, environments. This revelation has important implications for how volcanic risk is communicated, as Ryerson explains: “Communication strategies need to take into account local perceptions of risk. More education on volcanic hazards won’t necessarily make people change their decision.” Further results from this survey have shown the need for historical local knowledge to be embedded into contemporary hazard management plans. In one area of Cotopaxi, Ryerson discovered that the current evacuation procedures conflicted with local stories and legends as to safe areas to occupy. In one case, the local community revealed that their evacuation plan crossed areas depicted as dangerous in historical tales. Further examination revealed topographical maps used to plan hazard management procedures had not included local safe areas, resulting in plans for people to cross potentially hazardous rivers.

interviews with  350 Cotopaxi’s residents

page 14

Dr Ryerson Christie (right) is a lecturer in the School of Politics and International Studies. His main research interests focus on the application of critical security studies to the analysis of human security and peacebuilding, and how these practices affect the relationships between local communities, civil society and the state.

While scientists view a volcano as an instrument of study, to many it is a home. Ryerson’s insightful research has emphasised that this must be considered above all else when determining how best to implement hazard management. In the case of Cotopaxi, the circumstances surrounding a community’s decision to stay are influenced by an intertwining web of cultural, social and economic factors that must be taken into account to ensure both physical safety and cohesion between the scientific community and a volcano’s human neighbours.



Dr Ryerson Christie

Keri McNamara Keri McNamara is a PhD student in Earth Sciences. Her research is focussed on using ash layers to improve records of volcanism in the central Main Ethiopian Rift. She is also part of the Cabot Institute Press Gang, a group of PhD students who communicate Cabot Institute members’ research to the public. If you are interested in joining the Press Gang, please contact Amanda Woodman-Hardy at

Vice-Chancellor Professor Hugh Brady collects the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher Education from HRH Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace. Credit: Theodore Wood.

The University of Bristol has been awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher Education – the highest accolade for any academic institution – in recognition of its world-leading research in volcanology. The work of Bristol’s Volcanology Research Group has been applied across the globe to reduce a variety of risks posed by active volcanism including: Responding to the 2010 Icelandic ash crisis Forming the Global Volcano Model Network (GVM) Volcanic risk reduction – improving hazard management and emergency response planning Monitoring the world’s forgotten volcanoes from space Providing data to support the development of the geothermal industry in Ethiopia Understanding the risks of geoengineering as a strategy for reducing the risk from climate change


The University is delighted to receive such a prestigious award that recognises the deep and far-reaching impact of research carried out by Bristol scientists. The work of our volcanology research group has had real and lasting impacts throughout the world, making people’s lives safer, contributing to more resilient societies, ensuring safer international travel and protecting essential infrastructure.


Royal award recognises global impact of Bristol’s volcanology research

Professor Hugh Brady,Vice-Chancellor

HRH The Prince of Wales presented the prestigious accolade, which is part of the UK’s national Honours system, to the University during a ceremony at Buckingham Palace in February 2016. The Queen’s Anniversary Prizes are awarded every two years to universities and colleges who submit work judged to show excellence, innovation, impact and benefit for the institution itself and for people and society generally in the wider world. If you would like to learn more about natural hazards research at the University of Bristol, visit Left to right: Professor Katharine Cashman, Dr Jeremy Phillips, Professor Willy Aspinall, Professor Hugh Brady, Dr Juliet Biggs, Dr Matt Watson.

page 15


electricity for over page 16



Developing sustainable energy policies and technologies is crucial to securing a future energy supply for a growing global population. We need to innovate in every part of the process, from harnessing and generation to regulation and end-user demand. The Cabot Institute connects Bristol’s world-leading low carbon energy research in Systems Engineering, Aerospace Engineering, Composite Materials and Complexity Science and supports the South West Nuclear Hub.

ENERGY ALL AT SEA By Paul Harper   The UK has a wealth of offshore wind, wave and tidal energy resources. But the technologies for using these remain both high cost and high risk for potential investors compared to conventional fossil fuel sources and onshore renewables. The Faculty of Engineering has been working with a range of industrial partners to help tackle this problem and some of our most applied projects involve teams of undergraduate students addressing specific design challenges. One such project involves collaboration with Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon PLC, who were granted planning consent in June 2015 for the world’s first, man-made, energy-generating lagoon. It will have a 320 MW installed generating capacity, producing 14 hours of reliable generation every day, enough to meet the domestic needs of over 155,000 homes during its 120 year operational lifetime.

