Living with global uncertainty
The future of British fish and chips
SECURING OUR ENERGY FUTURE Shedding light on new uses of CO2
Shaping global responses to natural disasters
WELCOME TO THE ANTHROPOCENE
Humans as the architects of our planetâ€™s future
LAWYERS TO CHEMISTS The water group has it all
Faculty of Science
CONCERN ABOUT GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE HAS NEVER BEEN GREATER The University of Bristol’s MSc in Climate Change Science and Policy trains highly skilled graduates for professional employment in the public and private sectors, academia, consultancies, and non-governmental/advocacy organisations.
Learn about: · Climate change science and its links to policy and policymakers · Modelling of the Earth System, from simple box models to complex climate models · Remote Sensing of the environment and GIS · Understanding past climate change and making predictions of future change “The research aspect of the course was ideal. It has allowed me to develop key skills, leading to my current position at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, letting me experience science outside of an academic setting, and seeing how it impacts on everyday life and scientific policy.” Robert Mitchell, 2012 Graduate
For more information and to apply: bristol.ac.uk/cabot/postgrad
WELCOME AN INTRODUCTION FROM PAUL BATES Cabot Institute Director Where we’ve come from
Why we’re unique
Where we’re going
The Cabot Institute is named after John Cabot (Giovanni Caboto), an Italian-born explorer who in May 1497, sailed west from Bristol on the Matthew in the hope of finding a route to Asia. On 24 June, he sighted land and called it New-found-land. With this spirit of exploration at the heart of the Cabot Institute, we have grown from the roots of the University of Bristol’s environmental research groups. These groups include the Bristol Environmental Risk Research Centre (BRISK), Global Change, Bristol Technologies for the Environment (BriTE), Bristol Research Initiative for the Global Dynamic Environment (BRIDGE) and the Global Insecurities Centre. The leaders of these research groups formed the Cabot Institute because they knew much more could be achieved together than alone.
We carry out fundamental and responsive research on hazard, risk and uncertainty in a changing environment. Our interests are unusually broad and include climate change, natural hazards, food, water and energy security and human impacts on the environment. Our research fuses rigorous statistical and numerical modelling with a deep understanding of interconnected social, environmental and engineered systems past, present and future. The Institute brings diverse research groups together to share knowledge, catalyse new research and build strong relationships within and beyond the University. Working with private, public and third sector organisations as well as individuals, we hope to address some of the most pressing environmental concerns of the 21st century.
Our aim is to become one of the UK’s leading research institutes on global environmental change by 2017. To achieve this, the University of Bristol is investing in new Faculty positions in environmental change across the campus and bringing these people together to work on some of the world’s most challenging global problems. We have already secured considerable public research funding, but are seeking major donations to support further research and to build a substantial endowment that ensures the Institute’s long term sustainability. We are interested in working in a variety of ways with individuals and organisations that share our concerns - from supporting events to initiating major programmes of research. Please contact the team to discuss ideas and opportunities.
Contents page 3 page 4 page 6 page 10 page 13 page 16 page 17 page 18 page 19
Welcome Building the Institute Our changing oceans Securing our energy future Volcanoes & society The anthropocene Taking the initiative on water Exploring connections through art Contact us
Cover photo: Mackerel flee a predator. Credit: iStockphoto/William_King
NICOLA TEMPLE Nicola has been working with the Cabot Institute to capture the stories of our research and its impacts. She is also supporting the Institute’s press gang, a group of early career researchers helping to raise our media profile.
BUILDING THE INSTITUTE THE TEAM The Cabot Institute was launched in November 2010 and its first Director, Paul Bates, was appointed in February 2011. Philippa Bayley and Amanda Woodman-Hardy joined the Institute team as Manager and Administrator in Autumn 2011. Now joined by James Lancaster, this team has helped lay a strong foundation for the Institute’s first full year of operation. From left to right: Paul Bates, Amanda Woodman-Hardy, Philippa Bayley, James Lancaster.
Department of Energy and Climate Change Chief Scientific Advisor, Professor David MacKay, engages a public audience of 800 people about UK energy choices at the Institute’s first Annual Lecture.
The VUELCO project launches - a £3.1M project funded by the European Union that was seed-funded by the Cabot Institute. Led by Dr. Jo Gottsmann,VUELCO addresses the origin, nature and significance of volcanic unrest in Europe and Latin America.
November 2011 We host a special live debate edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme Saving Species: Sustaining Life, which is broadcast to a huge public audience.
