Re-naturing cities

Dr Mary Gearey, Research Fellow in our school, joined 40 other British and Brazilian researchers for a four day, Newton funded workshop in July, exploring methods, strategies and theories in support of ‘re-naturing cities’. The event was held in Goiania, Brazil, Mary tells us more about it here.

The Newton funded workshop brought together researchers from a wide range of disciplines including Architecture, Ecology, Public Health, Urban Planning, Human Geography, Soil Science and Land Management to share expertise around developing green infrastructure in highly dense urban spaces. My work on public perceptions in support of urban wetlands expansion contributed to a series of round-table seminars which explored a wide range of subjects from improving green roof structures to expand biodiversity, to extending community participation in developing public spaces through growing fruit, vegetables and flowers in street side rain gardens.

Complementing existing ‘grey’ infrastructure – the buildings, roads, transport networks which are the fundamentals of city spaces – with ‘green’ infrastructure – city parks, tree lined greenway cycle paths and wilder areas such as urban wetlands – offers urban dwellers the chance to improve their health and well-being in a range of ways. From cooling down the ‘heat island’ effect of cities, both now and with a view to future climate change impacts, as well as improving air and water quality, expanding nature into cities via urban parks, green ‘wedges’ of land set aside for plants and trees and softening buildings through living walls and mobile gardens housed in skips, offers city dwellers a respite from noise and traffic fumes and improves access to nature for everyone, not just wealthier residents.

This Newton funded workshop has demonstrated that the research I currently undertake within SET exploring the value of wetlands for local communities as part of a Natural England Research Council (NERC) project alongside Professors Neil Ravenscroft and Andrew Church has an international resonance and impact, and highlights the wonderfully diverse range of work undertaken by University of Brighton researchers.

This is my second time in Brazil, disseminating and undertaking research on behalf of SET and the University of Brighton. In November I worked with Physical Geographers at UNIVALI University in the South of the country, supported by a Santander Bank travel grant.

Both times in Brazil I’ve got close up and personal with the wildlife; last time it was a surprise encounter with a rainforest bush rat in a rangers’ toilet, this time with this very cute monkey (pictured). We found him in our hosts’ campus at the Federal University of Goias and thought he was adorable, rolling around on the floor and clapping his hands– until we discovered he was working a con act with another monkey who was going through people’s bags searching for food when we were distracted. What a cheeky monkey!

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!

Support for female researchers in STEMM

As part of International Women in Engineering Day 2017, Dr Mary Geary, research fellow in our school, shares her experience of a career in STEMM research and the support she received from the University of Brighton on returning to STEMM research after a career break.

Find out more here.

Castles and Roses: University of Brighton research project

University of Brighton research project helps Canal and River Trust develop canal heritage in post-industrial Manchester 

As part of the European Waterways Heritages project, SECP researchers Abigail Wincott and Paul Gilchrist, with PI Professor Neil Ravenscroft, have unveiled three new canal heritage trails for three under-appreciated areas of Manchester.

For the two-year project, the team looked at everything from developers’ brochures to 19th century novels to understand how canal heritage heritage has been envisioned in post-industrial regeneration projects. The research has been used to identify untapped resources which can help local groups use heritage for leisure, tourism and community-building projects.

The team found that existing local development of these inland waterways as heritage assets has  emphasised a particular kind of Victorian industrial heritage, with an almost complete neglect of other forms, in particular the heritage of the canal boats and the people who have lived and worked on the canals, and used them for leisure, even in the industrial heyday. Why many towns and cities have 19th century industrial and mercantile heritage, canal boats are unique to canal network and their omission is a wasted opportunity.

The canal boat aesthetic challenges the dominant aesthetic of industrial heritage in two ways. It appears domestic and feminine, painted in pretty, clashing colours with floral scenes. Intimate domestic details are often on display on the outside of the boats, like plant pots, shoes and mugs of tea.

The vivid and clashing colours and the castles and roses style of decoration have also often been assumed to be foreign in origin, but they are part of a long British tradition of working people decorating the vehicles of their trades with impressive carving and art work.

Together with a range of local community groups and the Canal and River Trust, who manage the waterways, the Brighton team have produced multimedia heritage trails that put the boats back into canal heritage.

These local stakeholders hope the trails will tempt locals to walk the canals and reclaim their very special canalside heritage.

The trails are available on the Izi.travel website and mobile app, and will soon be released on a bespoke app, designed by colleagues in the Netherlands. The materials have been uploaded to a database and GIS maps, which can be handed over to local organisations to continue to produce their own heritage itineraries and allow them to capitalise on the unique heritage of Britain’s canal network.

The trails can be found on the project blog:

https://waterwaysheritage.wordpress.com/

Twitter updates: @wwheritage

 

Dinosaur expert’s double award

The University of Brighton’s dinosaur expert, Dr Susannah Maidment, has won two top awards.

Dr Susannah Maidment has collected the Palaeontological Association’s Hodson Award for her 10 years research following her PhD and her contribution to science.

Her nominee said: “Susie is an outstanding early career palaeontologist who has made several highly significant and substantial novel research contributions. She has developed a strong international research reputation, generated significant external grant funding, and played an important role in promoting palaeontology through her outreach and media activities.”

Dr Maidment has also received an award from the Geological Society’s Lyell Fund, given to contributors to the earth sciences on the basis of noteworthy published research.

Her nominee said: “Susie is an outstanding palaeontologist with a track record of collaborative, multidisciplinary research that spans biology, palaeontology, sedimentology, and stratigraphy.

“She has already made numerous significant achievements in her career, as demonstrated by a series of well-regarded and cited high-profile papers. She brings a rare combination of laboratory and fieldwork skills to her research, and is an excellent communicator of her science to academia and the wider public. Susie is firmly on course to develop into a true international leader within palaeobiology

Dr Maidment’s research hit the headlines in 2015 when she and a collaborator discovered blood cells preserved in 75-million-year-old dinosaur bone.

She said: “I’m extremely honoured and absolutely delighted to receive these awards. As a new member of staff, I hope to be able to build on these awards and develop an internationally-recognised research group in palaeobiology at the University of Brighton.”

For more information on Dr Maidment’s research click here

Source: Dinosaur expert’s double award

Your country’s air needs you!

“Everyone has a part to play in reducing air pollution that is killing as many as 50,000 people every year in the UK,” says Dr Kevin Wyche, lecturer on our Geography BA(Hons) course.

He was commenting on BBC Sussex Radio about latest figures showing pollution levels in parts of Brighton and Hove remain above EU and UK standards, and how London breached its limits for the entire year only a few days into 2017.

Dr Wyche, who with Dr Kirsty Smallbone launched a £250,000 advanced air quality monitoring station at Falmer in 2015, said reducing pollution was a complex issue: “It’s politically sensitive – should we ban all cars from city centres? It’s not politically favourable for a politician to say that.”

All of us, he said, has a part to play in cutting pollution: “We all like to use our cars and we all have gadgets at home which use electricity which comes from power stations which are pumping out all sorts of different gases and particles into the atmosphere.”

The Joaquin Advanced Air Quality Station (JAAQS), opened by Brighton MP Caroline Lucas, is the first in the UK which can detect harmful nano-sized particles and their gaseous precursors.

Dr Wyche expects to publish its first year’s findings from the station in the next few weeks and there are plans for UK’s first outreach programme taking their work into primary and secondary schools. A website on the station’s work is scheduled to be launched next month. Continue reading