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Environmental Dynamics and Governance

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​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Among the greatest threats to human society are a range of environmentally-based challenges including global warming (and its associated impacts including the spread of pests and disease), food security, resource depletion and biodiversity loss. Research examining these fields, and the approaches required to mitigate and adapt to them, underpin the focus of the Environmental Dynamics and Governance (EDG) research priority area. The intention is to enable us to find ways that maximise the wellbeing of people and to mitigate or reverse damage to the ecosystems on which society is dependent. EDG is largely comprised of teaching and research staff from the School of Natural and Social Sciences​ (SNSS) and the Countryside and Community Research Institute​ (CCRI).

The research undertaken in EDG flows directly into teaching and supervision, for undergraduate, postgraduate taught​ and postgraduate research students in the university. There is a thriving postgraduate community across EDG with both SNSS and CCRI based at Francis Close Hall. Currently there are student with links to Natural England, Environment Agency and Gloucestershire Rural Community Council, with other organisations in the pipeline meaning that as a student you remain connected to professionals and practitioners during your studies. Our strength lies in an interdisciplinary approach which is combined with the team’s active links to a range of stakeholders engaged in agriculture, environmental management and protection, policy making, business and action at both local and international scales.

EDG has four areas of inter-related activity:

Investigating social, ecological and social-ecological systems

Both social and ecological systems are vulnerable to change from external factors such as climate change, migration and economic change, which drive land degradation, habitat fragmentation, urbanisation, etc. Such interactions remain poorly understood. Our objective within EDG is to develop a better understanding of these dynamic situations. A new project, Rurality as a vehicle for Urban Sanitation Transformation​ (RUST), funded by the ESRC is trying to understand the interaction between urban and rural livelihoods in and around Hyderabad, India, and people’s knowledge attitudes and practices in relation to sanitation and waste management.

Climate change dynamics and societal change

Reconstructing and dating climatic and environmental change; assessing the effects of recent and current change; and predicting the effects of future change requires various techniques and approaches across the natural and social sciences. How to communicate climate change and the need for societal change is a key area. For example, Drs Julie Ingram​ (CCRI) and Kenny Lynch (SNSS) led 3 day workshops funded by the Newton Fund in South Africa​ and Egypt​ exploring new ways to help secure water supplies and food security, particularly amongst smallholders and farmers who are threatened by multiple challenges (e.g. climate change, natural resource degradation) which require local adaptation of management practices supported by scientific evidence. Solutions lie with institutional and behavioural changes as much as with technological innovations.

Environmental governance, policy and strategies

Institutions for good governance are needed to address negative impacts of a changing world and this theme focuses on participatory action and knowledge exchange to inform current and future strategies and policies. This area centres on addressing the need, and opportunities for, more holistic understanding and innovative approaches to governance and policy by addressing real-world problems. Chris Short within the CCRI has been working closely with Stroud District Council and their natural flood management project​ using funding from the Severn Regional Flood and Coastal Committee to build partnerships between local communities, flood groups, local authorities and land managers, to deliver effective natural flood management at the local scale.

Vulnerable societies and cultures

​Across both SNSS and CCRI there is a desire to work with various institutions, organisations and interest groups at all scales, to better understand the challenges to vulnerable people from threats in society or environmental change. Director of the CCRI, Professor Janet Dwyer completed an OECD Fellowship in Japan in 2017, researching Satoyama cultural landscapes​ and how they can unlock the synergies between economic and environmental benefits for society. Conversely, Jon Hobson has undertaken studies into housing for vulnerable communities and Sam Scott and Rachel Bennett have studied migrant status and labour exploitation.

Projects​​

Issues of domestic abuse and homicide

by Dr Jane Monkton Smith​

Dr Jane Monkton Smith, forensic criminologist, has explored tracking offender behavioural patterns in domestic homicide, stalking and coercive control and the impact on families. The tools developed by Jane have been implemented by a number of police forces across the country, she has done research with organisations like the Suzie Lamplugh Trust and the Home Office, and she has also helped families impacted by homicide. The research brings a much needed human voice to illustrate key arguments as well as highlighting the challenges faced by police and paramedics and associated feelings relating to a lack of expertise in managing domestic abuse cases.

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Social Return on Investment

by Prof Paul Courtney

Professor Paul Courtney (CCRI) has undertaken a portfolio of commissioned research to develop, test and implement tools that will provide evidence of the societal value (often called the Social Return on Investment or SROI) of projects and programmes funded by the public and charitable sectors. These tools are assisting the Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) to evidence their own social impact, such as the Local Food Programme and Hulme Community Garden Centre and the Rural Development Programme for England. In so doing this pioneering research has generated impacts for policy, programme and project officers; community organisations and project & programme managers; and wider stakeholders and project and programme beneficiaries.