November 2011 The Global Volcano Model project, led by Professor Steve Sparks, is launched with representatives from the risk and insurance industry and academia.
Cabot Institute researchers build research links with the Disaster Prevention Research Institute at a workshop on probabilistic hazard risk assessment in Kyoto, Japan.
With colleagues at the University of East Anglia, Professor Steve Sparks is awarded £3M from NERC and ESRC for an interdisciplinary research project on ‘Strengthening Resilience in Volcanic Areas’. Credit: iStockphoto/AlexandreGibo
MARK EISLER “The Cabot Institute has proved invaluable at the vet school in terms of providing seed-corn funding for small scale research projects to be conducted with our partners in the Food Security and Land Research Alliance. We have also benefited greatly from Cabot’s assistance in organising both internal and external research meetings and workshops, which are expected to lead to major research funding proposals in conjunction with these partners.” Professor Mark Eisler, Chair in Global Farm Animal Health, University of Bristol
© Mark Simmons
“From my perspective, the Cabot Institute is doing what other groups only talk about, that is, serving as hub, facilitator, and flashpoint for truly interdisciplinary approaches to addressing problems related to environmental hazards. My experience at the University of Bristol has been enhanced by association with the Cabot Institute in ways that I could not have imagined just one year ago.” Professor Kathy Cashman, Chair in Volcanology, University of Bristol
October 2011 Cabot Institute researchers join forces with the University of Exeter and Rothamsted Research to tackle the challenge of sustainably feeding a growing population through the Food Security and Land Research Alliance.
Neville Gabie joins us as Artist in Residence and launches the Common Room project.
Professor Kathy Cashman is awarded the University’s first AXA Research Chair in Volcanology.
New Chair in Civil Engineering and Cabot Institute Steering Group member, Thorsten Wagener, leads a successful consortium to work on ‘Probability, Uncertainty and Risk in the Environment’, receiving £2M from NERC.
Successful funding bids supported by the Institute reach £10M, including major research grants, fellowships and studentships. Credit: NASA GSFC
The ocean connects our continents and shapes our climate. It covers more than two thirds of our planetâ€™s surface and contains 97% of all our water. Yet, its enormity has not made it immune to the effects of a changing climate, an expanding and demanding population and poor governance and regulation. Cabot Institute researchers are exploring how marine life has responded to changes in temperature and ocean chemistry in the past, and are using this knowledge to help predict the future and help shape government policy.
Red gurnard and chips please Brits tend to like a big boneless fillet of white fish. Cod and haddock are part of British culture - it’s what our grandparent’s generation ate because it was plentiful and cheap. However, now that the UK imports 88% of cod and warming waters are bringing new species into the fisheries, is it time to say goodbye to traditional fish and chips? Research at the Universities of Bristol and Exeter is providing valuable insights into how warming seas may affect future fisheries and why we might need to start reinventing some of Granny’s favourite recipes.
Life in the cauldron The UK, positioned on the European continental shelf, is sitting in what is known as the ‘cauldron of climate change’, where shallow water, semi-enclosed seas and northern mid-latitude all contribute to warming. The North and Baltic Seas have seen temperature rises five to six times faster than the global average over the past 25 years1. Dr. Steve Simpson, NERC Knowledge Exchange Fellow (until recently at the University of Bristol, now at the University of Exeter), is looking at how a 1-1.5oC water temperature rise over the European continental shelf has affected some of the most commercially important fish in the world, and what that means for future fisheries. Simpson and his colleagues at Bristol took long term data sets of commercially independent fish surveys from around Europe and stitched them together using novel statistical methods. From this, they developed a macroecological view - the ecological big picture, if you will - of all of the shallow water north of France, including the Celtic Sea, the English Channel, the North Sea and the Irish Sea. “We were able to look at the last thirty years,” said Simpson, “and because we had this bigger picture, we were able to draw out very clear responses to warming for many species that had previously shown no response in single surveys.” The survey data started in 1980, after industrialised fishing pressure had already taken effect, which allowed the researchers to tease out the effects of warming on the fifty most abundant bottom-dwelling fish species. “If I had been told at the beginning that we would find most species affected by warming, my prediction would have been that it would be in a negative way,” said Simpson. “However twenty-seven, more than half, of those fifty most abundant species increased in relation to warming and only nine species decreased.” It was the cold-loving species, such as cod, haddock and whiting, the mainstay of UK fisheries, which declined2. Whereas warm-loving species such as red mullet, red gurnard and John dory, the species we’re more likely to encounter while vacationing in Spain, increased in abundance. In other words, the temperature increase doesn’t mean the cauldron’s empty, it’s just changed what’s in the pot. “There’s a lot of fish that we’re now seeing in our waters that we could eat and that could keep the fishing industry viable if we could develop the market for those species,” added Simpson.
