School of Sport and Health Sciences

using a heat sensor in the environmental chamber

Funding for new dual-capability environmental chamber

University of Brighton has secured funding of £325k to support its research into the health impacts of climate change – including longer, hotter summers in the UK – on vulnerable groups.

The award from the Wolfson Foundation will be used to expand research carried out at the University’s pioneering Environmental Extremes Lab. A new, dual-capability environmental chamber will allow researchers to simulate extremes of temperature ranging from -20 to +50 °C, and simulating altitude close to the height of Kilimanjaro, while measuring the effects of physical activity on a range of key health indicators.

carrying out research in the environmental chamberThe research team, based in the University’s School of Sport and Health Sciences, aim to translate their already globally recognised sport performance research into solutions to help vulnerable populations who are adversely affected by extreme temperatures, or who are respiratory compromised and display responses similar to those individuals who ascend to altitude. These groups include children, older people and those with long-term health conditions.

Research into the impacts of extreme temperatures is increasingly important as the climate changes and as growing numbers of people visit and live in more extreme and often hot, and/or high-altitude environments. Dual capability environmental chambers allow both temperature and altitude to be changed, thereby offering more opportunities for research and replicating real environmental conditions better.

In 2022 there were 3,271 excess deaths in the UK, 6% above the five-year average in the UK during the five heat-periods between June and August. During 30 May to 4 September 2022 there were 61,672 heat-related deaths recorded in Europe. 

Dr Neil Maxwell

Dr Neil Maxwell, Reader in the School of Sport and Health Sciences said: “Climate change is the single greatest challenge of our times. It is absolutely critical that we prioritise new and sophisticated research to find solutions that prepare our communities for the unprecedented consequences of climate change on our health and wellbeing. We believe physical activity and health are integral components when considering the impact environmental extremes have on people. 

“Receiving such significant funding from the Wolfson Foundation to support the Environmental Extremes Lab’s vision of translating science to advocacy for greater health and wellbeing in environmental extremes is incredibly important for the University of Brighton.” 

Dr Maxwell said that the facilities also present an opportunity for students: “The new dual chamber will also be used by the students, from a teaching perspective but also research projects. Education is at the heart of our vision and therefore we must educate students on the challenges of environmental extremes across different populations so they themselves can be ambassadors and advocate as our graduates the importance of how research can help better prepare communities.” 

student on a bike in the chamberUniversity of Brighton’s Environmental Extremes Lab is a multidisciplinary team of researchers with a 25-year proven track record of creating impactful change, particularly in sport performance. It has also previously investigated health-orientated consequences of environmental extremes; from older people during heat waves, through to repeated severe exposure of firefighters, outcomes of which have gone on to alter policy and guidance.

The dual-capability environmental chamber is just one of many new facilities that will be available to students studying at our Falmer campus from autumn 2024.

Find out how you can study a sport and exercise degree with us.

Kerry Burnett • 31/01/2024

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