How we’re tackling crucial issues facing the planet

With six million UK properties at risk of flooding top scientists are gathering for a four-day showcase of the latest research into all areas of environmental science.

‘UnEarthed’, led by theNatural Environmental Research Council (NERC), will highlight latest research into other crucial environmental issues facing mankind including the air we breathe, natural disasters, and food and energy generation.

Dr Annie Ockelford, Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography here at Brighton, and chair of outreach for the British Society for Geomorphology, will be joining scientists from the universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Liverpool John Moores and Manchester.

The exhibition has been organised by the Natural Environment Research Council which funds research tackling environmental issues. There will be talks, debates and 20 hands-on exhibits including ‘Glaciers, water and sand…. you are in command’, run by Dr Ockelford and a team of eight other scientists. They will be joined by some of our undergraduate students, too.

Dr Ockelford said: “Our stand is all about showing the visitors how water moves around our planet as part of the water cycle, how it shapes our landscapes now and how that cycle of water might change in the future.

“The stand is made up of a team of geomorphologists, scientists who study how our landscapes are shaped through time. The activities will allow people to build their own landscapes and, using virtual reality, make it rain to see how where their landscapes might flood.

“Visitors will also be able to learn how glaciers move using 3D printed models of miniature landscapes where visitors can add glacial ‘goo’ onto the model to explore how the ‘glaciers’ travel through the different landscape.

“This is a fantastic event to be involved in where we will be able to share our science with school children, the public and even parliamentarians.”

More than 5,000 visitors are expected at the event which is free to the public and schools. It is being held at Dynamic Earth, the visitor attraction in Edinburgh, from this Friday (17 Nov) to 20 November. For more information, go to http://unearthed.nerc.ac.uk

You can follow the team live in action over Facebook and twitter #BSG_Geomorph or the event in general #UnEarthed2017

We’re in the top ten

The University of Brighton has been placed seventh in the country for its green credentials.

Brighton emerged in the top ten out of the UK’s 150 higher education institutions in the 2017 People & Planet’s University League, the independent league table of universities ranked by environmental and ethical performance.

Installing a record number of solar panels, reducing waste, introducing sustainable food initiatives, and embedding sustainability in the curriculum all contributed to the University’s high ranking.

Measures taken recently at the University include three solar PV projects, involving two ground-breaking roof lease schemes with Brighton Energy Cooperative, which resulted in a total of over 1,600 solar panels on the University’s roofs, placing Brighton among the top universities nationwide for solar generation.

And a recycling competition in halls of residents resulted in a 25 per cent reduction in waste.

The University was awarded just under 70 per cent which earned Brighton a First Class honour from People & Planet, the UK’s largest student campaigning network. It received 100 per cent for Environment Policy, Sustainability Staff, and Energy Sources, and 90 per cent for Carbon Management.

Professor Debra Humphris, the University’s Vice-Chancellor, said: “Being placed in the top ten is tremendous news and one which reflects the hard work and commitment by the University’s staff and students to do as much as we can to combat climate change, protect our planet, and be a socially responsible organisation.” Continue reading

Health of UK Physical Geography

The first-ever report to compile evidence on the health and influence of UK physical geography has shown that the discipline is in great academic shape and a leading force worldwide. The International Benchmarking Review of UK Physical Geography was produced by the Royal Geographical Society and co-authored by Professor Phil Ashworth, University of Brighton.

The report highlights the extraordinary richness and diversity of physical geography in the UK that provides insights into processes and forms in the natural environment including climate and atmosphere, geomorphology and landscape, biogeography and ecosystems, hydrology and water science, oceans and soils.

Physical geography is witnessing a resurgence in popularity in schools and is growing subject choice at university where undergraduates perform well in their degrees, express high level of course satisfaction and have excellent employment outcomes compared to many disciplines.

UK physical geography research is international in outlook, world-leading in many subareas and influences the discipline worldwide. It punches well above its weight in terms of success rates with funding agencies, leads eminent international collaborative research programmes and addresses global societal-environment challenges.

Professor Phil Ashworth, Associate Pro-Vice Chancellor Research & Enterprise at the University of Brighton, said: “This is a timely strategic review of UK physical geography whose findings have been validated by a panel of distinguished international experts. It shows that physical geography percolates into many natural and social science challenges in the changing world. Fundamental and exciting discovery science is produced by globally-renowned and influential geographers. UK physical geography is in excellent health and has a bright future for the new generation of numerate physical scientists”.