Simpson working on a reef in Indonesia.
Using the past to predict the future The researchers are now using these data to look at how predicted changes in temperature may affect fish communities by the end of this century. “We’ve started looking at the North Sea and we’ve focused on the ten most commercially important fish,” said Simpson. “Over the past 30 years, five of those species have declined due to warming and five have increased, but the predictions are for another 2.5 degrees of warming. By 2099, we don’t see any of those species doing well, whiting just possibly increasing, but the other species - cod, haddock, sole, plaice, hake, lemon sole, dab - they all decline.” While these species may move out of the North Sea or simply decline into the historical landings books, the researchers are using the broader data set to predict which other species may move into the North Sea in the future. “Consumers want to buy British and we seek out the British flag on our farmed produce,” said Simpson. “We need to do the same with fish, but that means marketing species that aren’t what consumers currently want. It will be a significant culture shift, but one that supports our British fisheries and that’s also climate change-friendly. This is where I can see our research having an impact.” Nicola Temple
STEVE SIMPSON Steve is a NERC Knowledge Exchange Fellow, previously at the University of Bristol and now Senior Lecturer in Biosciences at the University of Exeter. To learn more about Steve’s research, visit: biosciences.exeter.ac.uk/staff/index.php?web_id=Stephen_Simpson
1. EEA. (2011) Rising sea surface temperature: towards ice-free Arctic summers and a changing marine food chain. URL: http://www.eea.europa.eu/themes/coast_sea/sea-surface-temperature [23 September 2012] 2. Simpson, SD et al. Continental shelf-wide response of a fish assemblage to rapid warming of the sea. Curr. Biol. 21, 1565-1570 (2011)
MARGHERITA PIERACCINI Margherita, a new Lecturer in the School of Law, is starting a prestigious Leadership Fellowship in 2012. Supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Margherita will be exploring the social and legal issues around the creation of the Marine Protected Areas network in English seas. Margherita worked with Steve Simpson and others to co-author the report 2050: Sustainable oceans in a changing climate (see page 8 for more information).
Photo left: Reef shark cruising. Credit: Nicola Temple
2050: Sustainable oceans Approaching the complex problem of sustainable oceans requires more than one good brain. Cabot Institute researchers from marine biology, oceanography and law, and collaborators from the University of the West of England and the Public Information Research Centre came together for a day of intensive thinking and writing. Together they authored 2050: Sustainable oceans in a changing climate, which outlines the scientific background and management responses needed to keep our oceans sustainably productive. Read more here:
Credit: Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge
Ocean acidification: The double damage of CO2 Ocean acidification is one of the key challenges facing our society and is often described as the “other CO2 problem”. The ocean has absorbed a third of the CO2 released by anthropogenic sources, thereby dampening the effects of global warming. But this uptake of CO2 has changed ocean chemistry, a process called ocean acidification, with potentially serious consequences for marine organisms. Ocean acidification researchers Dr. Daniela Schmidt in the School of Earth Sciences and Professor Andy Ridgwell in the School of Geographical Sciences are working with their world-leading teams to unravel this complex story. Ocean acidity has been increasing since the start of the industrial era in the late 19th century; as a result, the ocean pH has dropped by an average of 0.1 pH units. This may not sound significant, but the drop represents a 30% increase in acidity. The 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report concluded that ocean acidification would negatively impact marine organisms that make their shell or skeleton from calcium carbonate. No ocean acidification event in the last 65 million years has occurred as quickly as current acidification, challenging species’ ability to adapt and potentially leading to their extinction.
ANDY RIDGWELL Dr.
DANIELA SCHMIDT Sampling the Southern Ocean The Southern Ocean has naturally low saturation levels of carbonate ions, which makes it a more challenging environment for calcifying creatures to make shells. This is because cold water stores large amounts of dissolved CO2, which reduces carbonate ion concentrations. Organisms in the Southern Ocean are therefore particularly vulnerable to the impact of ocean acidification, making this area a sensitive ‘living experiment’. The Schmidt lab is looking at whether ocean acidification has already impacted organisms in the Antarctic. This work will help recognise future effects, and provide rigorous information on future carbon emissions for policymakers.
