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Showing posts from March, 2016

Kyoto-Bristol-Heidelberg workshop: Novel frontiers in botany

Botany is an ancient field of science and often has an (incorrect!) reputation for being outdated. The recent plant sciences workshop ‘Novel Frontiers in Botany’ shook off that image by bringing together researchers from Kyoto University, Heidelberg University and the University of Bristol to discuss their cutting edge research and form exciting new collaborations.

The workshop, held in March at Kyoto University, was part of an ongoing strategic partnership between the three Universities and their botanic gardens. It built on previous plant science meetings of the partner institutions, which have already led to ongoing international research collaborations. The plant biology research interests of the three universities, whilst overlapping, incorporate different techniques and ideas, so by working together we can synergistically accelerate plant sciences research across the partnership.

Student-led success
One of the highlights of the meeting was its student-led focus. A team of gradu…

How accurate are the media on climate change and extreme weather events?

I've always appreciated the environment, but had previously taken on the role of spectator. I credit this magnificent city of ours with inspiring me to change my passive respect of nature to taking an active role in trying to preserve it. The strong sense of community in Bristol and the green-mindedness of its residents is infectious, and is evident in the number of fantastic projects we have which are led by the people and by our local government.

I craved more information about our environment so started attending lectures and events that are regularly held by the Cabot Institute and various departments across the university. As my insight to the issues we face grew, I realised I needed to increase my understanding and hopefully align my career in a way in which I could have a positive impact. I decided to enrol in a masters in Climate Change Science and Policy so I could appreciate the scientific intricacies rather than relying on what I heard, and what I read in the media.  

The Nikki Project: Designing a rainwater harvesting system for an African health centre

Last summer three Engineers Without Borders (EWB) members conducted a six week recce on water supply in Nikki, Benin, last summer. After building contacts with local engineers, schools and hospitals, sourcing handwritten archived data, and finding many interesting answers to our questions, we are now working hard on designs for a rainwater harvesting system and planning this summer’s work. This blog is about our project, why it’s important and how we’re going about it.
The Nikki Project aims to address water supply problems in the small district of Nikki, Benin. A big layer of granite near to the ground surface means there is only a seasonal water table. This means the Benin government’s method of borehole water supply, which works for the rest of the country, does not work here. Citizens are given a few hours of water supply per day (at the best of times). This water is cut until 2 am and rarely lasts past 5 am; certainly not ideal for schools and hospitals that need water for treatm…

Hydrogen and fuel cells: Innovative solutions for low carbon heat

On 29 February 2016, I attended a meeting in Westminster that was jointly organised by the UK Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association (UKFCA) and Carbon Connect with the aim of discussing current challenges in the decarbonisation of heat generation in the UK. The panel included David Joffe (Committee on Climate Change), Dr. Marcus Newborough (ITM Power), Ian Chisholm (Doosan Babcock), Klaus Ullrich (Fuel Cell Energy Solutions), Phil Caldwell (Ceres Power) and was chaired by Dr Alan Whitehead MP and Shadow Energy Minister. The attendees included a number of key players in the field of hydrogen production, fuel cell and renewable energy industries, as well as organisations such as the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC).
To set the scene, I would like to quote some facts and figures from the 2015 Carbon Connect report on the Future of Heat (part II).

The 2025 carbon reduction target is 404.4 MtCO2e (million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent), but the reduction levels as of …

Community volcano monitoring: The first weeks at Volcan de Fuego

Ashmeters tested already during the recent paroxsym at #Fuego volcano, we already have ash samples! @cabotinstitutepic.twitter.com/IZN6dJ12BH — Emma Liu (@EmmaLiu31) March 4, 2016 Volcan de Fuego (Volcano of Fire) is an active volcano close to the Guatemalan city of Antigua. The volcano is one of the most active volcanoes in central America with a lively history of life-threatening eruptions.  It is thought that around 60,000 people are currently at risk from the volcano.

Monitoring the volcano is challenging with a limited availability of resources in the developing country. Bristol volcanology PhD student Emma Liu and colleagues are currently in Guatemala implementing a novel program to monitor ash fall from the volcano using community involvement. Volcanic ash is a hazard to human health, as well as to aviation. Additionally it holds vital clues into the activity of the volcano that can help us to understand past eruptions and predict what it may do in the future.  Once ash falls …

Is benchmarking the best route to water efficiency in the UK’s irrigated agriculture?

From August 2015 to January 2016, I was lucky enough to enjoy an ESRC-funded placement at the Environment Agency. Located within the Water Resources Team, my time here was spent writing a number of independent reports on behalf of the agency. This blog is a short personal reflection of one of these reports, which you can find here. All views within this work are my own and do not represent any views, plans or policies of the Environment Agency. 

Approximately 71% of UK land (17.4 million hectares) is used for agriculture - with 9.3 million hectares (70%) of land in England used for such operations. The benefits of this land use are well-known - providing close to 50% of the UK’s food consumption.  Irrigated agriculture forms an important fulcrum within this sector, as well as contributing extensively to the rural economy. In eastern England alone, it is estimated that 50,000 jobs depend upon irrigated agriculture – with the sector reported to contribute close to £3 billion annually to…

Resilience and urban design

In this article, inspired by the movement of open spaces in cities across the world and resilience theory [1], Shima Beigi argues that city and human resilience are tightly interlinked and it is possible to positively influence both through utilising the transformative power of open spaces in novel ways.

Human resilience makes cities more resilient
Future cities provide a fertile ground to integrate and synthesise different properties of space and help us realise our abilities to become more resilient. Rapid urbanisation brings with it a need to develop cohesive and resilient communities, so it is crucial to discuss how we can better design our cities. In the future, urban design must harness the transformative function of open spaces to help people explore new sociocultural possibilities and increase our resilience: resilient people help form the responsible citizenry that is necessary for the emergence of more resilient urban systems.

Cities are complex adaptive systems
Cities are