An independent, international panel of reviewers of the report, led by Professor Olav Slaymaker of the University of British Columbia in Canada said: “Physical geography within the UK is a major international player in terms of any metric considered, whether numbers of undergraduate and graduate degrees awarded; research foci; intellectual contributions as judged by papers and journal editorial positions. The UK is performing better than most in terms of maintaining the visibility of physical geography as a distinct field. The strength of the field in the UK acts as an important role model for the future of physical geography globally.”

Brighton scientists make breakthrough in India

Scientists from the University of Brighton have made a breakthrough in helping combat typhoid among slum dwellers in the Indian city of Kolkata.

Dr James Ebdon (left) and Professor Huw Taylor

Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr James Ebdon, Reader in the university’s School of Environment and Technology, shared Brighton’s microbial source tracking methods with Indian and US scientists and successfully used the method for the first time to identify pollution of human origin in what is India’s second largest city.

Dr Ebdon said: “This breakthrough is an important first step in a three-year project to map environmental transmission routes of typhoid in urban India by combining novel microbiological protocols with social science approaches.”

Typhoid is a bacterial infection that can spread throughout the body, affecting many organs, and without prompt treatment, can be fatal. It remains one of the most serious health burdens in India, particularly for children, and is compounded by poverty, inadequate water supply and poor sanitation.

It is hoped that the breakthrough research by the Brighton scientists will demonstrate how typhoid spreads through poor urban communities so that more effective barriers to the disease can be put in place. The work in India is the latest example of the Brighton team’s efforts to support disease prevention in developing countries. Previously the team played a key role in responding to the 2010 cholera outbreak in Haiti and its advice was later sought by the WHO in response to the West African Ebola outbreak.

Dr Ebdon led the Kolkata work, which is part of the ‘Sanipath Typhoid’ project, run by the Global Centre for Safe Water, Sanitation and Hygiene at Emory University in Atlanta. He works alongside the University of Brighton’s Dr Diogo Trajano, Research Fellow in the School of Environment and Technology, who has made similar progress in Africa, with funding from the Medical Research Council.

Professor Huw Taylor, the University of Brighton’s Professor of Microbial Ecology, accompanied Dr Ebdon in India. He said: “This is a very exciting step forward for water and sanitation research at the university. In recent years we have become widely-recognised for the global impact of our work but James’ success in India, along with Diogo’s advances in rural Kenya, are now using Brighton’s practical knowledge for the benefit of those in greatest need.”

For more information on sanitation research click here.

Government is too slow on car pollution

Our Head of School and a lead researcher on air pollution, Dr Kirsty Smallbone, has urged the Government to bring forwards its plans to ban new diesel and petrol cars from 2040.

She said: “Let’s go for 10 years time, plenty of time for the market to adjust, for a changeover in van and car fleet renewals and plenty of time for the government to develop incentive schemes to encourage vehicle trade-ins to meet the deadline.”

Dr Smallbone said over 50,000 people die each year in the UK from air pollution-related diseases, costing the NHS is around 16% of its total budget: “Why is this not declared a public health crisis public health crisis which demands immediate action?

“After all, liver diseases related to heavy drinking kill 12,300 people per year and this is considered a public health emergency.”

Dr Smallbone and lecturer Dr Kevin Wyche are studying ultra-fine particles which can pass through the lung alveoli and contaminate organs including the brain.

Their data comes from the university’s state-of-the-art £250,000 advanced air pollution monitoring station based at its campus in Falmer and funded by the EU’s Interreg IVB NWE programme and the University of Brighton as part of the Joint Air Quality Initiative (JOAQUIN, www.cleanerairbetterhealth). Continue reading

It’s time to take air pollution seriously

The air monitoring station (LtoR) Kevin Wyche Kirsty Smallbone Keith Taylor and Debra Humphris

Our Vice-Chancellor has called on the Government to take more notice of evidence pointing to an air pollution crisis facing the planet.
Professor Debra Humphris was commenting after scientists from our school presented new research showing how society was facing a “public health timebomb”.
They told how air pollution is linked to 50,000 premature deaths in the UK every year, 9,400 in London and 430,000 in the EU as a whole, through heart disease, asthma, and even dementia.
Lead researchers, Dr Kirsty Smallbone, Head of the School of Environment and Technology, and lecturer Dr Kevin Wyche, are studying ultra-fine particles which can pass through the lung alveoli and contaminate organs including the brain.
Their data comes from the university’s state-of-the-art £250,000 advanced air pollution monitoring station based at its campus in Falmer and funded by the EU’s Interreg IVB NWE programme and the University of Brighton as part of the Joint Air Quality Initiative (JOAQUIN, www.cleanerairbetterhealth). Continue reading

Brighton joins global efforts to tackle antimicrobial resistance

The university’s Professor Huw Taylor has joined world experts to draw up an action plan to fight antimicrobial resistant (AMR) disease transmission through the water cycle.