The expedition ship Discovery in Antarctica
Historical collections can help Our understanding of organisms’ reactions to ocean acidification is based largely on lab experiments. These are invaluable for understanding short term physiological reactions of different organisms, but they don’t represent the variability and complexity of the real ocean. We need to know how organisms may modify their behaviour to ocean acidification or adapt over generations. The Schmidt lab has chosen a different approach by comparing specimens that lived in pre-industrial times (before ocean chemistry changed) with those living today. This approach makes use of immensely valuable collections at The Natural History Museum arising from a series of groundbreaking expeditions to Antarctic waters in the late 19th and through the 20th century. Laura Foster, Federica Ragazzola and Suzanne Jennions in the Schmidt lab are comparing specimens collected on the Challenger (1872-1876) and Discovery (1901-1904) expeditions to recently collected specimens. They are examining whether species living at the bottom of the Southern Ocean show evidence of acclimatising or adapting to the rapid change in ocean chemistry. This project focuses on important calcifying organisms: bryozoans, bivalves and benthic foraminiferans. Results may demonstrate that the pH decrease since the late 19th century has already had an impact on organisms and that this should be taken into account in predictions of future vulnerabilities. Alternatively, if there are no effects of ocean acidification, it will be clear that these species were able to acclimatise to acidification over the last 100 years - a potentially much more hopeful picture for the future. Daniela Schmidt
For more information, please see Ridgwell, AJ & Schmidt, DN. Past constraints on the vulnerability of marine calcifiers to massive CO2 release. Nature Geosci. 3, 196-200 (2010) and Honisch, B, et al. The Geological Record of Ocean Acidification. Science 335, 1058-1063 (2012).
Supporting essential research Two researchers in the School of Earth Sciences are being supported through the generosity of individual supporters. Laura Foster’s Postdoctoral Fellowship is funded by Roger Holmes (BSc 1981) and his wife Kate, and Suzanne Jennions’ PhD is funded by an anonymous donor. These donors share a love of the sea, a commitment to protecting the environment and a desire to contribute to scientific research. So when they heard about Bristol’s ocean acidification research, they were keen to get involved. “Climate change has been a concern for me and my wife for a long time, and oceans are our passion,” said one. “Here was our opportunity to make a difference to something we really care about.” Holmes was attracted by Bristol’s strong research credentials in this field through the work of Dr. Daniela Schmidt and Professor Andy Ridgwell, who are both partners in the UK Ocean Acidification Research Programme and the European Project on Ocean Acidification. Dr. Schmidt is also a lead author for the Ocean Systems chapter of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report on Climate Change.
“It’s a privilege to support such important research, particularly knowing that it will go on to influence global policy.” Roger Holmes Get involved by supporting world-class research bristol.ac.uk/centenarycampaign
Photo left: A school of yellowtail snapper. Credit: Elena Couce Photography
Energy presents one of the greatest challenges of our future. We need more energy to sustain growing populations and to support increasing industrialisation across the developing world. Yet traditional energy sources are declining, so we are using more energy intensive methods of fossil fuel extraction - such as tar sands and shale gas - to meet our needs. Energy security depends on carbon neutral and carbon negative solutions. Within the Cabot Institute, researchers working across the sciences, social sciences and engineering are helping to secure our energy future. This includes the universityâ€™s Electrochemistry Group, which is developing new methods to efficiently harness and store the sunâ€™s energy.
A new role for CO2 and water
from light-activated materials and increasing the rate of electrochemical reactions (electrocatalysis) at the nanoscale. Both are necessary to use the sun’s energy to convert stable molecules like water and CO2.
When it comes to meeting increasing demands for clean sustainable energy, we may not need to look any further than the sun. It’s clean, it’s powerful and it’s free, but it isn’t always reliable. Developing solar energy as a reliable worldwide energy source requires suitable storage and Bristol’s Electrochemistry Group is helping to make this a reality.
The Bristol Electrochemistry Group excels at integrating light harvesting materials and electrocatalytic centres into single devices for the direct generation of solar fuels. The conversion and storage of light energy is brought together at the nanoscale using semiconductor and metal nanostructures assembled at electrode surfaces.
