NERC appoints science 'champions'
28 September 2007
The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) today announces the appointment of its new 'theme leaders' who will champion seven environmental science themes and encourage partnerships across the research and stakeholder community.
At the heart of NERC's new science strategy (due to be published in November 2007) are plans to deliver the science needed to provide solutions to the global environmental challenges the world is facing today and will face in the future.
Professor Alan Thorpe, NERC's Chief Executive, said, "NERC has a responsibility to fund and carry out very high quality research that makes a real contribution to building a sustainable economy and improving our quality of life. Our theme leaders will develop action plans, in consultation with stakeholders and the science community, which will help us to meet those responsibilities. They are experts in the chosen themes and their ability to lead and influence strategic partnerships will help us to respond more effectively to the challenges of environmental change."
The themes and the newly appointed theme leaders are:
- Climate system
- Earth system science
- Natural hazards
- Sustainable use of natural resources
- Environment, pollution and human health
To develop global risk-based predictions of the future state of the climate, on regional and local scales, spanning days to decades. The predictions will become the foundations on which society can build future mitigation and adaptation strategies.
Professor Rowan Sutton from NERC's National Centre for Atmospheric Science, based at the University of Reading, will lead this theme. Professor Sutton has built up a major research group at the university, is a member of many international committees and advisory boards, chair of the scientific steering committee for NERC's Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere Processes and European Climate(COAPEC) directed programme, and is a founding director of Weather Informatics Ltd.
Aimed at understanding the role of biodiversity in key ecosystem processes. Environmental change makes this research more pressing because it can lead to a loss of biodiversity, thereby affecting the resilience of ecosystems.
Professor Lloyd Peck currently leads the British Antarctic Survey's (BAS) BIOFLAME programme on biodiversity. Over the past 15 years he has led interdisciplinary science programmes in the UK and at the BAS Rothera Research Station on the Antarctic Peninsula. He has played a leading role in collaborative research projects with the international and UK university science community. He is an authority on the biodiversity of unique environments from the poles to the tropics.
To build an understanding of the Earth's complex, interconnected system requires an increase in our knowledge of its component parts and the ways these interact. This theme looks at how the Earth works today, how components of the system have evolved over time in response to changes in other parts of the system, and predicts what will happen in the future.
Professor Tim Jickells is a professor of the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia. He is also director of the Laboratory for Global Marine and Atmospheric Chemistry at UEA. As a member of national and international scientific project management teams he has played a leading role in a number of science programmes and sits on a number of scientific boards and committees.
Since 1990 more than a million people have died in natural disasters and over $1 trillion of economic losses have been reported. NERC has a central role to play in the science of forecasting and mitigating natural hazards – such as earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, coastal erosion, flooding, and violent storms – in the geophysical environment. Scientific advances will lead to tangible economic and humanitarian benefit.
Dr John Rees has been head of Corporate Policy and Science Coordination at the British Geological Survey since 2004. He has spent many years addressing the science associated with coastal flooding, landslides and erosion. He has been involved in a vast array of initiatives, such as the RCUK Basic Technology programme, and in international programmes addressing regional vulnerability and sustainability in Indonesia and countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
The global demand for natural resources continues to grow. Society needs better knowledge of how renewable and non-renewable resources can contribute to a sustainable economy, whilst managing the use of these resources within the Earth's environmental limits.
Professor Louise Heathwaite is the director of the Centre for Sustainable Water Management at the Lancaster Environment Centre. She has been a consultant to a number of UK and international environmental organisations and an expert adviser to the House of Lords Science & Technology Committee on Water Management. She was vice-president of the International Association of Hydrological Sciences from 2004-2007 and is vice-chair of the EU COST869 programme.
NERC science will provide new approach to predict the changing behaviour and reactions of pathogens and pollutants, and provide solutions to issues such as the spread if disease, drinking water contamination and air pollution.
Professor Roy Harrison, OBE, from the University of Birmingham currently heads the Division of Environmental Health and Risk Management at the university and heads one of Europe's leading air pollution research groups. Prior to that he headed the university's Institute of Public and Environmental Health for a number of years, and was a founding co-director of the Chemical Hazard Management Research Centre in the West Midlands. He provides policy support advice to DEFRA and the Department of Health.
Used to observe and monitor the environment, provide sophisticated models of environmental processes to predict the future state of the environment and develop mitigation solutions such as carbon capture and storage. Technology will play an essential role in enabling solutions to this century's most pressing environmental challenges.
Professor Alastair Lewis is director for Composition Research for the National Centre for Atmospheric Science and professor of Atmospheric Chemistry at the University of York. He currently leads an independent research group that is developing new tools and technologies for chemical detection and environmental diagnostics. He has led and managed a number of major consortium projects with large research budgets, and is an active member of the UK's atmospheric science research community.
NERC Press Office
Natural Environment Research Council
Polaris House, North Star Avenue
Swindon, SN2 1EU
Tel: 01793 411561
Mob: 07917 557215
1. The theme leader appointments are made initially for three years. So that they are well embedded in the community the theme leaders will be contracted part-time for NERC work, whilst remaining active researchers at their current institutions.
2. The Natural Environment Research Council funds world-class science, in universities and its own research centres, that increases knowledge and understanding of the natural world. It is tackling major environmental issues such as climate change, biodiversity and natural hazards. NERC receives around £370m a year from the government's science budget and provides independent research and training in the environmental sciences.
Press release: 38/07
Recent press news
- Billion-year-old water could hold clues to life on Earth and Mars
- New Director of Science for NERC
- Plants use underground networks to warn of enemy attack
- BIOMASS mission given go ahead to launch in 2020
- Dr Katharine Giles
- New Director for the British Antarctic Survey
- Plans to strengthen UK-Indian collaboration in Earth sciences and environmental research
- CryoSat-2 mission reveals major Arctic sea-ice loss
- UK and USA collaborate in airborne climate science projects
- New capital investments for NERC