Pioneering new research on major environmental issues, led by scientists from the University of Exeter, have received a major funding boost

Crucial environmental research receives major funding boost

Pioneering new research on major environmental issues, led by scientists from the University of Exeter, have received a major funding boost, it has been announced.

Two projects led by world-leading experts from Exeter will receive significant funding from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), through its highlight topics grants scheme.

Professor Tamara Galloway will lead a new study looking at the impact of microplastics in our oceans and marine environments, while Professor Mat Collins will spearhead a project to assess the impact of climate change on hazardous, extreme weather events.

A third project, featuring Dr Jo Browse, from the Geography department based at the Penryn Campus, Cornwall, will study the impact of future ship traffic and emission regulations in the North Atlantic and Arctic atmosphere.

The projects are among 14 new studies, spanning a wide range of important topics generated by the UK environmental science community, to receive a combined £24 million from NERC. The awards will fund research areas essential to help us understand our environment and how we live within it.

NERC Associate Director of Research Ned Garnett said: “The highlight topics programme allows us to receive ideas from both the research community and users of environmental science to ensure that we are providing funding where it is most needed. The provision of top quality environmental research has never been more essential as we continue to tackle some of the greatest environmental challenges of our time.”

Professor Tamara Galloway, from Exeter’s Biosciences department, will lead the project entitled MINIMISE: current and future effects of microplastics on marine ecosystems.

The project will focus on developing new sophisticated methods to measure the effect that microplastics have on marine wildlife and ecosystems, particularly in coastal locations.

Working in collaboration with three other universities, the National Oceanography Centre and the Centre for the Environment, Fisheries and Agricultural Sciences (Cefas), the project will use pioneering new methods to measure microplastics in the marine environment, and trace how they move between prey animals and their predators.

The data collected will be used to create a geospatial risk map for the UK shelf seas, to help predict which areas are most at risk from microplastics pollution.

Professor Galloway said: “We are really pleased to receive this award which will allow us to continue and extend our current research. It also raises the profile of marine pollution as a topical and important issue and the work that we are doing to find sustainable solutions.’’

Professor Mat Collins, from Mathematics, will lead a separate project called EMERGENCE: Emergence f Climate Hazards.

The project will study the effect of climate change on climate hazards - weather and climate 'extreme events' that can cause loss of life, injury, or other health impacts, as well as damage to economic and social infrastructures.

These include the succession of extreme storms reaching southern England in the winter of 2013/2014, causing severe floods and £451 million of insured losses, and the extreme El Niño event of 2015/16 that caused floods, droughts and wildfires globally and drove the fastest annual increase in CO2 on record.

This project will assess the impact of climate change on climate hazards in the past and present, and then project forward their changes into the future.  Focusing on the next 30 years, the results will help governments, policymakers, businesses and individuals to develop new, robust strategies to mitigate against the most extreme weather events.

Professor Collins said: “This project will use new state-of-the-art climate models to produce information about climate hazards. It will allow us to produce results in a timely fashion to feed into the next assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”

Date: 13 December 2018

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