Solar energy strikes the Earth at a rate of 120,000 Terawatts (TW), which is significantly higher than any other primary energy source and considerably more than predicted global energy needs of 40 TW by 2100. The most effective way to store energy at this scale is through the formation of stable chemical bonds producing ‘solar fuels’. Two key solar fuel possibilities come from very familiar molecules - splitting water into hydrogen (H2) and oxygen (O2), and the reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) to fuels such as formic acid or methanol.
One challenge with this research is tuning the reactivity of nanoscale catalysts by controlling their surface composition. The Electrochemistry Group is looking at how thin shells of materials like palladium and gold perform as electrocatalysts for hydrogen generation and oxidising formic acid. As part of an EPSRC Grand Challenge on Nanotechnology, the group is extending this approach to the reduction of CO2 to formic acid and methanol. Another area of interest is the use of semiconductor nanocrystals in photovoltaic devices. The aim is to develop a photovoltaic device that runs in tandem with an
This is where electrochemistry steps in. Producing solar fuels involves two key areas of electrochemistry: the transfer of electrons
electrochemical device, therefore increasing the amount of energy that can be harvested from the sun. Using solar energy to generate hydrogen from water would provide an energy storage mechanism for solar cell technologies, as well as a transportation fuel and source material for industry. The photoelectrochemical process is the most efficient way to do this. Though the stability of CO2 makes it an unlikely solar fuel, given sufficient energy, and through the use of catalysts, CO2 can be turned into higher added value chemicals such as formic acid or methanol. The capture and utilisation of CO2 could easily reduce carbon emissions by approximately 10%, through direct use of CO2, with further reductions coming from the shift away from fossil fuels. There are still many challenges that underlie the sustainable generation and utilisation of solar fuels, from the efficient harvesting of sunlight to finding the right electrocatalysts for myriad chemical reactions. Managing energy demand is also crucial to ensure that people will be able to switch their lights on with the touch of a button, whether the sun is shining or not. David Fermin and Daniela Plana
H2O Solar Energy
PHOTOVOLTAIC Electric Charges MATERIALS
FUEL Electric CELLS Power CO2 CONVERSION
DAVID FERMIN Dr.
The Electrochemistry Group is exploring two pathways for producing solar fuels - splitting water and reducing carbon dioxide. This research could help reduce carbon emissions as well as assist the UK government in meeting targets for low carbon energy sources.
Bristol Renewable Energy Hub Bristol Renewable Energy Hub (BREH) is a new initiative that has developed from the Bristol Solar Group. It addresses two of the principle barriers to the adoption of renewable technologies - poor public understanding of energy options and solutions, and the perceived long pay back on investment (despite Feed in Tariffs) when relying on single solutions. BREH is creating a test platform to demonstrate renewable energy solutions in combination and to explore types of behavioural and other interventions that can speed up returns on investment. An example would be identifying simple ways of balancing supply and demand, such as only running the dishwasher or washing machine at times when energy being generated matches or exceeds the load, i.e. on a sunny day if using solar PV.
Bristol City Council is supporting the initiative as it’s relevant to the City Energy Strategy, and local solar PV installers are funding the initial installation. IBM will be providing their smart lab software. Regen SW will act as the representative body for the renewable energy community in the South West and assist with accessing funding from regional and central government. The University will benefit from free energy, a research and teaching platform and stakeholder engagement. James Lancaster, Head of Alliance Development at the University of Bristol, will chair this new initiative. James Lancaster
Photo left: Carbon neutral energy solutions, such as wind and solar, are needed to meet increasing energy demands.
Credit: Mark Simmons
Exploiting South West synergies in nuclear research The internationally important Nuclear Research Centre (NRC) is a joint venture between the University of Bristol and the University of Oxford. The Centre launched in November 2011 with an audience of almost 200 people and an address from Charles Hendry, Minister of State for Energy at the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change. The NRC sits under the Cabot Institute as part of our work on energy security, with a remit to provide leading edge and innovative research to support the safe operation of current and future generation nuclear systems. The Centre is not ‘pro-nuclear’ in its approach, but recognises that while the UK continues to invest in nuclear technologies there is an urgent need for world-class research, and technical and critical expertise. This is particularly true in the South West, which is home to a concentration of nuclear facilities, research centres and related industries such as Culham, Rolls-Royce and AWE. The South West will also likely be the site of a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point.
Charles Hendry MP, Minister of State for Energy at the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change addresses the audience at the launch of the NRC.
