Knowledge for a sustainable world

Can you tell the difference between a grasshopper and a locust? The Boris I want to tell you about, (the one now cast in bronze rather than the currently ubiquitous blond one), certainly could. Sir Boris Petrovitch Uvarov KCMG, FRS, the eminent Russian-British acridologist (an expert on locusts and grasshoppers), died nearly half a century ago but the scientific legacy of his important discovery lives on. This is his story.

There are 34 known species of mosquitoes in the UK, with an array of appearances, behaviour, favourite meals and preferred habitats. A type of landscape known for its association to mosquitoes are the wetlands, which include marshes, swamps, bogs and fens, among other types. This World Mosquito Day, 20th August, together with the interdisciplinary team of the ‘WetlandLIFE’ project, we are taking a closer look at mosquitoes, considering both the benefits and the risks they can bring to wetland environments.

Do you have what it takes to make an impact on global food and nutrition security? We are looking for exceptional candidates to help drive forward our work to improve the lives of poor people.

The Natural Resources Institute (NRI) of the University of Greenwich, UK, carries out specialised research, teaching, training and consultancy with a focus on food, agriculture, environment and sustainable livelihoods.

This is an opportunity to work in an international and vibrant institute, where our teams of natural and social scientists carry out award-winning interdisciplinary research for development. We are well-known across the developing world for practical application of our findings, devising sustainable solutions that make a difference.

How will food security be further endangered by climate change? How do current global systems of producing and distributing food contribute to climate change through greenhouse gas emissions? How is land degradation, including desertification, exacerbating and exacerbated by climate change?

These questions are addressed in the Special Report on Climate Change and Land (SRCCL), released today by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN body for assessing the science related to climate change. This landmark report assesses a huge range of literature on the interactions between climate change, land degradation, and food insecurity. Importantly, IPCC assessments such as this provide governments with scientific information that they can use to develop policies to tackle climate change.

Coffee is so much more than just another hot beverage. We depend on it to kick-start our mornings, and round off a nice dinner. It’s a useful social prop, and now its alleged health benefits (regular coffee drinkers report lower instances of diabetes, Alzheimer’s and depression to name a few) are well known. For some it’s a way of life, and no more so than for those who grow it, and to avoid the dreaded ‘boom and bust’ for the farmer, the race is on to discover more sustainable forms of production.

Bees are big news right now and humankind has realised two important things: how interlinked bees’ survival is with its own, and that bees are in trouble and urgently need help. Their distress call has reached the ears of government with Defra’s (UK Department for Food and Rural Affairs) Pollinator Advisory Steering Group (PASG) delivering a National Pollinator Strategy and helping develop changes to farming practice and land management. The good news is that by doing less to our parks, hedgerows and gardens, we can do more to help bees.

Hoverflies, which mimic wasps in their black and yellow markings but do not possess a sting, are incredibly useful as pollinators and pest controllers amid the decline of other insect species, as a new study into their migratory behaviour has found.

NRI’s Dr Don Reynolds is part of a group of international scientists that used entomological (insect-studying) radar, to study hoverflies flying up to 1km high, in the skies above southern England. Over a ten-year period, Dr Reynolds and his colleagues examined the biomass of, and seasonal flux in, numbers of migrant hoverflies.

The Natural Resources Institute (NRI) is delighted to announce that it has been granted an award from Research England’s ‘Expanding Excellence in England’ (E3) Fund to increase its research on food and nutrition security. Through a highly competitive process, the E3 fund aims to support the strategic expansion of excellent research units and departments in Higher Education Institutions across England. 

Using this new investment, NRI will implement a Food and Nutrition Security Initiative (FaNSI) to expand its research capacity with a specific focus on addressing climate change, food loss and waste, sustainable agricultural intensification and food systems for nutrition.

Is veganism the answer to help us sustain global food production into the future? Does a balanced and healthy diet come from balanced and healthy farming practices? How can we find more sustainable farming solutions and avoid cruelty in agriculture and modern animal husbandry?

Questions like these were considered on Tuesday 20th May at a lively public debate on the future of food and the environment, and the challenges that experts believe may lie ahead. Chaired by NRI’s Professor John Morton, the session was organised by the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences, University of Greenwich and took place at the Old Royal Naval College at Greenwich.

The panel comprised Camilla Berens, a journalist and Greenpeace activist, David Exwood a Sussex crop and livestock farmer and Chair for the National Farmers’ Union south east region, and Will Gildea from the Vegan Society.

Are you passionate about job creation and new enterprise in the food industry in Kent & Medway? Do you have ideas on what would work best in the local area and where? There is £15m at stake - can you help us win it for Kent & Medway?

If you can answer 'yes' to all these questions, then please come along and have your say on Wednesday 5th June 2019. The 'Growing Kent & Medway' initiative needs your input and ideas before the next round of bids for the £15m grant goes in.

On Tuesday 7th May 2019, Lord Boateng paid a visit to the Natural Resources Institute at the University of Greenwich’s Medway campus in Kent. Lord Boateng recently took over from Baroness Scotland as Chancellor of the University of Greenwich. As honorary figurehead, the Chancellor presides at graduation ceremonies and other university events.

The new Chancellor met NRI staff and toured laboratories together with the University’s Vice Chancellor, Professor David Maguire, to see the latest in research, development and teaching, with a focus on food, agriculture, environment and sustainable development. Lord Boateng was keen to meet NRI experts working on providing practical solutions to challenges in the developing world, with a special focus on Africa.

Climate change is at the top of the news agenda: Swedish schoolgirl, Greta Thunberg, has inspired global school strikes and recently addressed the UK Parliament about emissions, urging lawmakers to ‘act in time’, whilst Extinction Rebellion activists have been making their presence felt across London and the UK. On 2nd May, a long-awaited report was released by the UK’s Committee on Climate Change (CCC), an independent body that advises the UK government on emissions targets and preparing for climate change.

NRI’s Dr Conor Walsh, an environmental scientist whose expertise centres on indicators of sustainability, calculating ecological and carbon footprints, and emissions from transport and shipping, has been delving into the report:

“This report by the CCC is important as it presents a pathway towards net zero emissions by 2050, and points to a number of important elements,” he explains. “A key point is time. For the purposes of human activities, mitigating climate change is really a question of what happens over the next two decades.”