More than 700,000 people worldwide die every year from infection from antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and the threat is increasing every year. A UK government report warns that by 2050, 10 million people worldwide will be suffering from life-threatening infections from these bacteria if the issue is not urgently tackled.

Professor Taylor, Professor of Microbial Ecology, in 2015 led an international team that advised the World Health Organization (WHO) on how to address the potential spread of Ebola through the water cycle through improved emergency sanitation measures.

He is now lending his expertise to this new world-wide effort to tackle the problem of antimicrobial resistance and recently joined a host of experts at a meeting in the Netherlands organised by the WHO and KWR, a leading international water research institute.

Continue reading

Brains at the Bevy

Join Dr Kirsty Smallbone, our Head of School, for a talk and a bevy at the next Brains at the Bevy event on 26 July, 6-7pm. Kirsty will be talking about ‘Local Air Pollution: Our Health and Our Environment.”

“Those most at risk from local air pollution are the elderly, children and those with heart or lung conditions. Without preaching, I would like to talk about the problems of air pollution, where it comes from, how it affects us, our children, our parents and our environment and importantly, discuss what may be the best ways to reduce our exposure to it,” explains Kirsty.

Brains at the Bevy are a series of short and enlightening talks from local academics and all are welcome to attend. The talks take place at The Bevendean Community Pub in Moulsecoomb and each talk will last around an hour with plenty of time for questions and discussion. 

These free talks are organised by the Bevy and Community University Partnership Programme at the University of Brighton and funded by the Sussex Learning Network. Tea and coffee will be provided during the talk and everyone is welcome to stay on afterwards to enjoy the lovely food and drink available at the Bevy.

See you there!

“Air Pollution – Plans to Tackle a Public Health Emergency” Monday 17 July 2017 – 18.00 – 20.00 hours – Brighthelm Centre

Venue:  Brighthelm Centre, North Road, Brighton BN 1YD (Stanmer Room)

You’re invited to a public meeting to discuss one of the most pressing environmental and health issues in Britain today; air pollution.

Air pollution is a public health emergency. Poor air quality is linked to diseases such as stroke, lung cancer, respiratory diseases and heart disease as well as 40,000 premature deaths in Britain every year. Levels of nitrogen dioxide, primarily from diesel traffic, have exceeded EU legal limits in almost 90% of urban areas in the UK since 2010 – they are particularly bad across Sussex and the South East.

Join Keith Taylor, Green Party MEP for South East England and Dr Kirsty Smallbone, Head of School at Brighton University’s School of Environment and Technology to discuss how we can clean up our air.

Here is an abstract from Keith Taylor’s keynote speech

“As a member of both the European Parliament’s Transport and Environment committees, I am confronted on a daily basis with the discrepancy between the current approach to ensure mobility across Europe and the pressure this puts on our air and resources and the planet’s climate. Brussels and London, two cities between which I regularly travel, are proven to be among the most polluted and congested cities in all of Europe. Our transport sector is on an unsustainable path that puts at stake our climate, public health and life quality.

It is crystal clear that we are facing a very serious public health crisis. Air quality finally and urgently needs to be put at the core of the Government’s agenda. There is no more time to waste – we need bold policies and stringent implementation of measures to reduce air pollution.”

Our expert panellists will address the urgency with which we need to tackle the air quality challenge we face and discuss measures that can reduce dangerous air pollution levels in Brighton, and across the country.

Refreshments will be provided.

This event is FREE to attend, but places are limited, so please register your interest via Eventbrite http://: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/air-pollution-plans-to-tackle-a-public-health-emergency-tickets-34514246039.

Speakers:
Keith Taylor, Green MEP for South East England
Dr Kirsty Smallbone, Head of School at the School of Environment and Technology, University of Brighton

Moderator: Jo Prior, Regional Liaison Officer to Keith Taylor MEP