The NRC seeks to work in partnership with other academic and industry stakeholders, and in 2013 will be holding a 2-day ‘nuclear futures’ event with the UK Project on Nuclear Issues (UK-PONI). For more information about the NRC and its events see nrcuk.net David Smith and Chris Grovenor
The Isar II Nuclear Power Plant in Germany. Credit: CC image by Bjoern Schwarz on Flickr
COLUMBA PEOPLES Nuclear futures A key strand of research within the NRC focuses on nuclear futures - the broad social, security, political and economic context for nuclear research and operation. The prospective new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point provides a local and timely case study for asking important and critical questions about the UK’s ‘nuclear renaissance’. Dr. Columba Peoples, Senior Lecturer in the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies (SPAIS), leads this area of work for Bristol. He is building links within the school, and at an interdisciplinary level, with colleagues in geographical sciences, safety systems and engineering.
Natural hazards are part of the environmental uncertainty facing society. Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, landslides and floods can develop quickly leaving tragedy and devastation in their wake. The University of Bristol is at the forefront of natural hazard research, not the least of which is a group of worldrenowned experts in volcanic eruptions. In 2010, experts from the School of Earth Sciences provided advice during the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic ash crisis, which helped reduce uncertainty in the predictive models informing government and industry. Working within the Cabot Institute, these experts are integrating their research with the human context and helping to improve our predictive capability and mitigate risks.
Mount Agung (Gunung Agung) in Indonesia
Celebrating success: launch of the new AXA Research Fund Chair in Volcanology The disruption caused by the eruption of an Icelandic volcano is coming under the spotlight at the University of Bristol thanks to the creation of a new research post to look at the hazards of volcanic ash and how its risks can be managed. Professor Kathy Cashman from the School of Earth Sciences will hold the position of Chair in Volcanology. The role is funded by the AXA Research Fund, a global initiative of scientific philanthropy. The €617,000 fund will help to answer key questions about how volcanic plumes form, how they spread and how hazardous they might become.
Professor Cashman, a world-leading volcanologist, will lead a programme of research looking at volcanic plumes, conducting experiments using laboratory materials that behave in similar ways to magma. The novel approach involves considering how the physical characteristics of a volcanic ash cloud depend on an evolving set of parameters such as magma composition, temperature and pressure, regional stress field and ice-cap melting. Professor Cashman, who is also a Philip H. Knight Distinguished Professor of Geological Sciences at the University of Oregon, said, “During this three year project, we hope to develop better scientific methods for predicting how volcanic plumes behave. This will benefit local communities who live near volcanoes, as well as airlines that need to know if it is going to be safe to fly. The eruption of Eyjafjallajökull highlighted the importance of this research and the need for a better understanding of these risks.”
Photo top: Credit: Caltiva Creatividad
Paul Goswamy, Head of Property & Casualty Risk in AXA UK and sponsor of the chair, commented, “Better understanding of the impact of volcanic eruptions on our societies is crucial to help AXA better cover our clients and thus protect them. AXA and its risk management experts will contribute to Professor Cashman’s research on volcanic plume mitigation by sharing our insurance expertise. Furthermore, AXA will help Professor Cashman disseminate her discoveries through AXA’s worldwide network to enrich the public’s scientific knowledge for a better mitigation of volcanic plumes in the world.” Edited from an article by Hannah Johnson Credit: Mark Simmons photography
In 2010, the eruption of the volcano Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland severely disrupted global air travel and highlighted the risks of volcanic eruptions to people across the globe. Fundamental gaps were recognised in the scientific understanding of volcanic plumes, how they are formed, and how their composition might be predicted. Different particle sizes have dramatically different consequences for jet engine safety, so a better understanding of this will be critical for future risk assessments.
Her appointment is part of the Cabot Institute, which organised a research day in May 2012 to launch the AXA-sponsored Chair. The event explored the multiple facets of environmental risk through the theme of volcanoes and society, touching on climate change, different approaches to risk assessment, and historical records of eruptions and their effects.
Professor Kathy Cashman is presented with her award by Sir Brian Hoskins, Director of Grantham Institute for Climate Change and AXA Scientific Board member.
