Posts By / Rachel Bowen

BU research website – new site coming this month

Over the last few months, M&C and RDS (formerly RKEO) have been working on a project to redevelop the research website and migrate its content into the main BU website.

The aims of the project are to revitalise some of our existing content, better profile our current research strengths and further support beneficial outcomes around our research from website visitors, including:

  • Additional research funding,
  • Collaboration and partnership,
  • Expanding international reputation,
  • Consultancy,
  • Expanding publishing and media coverage.

Members of the project team have visited Faculty Research & Professional Practice Committees / Faculty Research & Knowledge Exchange Committees across all faculties to share information and also gather feedback from academic staff.

The project began with a survey with over 90 academics to find out what they value about the existing research website, what they’d change and how we could better profile their research. We followed this up by working with each Deputy Dean for Research & Professional Practice to fully understand the requirements of all our faculties.

In addition to this, we explored examples of best web practice from around the world to identify the most effective ways of presenting complicated research-based information, such as universities and commercial technological research organisations.

We also broke down our overall research audience to identify the many objectives different classifications of people have in visiting our research content, and identifying how best to create a beneficial user experience for them.

Throughout the autumn and winter, the cross-departmental team have been creating, editing and migrating new and old content. This is being carried out in collaboration with our academic staff, who will have the opportunity to both advise on and sign off any content referencing their work. Once complete, the existing site will be archived so as not to lose any existing content.

The new web content is going live on Thursday 25 April, from which point, we’ll offer full support to any academic needing to update different parts of the research content, specifically Centre, Institute and project content. The existing Research Blog will not be affected by this project at this stage

If anyone has any questions about the project, please contact Dan Ford, M&C or Rachel Bowen, RDS.

Charity Impact Fund open for applications

BU has a small amount of funding available to facilitate engagement and research with charitable organisations. The purpose of the funding is to:

  • Increase engagement with charities in order to further the impact of BU’s research
  • To increase the amount of research undertaken collaboratively with charities
  • Encourage future funding bids with charitable partners.

The fund can be used flexibly, providing a strong case can be made and the assessment criteria are met. Funding could be used to fund travel, equipment, merchandise or event costs etc., but all funding will need to be spent by 31 July 2019.  

The fund is open to all researchers across BU, including those who are already working with charitable organisations and those who would like to build up new networks. In particular, the panel would welcome the following types of applications:

  • Small travel grants of up to £200 to help facilitate relationship development with charitable organisations
  • Projects of up to £1,500 which will either facilitate new relationships with charities or build on existing research collaborations.

A further call will be opened in the summer for applications for the 2019/20 financial year. 

Application process
To apply, please read the application form and guidance. Applications must be submitted to by 5pm on Friday 12 April.

If you have any questions about your application please email 

BU’s Research Principles
Putting the Research Impact Fund into strategic context, under BU2025, the following funding panels operate to prioritise applications for funding and make recommendations to the Research Performance and Management Committee (RPMC).

There are eight funding panels:

  1. HEIF Funding Panel
  2. GCRF Funding Panel
  3. Research Impact Funding Panel
  4. Doctoral Studentship Funding Panel
  5. ACORN Funding Panel
  6. Research Fellowships Funding Panel
  7. Charity Support Funding Panel
  8. SIA Funding panel

Please see further announcements regarding each initiative over the coming weeks.

These panels align with the BU2025 focus on research, including BU’s Research Principles. Specifically, but not exclusively, regarding the Charity Impact Funding Panel, please refer to:

  • Principle 5 – which sets of the context for such funding panels,
  • Principle 6 and Outcome 9 – which recognises the need for interdisciplinary and the importance of social science and humanities (SSH).

Limits of space and time: predicting how environmental change affects coastal birds

Our next inaugural lecture will take place on Wednesday 1 May at the Royal Motor Yacht Club, Sandbanks.  Professor Richard Stillman will be sharing his research into the effects of environmental change on coastal birds.

Ecological systems throughout the world are increasingly coming under threat from environmental changes, primarily caused by human actions. Understanding and predicting the effects of future change has proved a long-running problem for ecologists.

Coastal habitats, such as Poole Harbour, provide a vital habitat for many bird species but are particularly vulnerable to environmental change such as rising sea levels, habitat loss and disturbance from human activities. However, predicting the effect of such changes on these birds has proved difficult and has led to long-running conflicts between conservationists and other coastal groups.