Although this project will itself deliver significant benefits, it is intended to be a stepping stone towards a total of six tidal lagoons in the UK, providing 30 TWh of annual energy generation, equivalent to eight per cent of the UK electricity demand. For this reason, the Swansea Bay team are keen to develop technologies that can reduce the cost of energy in future lagoon designs, enabling higher rates of financial return and reducing risks for future investors as the lagoons increase in scale and generating capacity. A team of five Engineering Design students working on the project are investigating alternative design options for the lagoon wall and turbine housings, ways that construction costs can be minimised and the potential to integrate other renewable technologies, such as wind turbines, with the lagoon wall. Another project, in partnership with environmental consultancies DNV GL and Atkins, involves a different team of students addressing how to reduce the risks and costs associated with floating offshore wind energy

platforms. The team is investigating different platform designs and ways to model the complicated dynamics of floating turbines, with the aim of both improving current design methods and identifying new design concepts. In addition to these industry collaborations, the University is also a member of PRIMaRE (Partnership for Research in Marine Renewable Energy), a network of worldclass research institutions based in the South West of England, who undertake research and development to address challenges facing the marine renewable energy industry at a regional, national and international level. This year’s annual PRIMaRE conference takes place in early July and will provide a showcase for research linked to marine renewables. It aims to attract a diverse range of both academics and industrialists. For further information, please visit the PRIMaRE website at For more information about Low Carbon Energy research at the University of Bristol, please visit the Cabot Institute website at

Dr Paul Harper is Teaching Fellow in the Faculty of Engineering. Since completing his PhD in the area of fatigue of composites in early 2009, he has developed his research through collaborative projects related to the design and failure analysis of tidal turbine blades. He is currently pursuing additional research linked to the application of composites in wind and marine energy applications, including areas such as manufacturing and quality assurance, structural health monitoring and environmental lifecycle analysis. Paul also has a wider interest in the design and analysis of renewable energy systems.

page 17

NUCLEAR IN THE MIX The South West Nuclear Hub, which opened at the University of Bristol in April 2016, provides a focus for nuclear energy research and teaching across the region, drawing together academia, industry and government. Jamie Townes, Engagement Manager for the University of Bristol’s South West Nuclear Hub and formally for the World Nuclear Association and Magnox Ltd, writes on the UK’s current energy portfolio and state of affairs.

It is well known that the UK’s energy margin (the difference between the peak of what we consume and how much we can physically generate), is narrowing. The UK’s energy regulator introduced emergency measures last winter to ward off the risk of winter blackouts, and both the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Institute for Mechanical Engineers have concluded that the government’s current strategy will likely not deliver a sufficient quantity of the type of energy we need. Like the rest of the world, the UK strives to ensure the security and affordability of its energy supply whilst protecting the environment from the worst of its impacts. Additionally, UK energy infrastructure is aging, and the Government has ruled itself out of the power-station building business. While none of this is news, recent changes in the national and global energy environment have brought a sharp focus to this urgent challenge. Coal, the most polluting of the fossil fuels and which produces a third of UK electricity, is on its way out. Government support for ‘clean coal’ in the form of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) has been abandoned and it has instead committed itself to zero coal by 2025. Whilst intended to be a long term strategy, the decision has had immediate effects, such as energy company SSE announcing its intention to close its Fiddler’s Ferry station this year, taking with it a sizeable 1.5 GW from the grid. Although renewables are becoming more competitively priced, they are still expensive, particularly in the recent period of sustained low oil and gas prices. Renewables also struggle to address security of supply concerns. Their intermittent nature is problematic, at least with respect to existing electricity grids, and they demand back-up in quickresponding sources like gas, or a revolution in energy storage technologies. Nuclear is a technology capable of delivering large quantities of reliable, low-carbon electricity into present grid infrastructure, currently accounting for around 20 per cent of the UK’s supply. But the majority of the UK fleet, consisting of unique Advanced Gas-cooled Reactors (AGRs), are approaching the end of their design lives and plant operator EDF Energy has long been committed to a large programme of research and assessment to extend their lives. The process is uncertain and requires the consent of the world’s toughest nuclear regulator. By the middle of the 2020s, the earliest credible date that stations like EDF’s own Hinkley Point C, Horizon’s Wylfa Newydd or NuGen’s Moorside could be producing energy, coal should be gone from the mix and the existing nuclear fleet could have retired two thirds of its current capacity.

