Undergrad research shows impact of microplastic on mussels

Microplastics were present in all of 188 mussel samples in the River Ouse, a new study by Megan Fitzpatrick, a final year Geography BA(Hons)  student here at the University of Brighton.

Megan, who is in her final year, undertook the field research for her dissertation project. And along with Dr Corina Ciocan gave her expert view of the microplastic polution problem in a BBC South East news item.

She described the results of her work as “very shocking” and warned about the dangers facing humans who eat Sussex shellfish.

Megan carried out her investigation at Piddinghoe in the Lewes district, a site known for its poor water quality.

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National award for our school

A commitment to promote the careers of women has won the University of Brighton’s School of Environment and Technology (SET) a national award.

SET has received a Bronze Award from the Equality Challenge Unit’s Athena SWAN Charter which was established in 2005 to encourage efforts to advance women’s careers in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) employment in higher education and research.

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Research filmed for Channel 4’s ‘Britain at Low Tide’

University of Brighton scientists have been helping Coastal and Intertidal Zone Archaeological Network (CITiZAN) research the submerged landscape around the Birling Gap in East Sussex.

The research was been filmed for Channel 4’s ‘Britain at Low Tide’, the community-based coastal archaeology series, which was broadcast on Saturday (17 Feb): now available on C4’s Catch Up.

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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.” Read More

Brighton sparks Ruby’s volcanic interest

Geography graduate Ruby Coates has had an exciting time since leaving the University of Brighton, working her way around the world including internships in Brazil and Patagonia. She kindly shared some of her experiences in the midst of her travels. Her undergraduate degree experience ignited a passion for volcanology and she begins her masters degree in the subject at Bristol University this autumn.

“I initially enrolled on the Geography BA course at the University of Brighton but quickly realised it was not for me, and I switched to the BSc and was happy to be able to opt to learn more about our physical environment and landscape.

“I have always been interested in natural hazards and soon realised on the second-year field trip to Sicily that my interest lay with volcanoes. It was fascinating to spend a day on Mount Etna with the volcanologist Dr Boris Behncke who taught us about the volcano and the local communities. It was amazing to learn how societies could live so peacefully in close proximity to such powerful natural landforms. This trip led me to base my dissertation around Mount Etna and the communities living in the area.

“In my third year, I was fortunate enough to return to Sicily to carry out my project research and work alongside Boris at the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV) and out in the field. It was amazing to see the work carried out to monitor the volcano and educate the communities. I found my dissertation to be a really interesting and important study that identified a widespread unpreparedness amongst the population in the event of an emergency. I found this very hard to believe and saw that further research is essential in this field. This is why I have chosen to study volcanology and I hope to go on to work with governmental organisations in managing natural hazards and be involved in risk communication amongst vulnerable communities.

“I was recommended the course by Dr Jake Ciborowski and received references from Jon Caplin and Chris Carey, all lecturers at the University of Brighton. I am thrilled to be accepted onto the course at Bristol University, the city where I was brought up.”

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.