Research by Professor Richard Stillman aims to reduce these conflicts by providing tools which enable the consequences of change to be accurately predicted. It does this by understanding the ways in which individual animals behave, the types of food they consume, how much they need to eat each day, and the ways in which human activities affect them.

During this inaugural lecture, Professor Stillman will explain how his research in this area has helped to predict the effects of changes in the UK and internationally and what it has meant for wildlife populations.

You can book your free tickets here.

BU’s research tackles global challenges

Funding from the Global Challenges Research Fund has enabled Bournemouth University academics to work in partnership with organisations in India, Indonesia and Myanmar to tackle key challenges in each country.

Over £1.5 billion has been allocated by the UK Government to support cutting-edge research that addresses the challenges faced by developing countries.  The Fund forms part of the UK’s Official Development Assistance commitment, which is its pledge to spend 0.7% of Gross National Income to fight poverty and promote development.

Bournemouth University receives annual funding from Research England to undertake research to support the GCRF.  This allocation is used to support projects that help to build collaborations with researchers, policy-makers and practitioners in developing countries, ensuring that the outcomes of this research has a tangible outcome for people in those countries.

In India, Dr Einar Thorsen and Dr Chindu Sreedharan are leading a project which is looking at the way in which sexual violence is reported in the media.  By working with journalists and reviewing existing journalistic guidelines, the team aims to better understand the complexities of reporting in this area and inform the ways in which reporting should change.

Meanwhile, in Myanmar Professor Jonathan Parker and Professor Sara Ashencaen Crabtree are using their expertise to inform the re-development of social work education in the country.  Social workers in Myanmar face some unique social justice challenges, which could be in part addressed by the profession.  By working with the University of Yangon and current student social workers, the team aim to create a curriculum that will help to equip the social workers of the future.

Finally in Indonesia, Professor Amanda Korstjens and Professor Ross Hill are working with BU students and local conservation organisations to tackle the issue of human wildlife conflict.  As rainforests diminish, elephants are increasingly coming into contact with human settlements and agricultural land.  This can lead to conflict as elephants can cause huge amounts of damage to homes and crops.  By working with different groups of stakeholders, the team are aiming to develop and early warning system for villagers.

For more information about BU’s global challenges research, visit this page.

If you’re interested in applying for funding from the Global Challenges Research Fund, a call for applications is currently open.

Research Impact Fund open for applications

Demonstrating impact is becoming an increasingly normal part of academic life, with changes in the external environment underpinning the need to show how research is making a difference beyond academia. As well as forming a significant part of a university’s REF submission, impact pathways are often included as a routine part of funding applications.

In order to support impact development at Bournemouth University, an impact fund has been established, which will be overseen by the Research Impact Funding Panel.  The fund is now open for applications for this financial year.

The first call for applications is open to impact case study teams who submitted an impact case study to the 2019 REF Mock Exercise.  The aim of the call is to support those who are developing case studies for REF2021, in recognition of the impact period for this REF cycle coming to an end in July 2020.

Small travel funding requests to support impact development can be submitted to the Panel on a rolling basis throughout the 2018/19 financial year.  These will be capped at a maximum of £200.  For this financial year travel grants will only be open to those developing case studies for REF2021.  This will be opened up to all researchers in the 2019/20 financial year.

A further call will be announced in spring 2019 which will be open to those working on embryonic or developing areas of impact, as well as researchers developing impact case studies for REF2021.  These funds will be available to spend from September 2019 – July 2020.

Application process
To apply, please read the application form and guidance.  Applications must be submitted to by Friday 12 April.

If you have any questions about your application please email either Rachel Bowen (for HSS or FM queries) or Genna del Rosa (for FMC or SciTech queries).

BU’s Research Principles
Putting the Research Impact Fund into strategic context, under BU2025, the following funding panels operate to prioritise applications for funding and make recommendations to the Research Performance and Management Committee (RPMC).

There are eight funding panels:

  1. HEIF Funding Panel
  2. GCRF Funding Panel
  3. Research Impact Funding Panel
  4. Doctoral Studentship Funding Panel
  5. ACORN Funding Panel
  6. Research Fellowships Funding Panel
  7. Charity Support Funding Panel
  8. SIA Funding panel

Please see further announcements regarding each initiative over the coming weeks.