page 18

New solutions Small Modular Reactors may help with the financial challenges of nuclear, potentially lowering up-front costs per facility and bringing forward the time that they start to generate an income. Significant advances in energy storage could help existing grid infrastructure cope with the intermittency of large quantities of renewable energy. But the timescales are such that we can’t afford to wait for truly revolutionary technologies like Nuclear Fusion to emerge before taking decisions. Researchers need to work with industry now to find new ways of adapting current technologies that move the UK towards an energy mix that ultimately emits no carbon at all, as the climate science clearly demonstrates we must. The time to take these decisions is now. Whatever decisions we take, we need to make sure we have the trained personnel and cutting-edge research to safely operate existing as well as new nuclear infrastructure. You can find out more about the South West Nuclear Hub at

LOW CARBON COMPUTING Future and Emerging Technologies research lays foundations for green software By Lewis Roberts and Amanda Woodman-Hardy Not only do we need new sources of energy but we must use our energy far more efficiently. Cabot Institute researchers are working on making our cities and homes less carbon intensive and we are doing the same for our computers and high tech gadgets. How many times have you reached for your smartphone to find the battery is just about to die and it’s not even the end of the day. Frustrating isn’t it? Battery life in smartphones ranks high on the list of demands from consumers, and manufacturers are competing to produce the best smartphone with the longest battery life. There are a few options to increase battery life; these traditionally involve improving the battery itself and increasing the power efficiency of the hardware, but the efficiency of the software is also critically important to achieve a truly low-power system. According to Dr Kerstin Eder from the Faculty of Engineering, energy efficient software or “cool code” is the way forward. But how can writing cool code save energy? Consider this. For a given journey, fuel consumption is mainly dependent on the length of the journey and how fast you drive. However, the way you drive can also affect how much fuel you use. For example, rapid acceleration drinks fuel. Now, pretend that an app you’ve opened is ‘driving’ your phone. Many apps that are free rely on selling user data, such as location, to third parties. But how much energy is the app using to collect this data? For some apps, around 70 per cent of the energy consumed is for data collection and typically location data. At the end of the day you are paying for the electricity to charge your phone. So is your app really free? Around a billion of us use a smartphone. The energy that some apps are draining from our phones is not only costing us money, but also providing a contribution towards global warming through charging the battery more frequently. According to a report on energy efficiency by Digital Power Group, the energy consumed by computing as a whole is 50 per cent more than the energy used to move planes. It seems that we can no longer hide behind our screens on this issue; computing must be more energy conscious.

Predicting energy consumption in smartphone software is complex. Kerstin’s research group focusses on predicting the energy consumption in small and simple devices such as those supporting the Internet of Things (IoT). Kerstin argues that the best way to achieve energy consciousness is to have “energy transparency from hardware to software. We buy light bulbs by the wattage, why can’t we apply this to computer programs?” Currently, energy is wasted from electrical appliances through heat. Energy is also continuously available in our environment (ambient energy), for example through solar power, thermal energy and the energy from mechanical vibrations. It is possible to harness heat being lost through appliances and from ambient energy and convert it back into electrical energy, known as energy harvesting. IoT devices need to be ultra energy efficient in using the energy they harvest, rather than relying on battery power. The big idea in Kerstin’s group is that the energy consumed by a computer program can be estimated by analysing its code. Then energy optimisation recommendations can be made. Best of all, they have made this work for IoT applications and processors. These are considerably simpler than the processors that are used in mobile devices, so they provide an excellent first target for code-based energy consumption analysis. Kyriakos Georgiou, University of Bristol Research Associate, and Kerstin Eder’s paper on energy consumption analysis can be found at This particular research has received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement no 318337, ENTRA – Whole - Systems Energy Transparency. If you would like to find out more about low carbon computing at the University of Bristol, please visit  

Dr Kerstin Eder Dr Kerstin Eder is a Reader in Design Automation and Verification in the Faculty of Engineering. Her research activities are focused on specification, verification and analysis techniques that allow engineers to design digital systems and to verify and explore its behaviour in terms of functional correctness, safety, performance, power consumption and energy efficiency.