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Thermal imaging and Poaching

by Prof Anne Goodenough and Prof Adam Hart​

New research by Professors Anne Goodenough and Adam Hart on the use of thermal imaging to protect large mammals and wildlife rangers in Africa is having a dramatic impact. The potential of thermal imaging cameras to improve the effectiveness of anti-poaching strategies in a South Africa game reserve grew out of a project looking at the use of the cameras to identify game species. It has also made the role of the wildlife ranger safer as they can identify poachers from a safer distance.

Find out more:

» Prof Adam Hart

» Prof Anne Goodenough

Impact of Brexit on Rural Areas

A number of staff within the CCRI are involved in shaping the policy landscape as a result of Brexit and attempting to understand the immediate​ and future impacts. This requires the gathering and blending of different types of knowledge​ to inform policy and organisations about possible responses, changes in behaviour and actions. For example, this includes strands of work in which CCRI researchers have analysed challenges and barriers to sustainable practices in farming​ and integrated land management. Through its research, both independent and collaborative, the CCRI has and will continue to play an important role in shaping rural development policy​, practice and governance in UK, including the devolved administrations.

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Getting the message of soil health to where it is needed

By Dr Julie Ingram, Dr Matt Reed​ and Jane Mills​

In RECARE​, 27 project partners have been working for 5 years looking at measures to prevent and remediate against soil degradation in Europe. The innovative transdisciplinary approach actively integrates and develops knowledge amongst the stakeholders and scientists in the 17 Case Studies, covering a range of soil threats in different bio-physical and socio-economic environments across Europe. As a result the team (Dr Julie Ingram, Dr Matt Reed and Jane Mills) have been invited to Brussels to ensure the findings are included into policy changes, such as the development of the revision to the Common Agricultural Policy.

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Linking agriculture and forestry with multiple benefits

by ​Prof Janet Dwyer, Chris Short​, Dr Peter Gaskell​

The PEGASUS project was completed in February 2018, during this time the research team investigated the provision of public goods and ecosystem services from agriculture and forestry and 34 case studies used a different approach to unlock the synergies between economic and environmental benefits for society. This is very timely in the UK given the need to develop new policies and the research team Janet Dwyer, Chris Short, Peter Gaskell, have contributed to a number of events sharing the main findings that people need to be included within policies as well as biodiversity.

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ROBUST

by ​Prof Damian​ Maye​, Dr Dan Keech​ and Dr Matt Reed

The academic and practitioner partnership in ROBUST​ includes Gloucestershire County Council and the Welsh Local Government Association among its 23 organisations working alongside Damian Maye, Dan Keech and Matt Reed of CCRI. ROBUST seeks to advance our understanding of the interactions and dependencies between rural, peri-urban and urban areas over the next 4 years.

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​More details about these and other projects can be found on the CCRI website.

Research centres​

Centre for the Study of Floods and Communities

The Centre for the Study of Floods and Communities (CSFC) at the University of Gloucestershire is an interdisciplinary research centre that focuses on key issues in building sustainable and resilient communities in a changing flood risk context.

The CSFC was established in 2009. There are a growing number of PGR students as well. The Centre has active research links with other universities and community agencies including FWAG South West, CPRE, Thames Water and the Gloucestershire Nature Partnership.

Leads: Chris Short (CCRI) and Dr Lucy Clarke​ (NSS)

University of Gloucestershire Op​en Geospatial Lab

The University of Gloucestershire Open Geospatial Lab (GOGL) is a collaboration between the Countryside and Community Research Institute​ (CCRI) and the School of Natural and Social Sciences (SNSS). The aim of GOGL is to develop and promote open source GIS education in our undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes, and to stimulate innovative research in the application of open source geospatial technologies.

GOGL belongs to a growing global network of organisations formed under the umbrella of a memorandum of understanding​ between the International Cartographic Association (ICA) and the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo).

Under GOGL, the Campaign to Protect Rural England is funding a programme of student research using GOGL internship students to build a geographical information system​ (GIS) for the Severn Vale, using open software and data, which it is hoped will be an important tool for helping to inform future decision-making in the area.

Luminesence Laboratories

Within NSS, the University’s Luminescence dating laboratory​ draws on the natural properties of sedimentary minerals to establish the chronology of past environmental change and human evolution, dispersal and occupation. This offers a unique service and attracts researchers from around the world from South America, Siberia and across Europe.

Lead: Professor Phil Toms​

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