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Showing posts from April, 2019

Bristol is Global Competition 2019 – a student response to the global food crisis

Food – not one of us would be able to live without it and crucially, this obvious fact is understated. In the global north, with fast food delivery services available at our fingertips and supermarkets stocked with shelves of tinned cans, frozen meals and fresh fruit and veg, it is unsurprisingly easy to take food for granted. In an increasingly globalised world, where much of our food travels miles across oceans and roads, it is ever more common to find ourselves alienated from the cycles and processes that start in the soil and end up at the tip of our knives and forks. Our disconnection to food is significant given that the global food industry is in a hidden environmental crisis: a crisis of social, cultural, historical, economic, political, and geographical significance. As students, we recognise that if climate demands are not met within our lifetimes: water scarcity, diseases, droughts, floods, and the acidification of oceans will impact the security of our food in irrepressib…

Bees and butterflies are under threat from urbanisation – here's how city-dwellers can help

All a-flutter. Shutterstock.
Pollinators such as bees, hoverflies and butterflies, are responsible for the reproduction of many flowering plants and help to produce more than three quarters of the world’s crop species. Globally, the value of the services provided by pollinators is estimated at between US$235 billion and US$577 billion.

It’s alarming, then, that pollinators are under threat from factors including more intense farming, climate change, disease and changing land use, such as urbanisation. Yet recent studies have suggested that urban areas could actually be beneficial, at least for some pollinators, as higher numbers of bee species have been recorded in UK towns and cities, compared with neighbouring farmland.

To find out which parts of towns and cities are better for bees and other pollinators, our research team carried out fieldwork in nine different types of land in four UK cities: Bristol, Reading, Leeds and Edinburgh.
An easy win Urban areas are a c…

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…