What is the Internet of Things (IoT)? Imagine a world in which everyday objects have network connectivity and can send and receive data over the internet. This is the world of the Internet of Things and can be used to make our homes, businesses and infrastructure more efficient, more resilient and better connected. Bristol is Open (see page 10) is designed to support IoT. However there are limitations as

Kerstin explains: “It is critical that we close the gap between the energy available to power IoT devices and the energy needed for them to function. Nobody would want to change batteries on millions of devices; the IoT needs ultra-low energy computing that can be powered solely from harvesting.”

*According to a report on energy efficiency by Digital Power Group (2013).

page 19

The Cabot Institute benefits from our many supporters, some of whom are Bristol alumni. Their donations provide the fuel for our Innovation Fund which allows our researchers to try fundamentally new things - risky endeavours with potentially large rewards. Find out about some of the projects that have benefited from this funding.

Credit: Elena Couce

A new modelling technique that could help save coral reefs Shallow-water tropical coral reefs are amongst the most productive and diverse ecosystems on the planet. A particularly generous donation by Alexander Wilmot-Sitwell (BA 1983) is funding Dr Sally Wood, a talented young researcher at the Cabot Institute, as she explores what the future may hold for these ecosystems. “Thanks to Alex, we have been able to map where reefs may still exist in the future with climate change, as well as where coral recruits may come from to repopulate the devastated reefs of today in the current El Niño,” Dr Erica Hendy, Lecturer in Biogeochemical Cycles and Sally’s supervisor, explains. Specifically, Sally has developed a modelling technique that is now shedding new light on our understanding of how coral larvae disperse and connect coral populations from different

page 20

reefs under ever-changing conditions. This innovation will help to protect reefs, through understanding where future viable reefs will form and what will promote their survival. “Alex’s support has enabled me to develop the work on coral reef vulnerability begun during my PhD into quality scientific publications, boosting the impact of my research and hopefully spring-boarding me into a career in this field,” Sally says. “This has come at a crucial point in my early career, post-PhD, when many researchers find themselves without the means to support themselves right when their research has the greatest potential. So it is on both a personal and academic level that I thank Alex for all that he has made possible.”

Living ‘fast’ and dying young in Africa: how infection risk changes reproductive strategies Mhairi Gibson (Anthropology) and Mark Viney (Biological Sciences) have been working together with Samuel Wanji from the University of Buea in Cameroon to investigate how human infection risk – and perception of that risk – influences human reproductive behaviour. Through conducting a survey in rural Cameroon, the team found that women infected with the tissue worm parasite Onchocerca had an earlier onset of periods and age at first birth compared to uninfected women. Similarly, among adults with malaria, those with a higher degree of active parasitic infection showed a trend towards having more sexual unions and preferring earlier marriage ages. These results are consistent with evolutionary life-history theory, which predicts that under conditions of high mortality we see accelerated reproductive behaviour,

such as reproducing at an earlier age and less time between births. However, this survey was the first to use a combination of methods from anthropology, psychology, demography, and infection biology to explore the extent to which human reproductive strategies respond to an individual’s infectious disease risks, as well as how such responses are influenced by perceptions, attitudes and social norms. “These are really intriguing results, and probably very important because they show a whole new way in which infections might affect us,” Mark says. “Infectious diseases have been a hugely important force in human evolution, and it is thanks to generous donations from alumni that we are still discovering fascinating new effects.” The work may have important implications for public health strategies in places with high infection risk.

Bridging the gap: combining genomics and ecology to determine the effects of pesticides on the UK bumblebee The effects of pesticides on important pollinators, such as honey bees, are well-documented. However, other species with smaller colony sizes and different foraging ranges – such as the common UK bumblebee – have not been as well studied; nor have the effects of pesticide exposure at the molecular level. Thanks to the Cabot Institute Innovation Fund, Drs Daisy Taylor and Seirian Sumner have worked with farmers and agronomists across the UK to determine the extent of pesticide exposure in UK pollinators, in order to design controlled experiments that will be relevant in the real world. This information is being used by the team to put together grant proposals to enable the main research, identifying the molecular effects of pesticides in the field, to go ahead. Farmers are keen to collaborate as bees provide vital pollination services and are a key part of intensive, but sustainable, agriculture. As Daisy explains: “The connection with the Cabot Institute has helped us to meet new research partners as well as to understand more about who might benefit from our findings. I want to thank alumni for not only introducing me to a number of important collaborators, but also for providing me with the resources to develop these relationships.”