Reducing the uncertainty surrounding volcanic ash forecasts In 2010, Professor Steve Sparks, Professor Willy Aspinall and Dr. Matt Watson from the University of Bristol, were asked to join a Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE). The committee was created by the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Sir John Beddington, in response to the ash crisis resulting from the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland. “There were four meetings over several weeks as the emergency unfolded and this is where we put in quite a lot of advice,” said Sparks, European Research Council Advanced Researcher in the School of Earth Sciences. The Bristol volcanologists provided insight into the terms being put into the Met Office’s Numerical Atmospheric-dispersion Modelling Environment (NAME), thereby reducing some of the uncertainty around forecasting. “Their contributions were crucial to aid our understanding of the ash plume size and composition, and the processes by which the plume was transported to the UK”, said Professor Beddington. That information was used to inform the modelling which provided maps of ash concentrations and locations for the Civil Aviation Authority. “Following the April 2010 emergency, the [Bristol experts] have continued to work with the government to improve its understanding of the risk from Icelandic volcanoes and to mitigate the impact of future eruptions,” said Professor Beddington. As more is learned about the dynamics of volcanic eruptions, such as those in Iceland, the predictive models will evolve to incorporate these data and have greater predictive power. Accurate forecasting can have widespread economic and social benefits. During the 2010 European airspace closures, airlines lost an estimated US $1.7 billion dollars and over seven million passengers were affected. The outcomes of the ash crisis in Europe, and the interactions that ensued as a result, have led to an extensive follow-up research program being conducted by numerous institutions across the UK, including a £530,000 Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)-funded research project into Eyjafjallajökull awarded to University of Bristol scientists. This research will continue to inform predictive models that shape policy decisions and risk assessments around the globe.
Volcano hazard and exposure in GFDRR priority countries The World Bank’s Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) now has its most comprehensive picture of the risks posed by volcanoes in some of the world’s poorest countries, thanks to Cabot Institute researchers and colleagues at the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute. The study provides science-based evidence for better integration of volcanic risks in national Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) programmes in priority countries, and for regional cooperation in DRR programmes. Download the report from globalvolcanomodel.org
The expertise in Bristol is based on a body of research that spans more than 80 person years. It has looked at the basic physics of volcanic eruptions and has led to a solid understanding of the dynamics of volcanic plumes. An influential book, written in 1997 by Sparks and others, helped to establish the basic relationships that underlie the source terms used in predictive models utilised by many Volcanic Ash Advisory Centres (VAACs) around the world. Nicola Temple
Credit: Archivo General de Indias
Cabot Institute researchers Dr. Caroline Williams (Modern Languages), Dr. Erica Hendy, Dr. Alison Rust and Professor Kathy Cashman (all Earth Sciences) are looking to a novel source of information about historic natural hazard events - the Spanish colonial archive. The archive contains remarkable records of volcanic eruptions, extreme weather events and their consequences, shedding light on natural hazards that far predate our instrumental data.
Tungurahua Volcano, Ecuador, from 1773.
Photo left: The eruption of Mount St. Helens, located in the state of Washington, USA. Credit: USGS/ Cascades Volcano Observatory.
THE ANTHROPOCENE The increased interdependence of the natural and social worlds, and the scale and scope of human influence poses new global threats to the planet and all life on it. Climate change and biodiversity loss are just two of the disturbing patterns we see.
â€œThe claim that human activity is now shaping planetary evolution - which is central to the idea of the Anthropocene - demands of social scientists a critical engagement with the most pressing issues and ideas of the dayâ€? says Duffield.
Professor Mark Duffield, one of the founding academics of the Cabot Institute and until recently the Head of the Centre for Global Insecurities at the University of Bristol, has been the intellectual lead on this topic. He has convened interdisciplinary discussions about the Anthropocene, drawing in researchers from a wide range of subjects including Sociology and International Studies, Geography, Politics, Biology and Engineering.
An international conference - Society in the Anthropocene - in June 2013, will provide a nexus for social scientists to continue conversations, collaborations and joint work around this important topic. The conference, generously sponsored by the journal Economy and Society will address questions about human relationships to the environment, from political, anthropological, international development and legal perspectives.
It is widely acknowledged that since the Industrial revolution we have entered a new geological age - the Anthropocene - where for the first time humans have become the architects of our own planetary future.
Mark will also be talking about his work at a Cabot Institute/British Academy event in November 2012 - How did we become unprepared? Emergency and resilience in an uncertain world. Please see the Cabot Institute website for more details bristol.ac.uk/cabot/events Philippa Bayley
Satellite image of the UK at night. Credit: NASA
TAKING THE INITIATIVE ON WATER Credit: Kathryn van Werkhoven
More than 1.2 billion people lack access to clean, safe drinking water, while every year 100 million are affected by floods and droughts. Researchers at the Cabot Institute are drawing upon a range of expertise to provide on-the-ground solutions to water-related issues. This includes the development of a low-cost and reliable quantitative water-testing kit - Aquatest - designed for use at the source, in developing countries.
