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Showing posts from 2019

How University-city partnerships can help us tackle the global climate emergency

Image credit: Chris Bhan 
Climate scientists have made it clear: we are in a global state of emergency. The International Panel on Climate Change report published late last year was a wake-up call to the world – if we don't limit warming to 1.5 degrees, 10 million more people will be exposed to flood risk. If we don't, it will be much, much harder to grow crops and have affordable food. If we don't, we’ll have more extreme weather, which will undoubtedly impact the most vulnerable. If we don’t, the coral reefs will be almost 100% gone.

And yet… National governments are failing to act with the urgency demanded by our climate crisis. The commitments each country made to reduce emissions under the Paris Agreement won’t get us there – not even close.

How can we make progress in the face of political paralysis?

The answer is local action. Specifically, it’s action at the city-scale that has excited and inspired a plethora of researchers at the Cabot Institute in recent years.  …

The future of UK-Canada research collaborations in the Arctic

The Arctic is one of the most rapidly changing environments on Earth, with dramatic warming of the atmosphere and the oceans, accelerating glaciers, melting permafrost and shrinking sea ice.
All of these changes have major consequences for the indigenous groups of the Arctic countries: changing ocean ecosystems will impact fisheries and other natural resources, collapsing permafrost damages their homes and infrastructure, and disappearing sea ice effects their trade routes. All with implications for employment, education, and health.
Whilst these headlines reach the UK press, the immediate consequences can seem far away from our shores. However, a changing Arctic has a world-wide reach, contributing towards global sea-level and biodiversity changes, and putting pressure on shipping, natural resources, and international relations.
There have been recent large-scale efforts within the UK research community to increase our understanding of the high-latitudes. The Natural Environment Re…

Antarctica: Why are we here again?

The ship’s roll reaches 19° and everything falls off the desk, nearly followed by me off my chair if it weren’t for an evasive leap to one side. My roommate wakes with a start as the curtains around his bed have flung themselves open. “What are you doing?” he asks, in a confused state. Aside from the fact that everything falling off the desk was the weather’s fault, not mine, his question is a good one.

What are a team of 20 scientists, mostly from the UK, doing out here in the Southern Ocean? Surely there’s somewhere closer to home we could measure the sea. The main aim of this research cruise is to understand the process of deep water formation around Antarctica. First, let me briefly explain what deep water formation is and why it’s important in about 300 words. To understand this, the most important thing to remember is that water becomes denser when it is colder and/or when it is saltier. I think they teach that in GCSE science; if they don’t, they should.
Deep water formation A…

The social animals that are inspiring new behaviours for robot swarms

Termite team. 7th Son Studio/Shutterstock
From flocks of birds to fish schools in the sea, or towering termite mounds, many social groups in nature exist together to survive and thrive. This cooperative behaviour can be used by engineers as “bio-inspiration” to solve practical human problems, and by computer scientists studying swarm intelligence.

“Swarm robotics” took off in the early 2000s, an early example being the “s-bot” (short for swarm-bot). This is a fully autonomous robot that can perform basic tasks including navigation and the grasping of objects, and which can self-assemble into chains to cross gaps or pull heavy loads. More recently, “TERMES” robots have been developed as a concept in construction, and the “CoCoRo” project has developed an underwater robot swarm that functions like a school of fish that exchanges information to monitor the environment. So far, we’ve only just begun to explore the vast possibilities that animal collectives and their beha…

UK Climate Projections 2018: From science to policy making

On a sunny day earlier this week, I attended the UK Climate Projections 2018: From science to policy making, meeting in Westminster on behalf of the Cabot Institute. Co-hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Climate Change Group and the UK Met Office, the main purpose of this event was to forge discussions between scientists involved in producing the latest UK Climate Projections (UKCP18) and users from various sectors about the role of UKCP18 in increasing the UK’s preparedness of future climate change.
Many people in my constituency come and ask about climate change every day. The event began with an opening remark by Rebecca Pow, the MP for Taunton Deane in Somerset. Somerset has seen some devastating floods over the years, and a new land drainage bill was passed a week prior to manage flood risk in the area. Constantly faced with questions from her constituents about climate change, Rebecca is particularly interested in regional climate change, both at present and in the future, an…

Antarctica: Ship life

Blinking blurry eyes, I crack open the curtains and gaze out into the bright light of a new day. A hulking white and blue iceberg gazes back at me. Even after a broken night’s sleep being shunted from one side of my bunk to the other as the ship bounces through swell, that still makes a rewarding start to each day. Through an unexpected turn of events, I’ve found myself on the British Antarctic Survey’s RRS James Clark Ross, on a seven-week long research cruise helping researchers from the University of Exeter take samples and measure CFCs in the Weddell Sea. Having just handed in my PhD thesis – after four years of studying and researching Antarctic climate and hearing the question “do you get to go to Antarctica?” countless times – the opportunity to help out on this cruise was too good an opportunity to pass up. Life on a ship gives you plenty of time to think (and write), but I promise to keep these musings brief in three posts: ship life; the science and why we’re here; and how t…

Interrogating land and water use change in the Colombian Andes

Socio-ecological tensions, farming and habitat conservation in Guantiva-La RusiaHighlighting the Cabot Institute´s commitment to growing the evidence base for water-based decision making, Dr Maria Paula Escobar-Tello (Co-Investigator) and Dr Susan Conlon (Post Doctoral Research Assistant) introduce the social science component of an exciting three-year project called PARAGUAS, an interdisciplinary collaboration between UK and Colombian researchers to investigate how plants and people influence the water storage capacity of the Colombian Páramos…

In June 2018, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) jointly awarded funding to five UK projects under the Newton-Caldas funded Colombia-Bio programme. The Colombian Department of Science, Technology and Innovation (Colciencias) subsequently awarded funding to 24 smaller Colombian projects under the same programme. PARAGUAS – How do the Páramos store water? The role of plants and pe…

World Water Day: How can research and technology reduce water use in agriculture?

World Water Day draws attention to the global water crisis and addresses why so many people are being left behind when it comes to having access to safe water. The UN estimates that globally 80% of people who have to use unsafe and unprotected water sources live in rural areas. This can leave households, schools, workplaces and farms struggling to survive. On farms water is vital for the production of food and is used in a huge range of processes, including irrigation and watering livestock. In this blogpost I will lightly review the current issues around water in agriculture and highlight some exciting research projects that may offer potential solutions.
What is the water crisis? The UN Sustainable Development Goal 6 is to ensure that all people have access to sustainable, safe water by 2030. Unfortunately, we’re a long way off achieving this goal as a recent report from UNICEF/WHO estimates that there are currently 2.1 billion people living without access to safe water in their ho…