If you are interested in supporting University of Bristol Cabot Institute research by making a gift, please get in touch with Katie McKeogh, Development and Alumni Relations, at Credit: Nicola Temple

Professor Geoffrey Eglinton FRS, 1927-2016 Geoffrey (Geoff) Eglinton, Professor of Organic Geochemistry and Professor Emeritus in the School of Chemistry (1967-93), then Senior Research Fellow in the School of Earth Sciences, died at home on 11 March after a short illness. Geoff pioneered the field of organic geochemistry, from leading the team that first characterised organic matter in the Apollo 11 lunar samples to developing new tools to study past climates. He also made a lasting legacy to the University by inspiring interdisciplinarity when he founded the Bristol Biogeochemistry Research Centre. Geoff published hundreds of papers; mentored well over a hundred PhD students, post-docs and visitors; and inspired the research of thousands of others. He played a key role in dissolving borders between disciplines and helped make the University what it is today. His legacy will be as long-lived as the beautiful molecular fossils he loved.

page 21


Bristol’s year as European Green Capital was a flurry of hope, progress and accomplishments. We’ve achieved so much as an Institute, University and city, and whilst it has been no easy feat, we are enlivened by the evidence that 2015 brought us – if you collectively approach a challenge with determination, you can achieve more than you ever thought possible. We are delighted to announce that the University has committed to funding the Cabot Institute for five more years. This marks the incorporation of the Institute into the fabric of the University, and secures its long-term future. It is with this sense of establishment and ambition that we look ahead to the future of the Institute.

page 22

WHAT ARE WE DOING IN THE YEAR AHEAD? Raise the profile of our great people and research Inspired by Bristol’s year as Green Capital, our academic community have dedicated enormous resources to supporting Bristol on its journey to becoming a smart, sustainable, resilient and inclusive city. We’d like to take these local achievements and share them internationally – supporting other cities and universities in their transition to a sustainable and resilient future. We have genuinely world-leading research in food, water, energy, natural hazards and risk. We will raise the profile of our research stars and support industry and government to connect to this knowledge base. More broadly, we want to ensure that our research is accessible in the public sphere – in the news, on blogs, and through live events. We will expand our Press Gang to support these ongoing communications.

Connect people and create communities that span disciplines and organisations So much of our work relies on people being able to meet and be inspired by one another. This year we’ll be hosting or supporting events across a range of areas – from building new research communities in global development, to analysing the ‘communications gaps’ in natural hazards research, and joining up the tricky issue of water ‘from source

to sink’. We’ll also be working with our fantastic partners in the Bristol Festival of Ideas, Natural History Consortium, Green Capital Partnership and City Council.

Catalyse ideas that lead to radical and integrated solutions to our research challenges Building communities and connecting people through events serves one purpose – to catalyse new ideas. We support these ideas by connecting people to sources of funding that allow them to take their ideas to the next level, or by supporting emerging, exciting plans through the generous donations of alumni via our ‘Innovation Fund’ (see pages 20-21).

Maximise the impact of our research We work closely with our members to ensure that they know, from the outset, who might benefit from their research and how specific groups of people will access, and in some cases help to generate, those findings. The Cabot Institute connects to a range of research partners and collaborators that are willing to help challenge and shape our ideas, and to use our research. This extends to our Masters-level students, who are working with local and national organisations to ensure that their research tackles real-world problems in useful ways.

page 23

Contact us For general enquiries, to connect to the team, or to receive our weekly newsletter, please email or call +44 (0) 117 954 6339 Contact details for team members can be found on our website at Follow us on Twitter @cabotinstitute Read our blog at Download all our magazines at Cabot Institute Royal Fort House Clifton Bristol, UK BS8 1UJ Graphic Design: Dirty Design

Cabot Institute

Cabot institute magazine 2016  

The University of Bristol Cabot Institute magazine 2016 contains highlights from the last year around our research around environmental unce...

Cabot institute magazine 2016  

The University of Bristol Cabot Institute magazine 2016 contains highlights from the last year around our research around environmental unce...