Introducing the University of Bristol’s water group Professor Thorsten Wagener is a new recruit to the University of Bristol and to the Cabot Institute. He is the Chair of Water and Environmental Engineering and will lead the Cabot Institute’s water research theme. The topic of water offers exceptional opportunity for collaboration across a wide range of departments, including engineering, geography, mathematics, earth sciences, law, medicine, economics and others. The water initiative is also building relationships with key public, private and third sector organisations in this field. At Bristol, there is a unique opportunity to build the most comprehensive water programme in the UK and one of the most significant groups globally.
Water gauges in developing countries in Africa have to be protected from theft.
Thorsten said, “Being able to work within the context of the Cabot Institute was a major reason I chose to come to Bristol. We already have exceptional disciplinary research at the University. The complex issue of water and its exceptional societal relevance can form the tissue to connect these disciplines - forming a whole bigger than the sum of its parts. We can make Bristol THE hub for interdisciplinary water research and education!”
Other members of the water group include: • Malcolm Anderson, School of Geographical Sciences
• Nicholas Howden, Civil Engineering
• Paul Bates, School of Geographical Sciences
• Alexandre Magno Anesio, School of Geographical Sciences
• Sonia Bhalotra, School of Economics
• Bronwen Morgan, School of Law
• Richard Evershed FRS, School of Chemistry
• Miguel Rico-Ramirez, Civil Engineering
• Jim Freer, School of Geographical Sciences
• Colin Taylor, Civil Engineering
• Dave Gordon, School for Policy Studies
• Martyn Tranter, School of Geographical Sciences
• Stephen Gundry, Civil Engineering
• Paul Valdes, School of Geographical Sciences
• Dawei Han, Civil Engineering
• Jemma Wadham, School of Geographical Sciences
• Paul Harper, Aerospace Engineering
The Cabot Institute is always interested in exploring new territories, and it was in that spirit the Institute appointed its first Artist in Residence in January 2012.
Artist in Residence, Neville Gabie, flying a kite at Halley Research Station, Antarctica.
Artist in Residence: Neville Gabie Neville is bringing his wealth of experience to the Cabot Institute as the first Artist in Residence. With Leverhulme Trust funding, Neville is spending his year with us working on a project called Common Room, which explores and exemplifies the connections between Cabot Institute researchers. Neville has a background in sculpture and his practice has always been driven by working in response to specific locations or situations caught in a moment of change. Highly urbanised or distantly remote, his work is a response to the vulnerability of a landscape subject to change. Motivated by a personal need to understand his own sense of place, Neville’s interest is in establishing a working relationship within a particular community as a means of considering its physical, cultural or emotional geography.
Neville has worked across the world and has work in the Tate Gallery and Arts Council Collections. His previous projects include: • Artist in Residence for the Olympic Delivery Authority on the Olympic Park in Stratford, from October 2010 - January 2012 • POSTS published by Penguin Books - [photographs from this publication have been exhibited in Japan, Korea, Germany, Portugal, South Africa and the UK] • MOMART Artist in Residence at Tate Liverpool • A four month residency at Halley Research Station, Antarctica with the British Antarctic Survey • Three years as artist in residence on a building site in Bristol - Cabot Circus ‘BS1’
Credit: Neville Gabie
• A five year project he initiated and co-curated with the artist Leo Fitzmaurice in a North Liverpool Tower block ‘up in the air’. The purpose of the Cabot Institute is to create a structure through which researchers from all fields can contribute to inter-disciplinary dialogue and research under a common umbrella; in Neville’s residency this is the ‘Common Room’. After several months of conversations and immersion in the work of the Institute, Common Room is slowly coming into being. Imagine a room, a physical space, which makes aspects of Cabot’s research and common knowledge, and the threads that connect it, visible. It might be made of glass and completely transparent, it could contain drawers, shelves, freezers, a speaker with sound, a continuous film. It might even be self sustaining, providing its own energy. It could be the physical manifestation of the most essential concerns of every individual working collectively as part of the Cabot Institute. The challenge to researchers is laid down simply: identify one singular item, object, animal, mineral or other, a sound, a model, or an equation, that in essence is the gravitational centre of your research.
What would you choose? Images from the Common Room archive.
Neville has begun collecting Common Room’s artefacts and stories, which will appear on the project’s blog: commonroomproject.blogspot.co.uk
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