Our research is based on how the Earth functions and how it responds to human activity. It has influenced policy, environmental management and public understanding of environmental issues.
We aim for all our researchers to take an interdisciplinary approach, bringing environmental and earth scientists together with social scientists. Our research partners include businesses, civil society organisations, the general public and senior policy makers at national and international level.
We support all our researchers in considering their different audiences and encourage them to involve these groups in their research at the earliest opportunity. And we provide cutting edge facilities to ensure our research remains at the forefront of environmental science research.
As an example of the reach of our expertise, the School of Environmental Sciences has a long tradition of working with international assessment panels. Our scientists have been involved in these since the 1980s and no other university department in the world has made such a sustained and substantial contribution to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Our consultancy activities are supporting businesses and public sector organisations nationally and have resulted in the creation of high value projects to support new technologies. We also help develop new knowledge to assist organisations involved in areas such as home energy systems and meteorological services. We're also heavily involved in public engagement work, through connecting with the media and providing guidance for public consultations on environmental issues.
Take a look at some of our case studies, which show how our research has made a real difference:
Informing climate adaptation strategies globally
As pioneers of global climate simulators, we have had a significant impact on international strategies to tackle the challenge of adapting to climate change.
We are the home of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. Our work has been used in white papers and policy briefings for the UK government and been presented to devolved administrations in Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh. Our research has also been extensively used by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to inform adaptation strategies and has provided the evidence behind the decision for a multi-million pound increase in the Defra flood risk management budget.
We have also worked with organisations such as Network Rail, Severn Trent Water and the Lighthouse Authority and third sector bodies, such as the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment. In collaboration with the University of Newcastle, we developed a tool called WGen which allows these organisations to generate scenarios of extreme weather events.
Further afield, our research has influenced the large-scale disbursements of funds to developing countries to help with climate change issues and has informed a range of development reports relating to specific issues, such as migration and food production. We are also involved in the establishment of a Tyndall Centre in China, which will help to translate our expertise into a different cultural and policy setting.
Helping to protect the ozone layer and reduce greenhouse gas emissions
We have been involved in research into a group of gases called halocarbons since 1985 and our research has played a leading role in international agreements relating to the reduction of their emissions since 1987.
Halocarbons in the atmosphere are not only ozone-depleting gases but are also greenhouse gases, creating a warming effect on our climate. Our internationally renowned research, measuring and modelling halocarbon levels in the atmosphere, has contributed to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, an international agreement originally adopted in 1987. Since that time, our research has been used in regular updates of the Protocol which has, over the years, been used to inform national policies relating to the reduction of ozone-depleting gas emissions. This has had a profound beneficial effect on the environment and on human health globally.
Along with our input to the Montreal Protocol, this research has also been used to inform the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which provides information to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Providing evidence for conservation strategies
Our research on biodiversity and ecosystem conservation dates back to 2000 and has provided evidence which underpins sustainable conservation management strategies both here in the UK and as far afield as Brazil.
Our research teams have focused on the investigation of the impact of human, economic and policy interventions on biodiversity and the natural environment. This underpinning research has contributed to the Government Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology's briefing and has provided the impetus for international conservation organisations to adopt an evidence based approach to conservation.
A new approach, called the Biodiversity Audit Approach, provided the evidence-base for the Forestry Commission to create an open-habitat ecological network in Breckland and has led to subsequent biodiversity audits across the Norfolk Broads.
Further afield our work relating to tropical habitats has played a major role in changing forestry policy in Brazil and also in Cambodia where protected areas have been established.
Protecting our water supplies
The management of water sources and supplies and ecosystems presents a significant challenge. Our research has influenced UK policy in this area and the investment plans of domestic water companies.
A body of research into catchments (or drainage basins) has investigated issues such as agricultural and rural practices and their effects on water resources and ecosystems. Along with assessing the economic impact of changes to land management practices, we have also been examining issues around the sustainability of food sources and the effect of different practices on aquatic ecosystems.
We have been involved in providing the evidence underpinning UK policy and our expertise provided input into the House of Lords EU Select Committee inquiry into Freshwater Policy in 2011. We have also been involved in informing the Tamar Catchment Management Plan, in which South West Water is a major stakeholder and we worked with the Westcountry Rivers Trust to help develop a catchment based approach for the River Fowey in Cornwall. The Environment Agency and the Department for Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) are both now taking a catchment based approach to water management as a result of our research.