These panels align with the BU2025 focus on research, including BU’s Research Principles.  Specifically, but not exclusively, regarding the Research Impact Funding Panel, please refer to:

  • Principle 5 – which sets of the context for such funding panels,
  • Principle 6 and Outcome 9 – which recognises the need for interdisciplinarity and the importance of social science and humanities (SSH).

Research Photography Competition: prize giving

Thank you to everyone who entered or voted for an image in this year’s Research Photography Competition.  Hundreds of staff, students and members of the public have helped to select this year’s winner, which we will be announcing in the Poole House Art Gallery on Thursday 14 March at 10am.

Please do join us if you can.  You can book your free tickets here.

All images will be on display in the Art Gallery until the end of March.

SURE: book your free ticket

The SURE (Showcasing Undergraduate Research Excellence) conference is returning for its fourth year, taking place on 20 March.

Over 90 submissions have been received on a wide range of subjects, including discrimination and minority groups, business management and diabetes in public health, so there is something to cover all interests.

Both students and staff are encouraged to attend, whether it’s to support your friends, your students, or just hear more about the research being carried out by students at BU.

The SURE conference is an annual event which gives undergraduate students the opportunity to showcase the work they are carrying out throughout their studies at BU, whether it’s their dissertation, coursework or research carried out during their placement year. They share this either in the form of a poster, 10 minute speech or an installation. It’s a great opportunity for them to be involved in as it allows them to develop their public speaking as well as their general approach to research.

Register for your free tickets via Eventbrite. 

As if 15 years of oil price volatility was not enough… energy markets now need to deal with Brexit

The next in our series of Fusion inaugural lectures will take place on Tuesday 26 March in the Executive Business Centre on Lansdowne campus.  Professor George Filis from the Faculty of Management will be speaking.

During the course of this inaugural lecture, Professor George Filis will present recent developments relating to energy markets (with particular focus on the oil market). This will include some of the potential drivers behind the increase in oil price volatility over the last 15 years. Professor Filis will also look at the political economy of the oil market, with particular emphasis on the current status of the “petrodollar system”, the developments in Venezuela and whether Brexit could signal the onset of another turbulent period for the oil market.

Professor George Filis is a specialist in energy and financial economics. Currently, he is working towards the development of new modelling frameworks for forecasting energy prices. In particular, he looks at the predictive information of different asset classes on oil prices and oil price volatility. Professor Filis has also served as a consultant for the US Energy Information Administration and the Bank of Greece.

You can book your free tickets here.

Call for EoIs: Unit of Assessment (UOA) Impact Champion for UOA 24 to drive REF 2021 preparations

BU is preparing submissions for units of assessment (UOAs) for REF 2021. Each UoA has a UoA Leader, supported by an Impact Champion and Outputs Champion.  The roles are recruited through an open and transparent process, which gives all academic staff the opportunity to put themselves forward for UOA roles.

We are currently seeking an expression of interest (EoI) from academic staff interested in supporting impact development for UoA24 (Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism).

Impact Champions play a key role in shaping the impact element of their UoA’s submission.  They work closely with their Faculty’s Impact Officer and Impact Post-Doctoral Researcher, where relevant.

Key responsibilities of the Impact Champion role include:

  • Review the development of impact case studies being prepared within the UOA
  • Provide guidance on how impact case studies can be accelerated and evidenced
  • Advise colleagues on the REF impact guidelines
  • Review impact strategies related to the UOA and assess progress made against them
  • Review and implement recommendations from external research users to strengthen research impact
  • Ensure that colleagues are updating institutional systems for impact tracking
  • Promote relevant training and development opportunities
  • Review impact arising from major programmes of research and knowledge exchange to make recommendations as to how these can contribute to impact case studies
  • Advise on the use of appropriate metrics specific to the subject area
  • To undertake any other duties as requested by the relevant Deputy Dean for Research and Professional Practice (DDRPP) and/or Unit of Assessment leader.

The full role description can be found here.

Application process:

To apply for the role, please submit a short statement (suggested length 300 words) explaining your interest in the role and what you could bring to it. This should be sent by email to Professor Tim Rees by Friday 15 March.  The EoIs will be reviewed by the UoA Leader and current Impact Champion.

The selection criteria used at EoI are outlined below. Each criterion carries a total possible score of 5. The role will be offered to the highest scoring applicant. The UoA Leader or current Impact Champion will provide feedback to all applicants.

  • Knowledge of the REF and research impact (scored out of 5): Applicants should have the appropriate level of skill and knowledge to help them support the development of impact in their UoA. It is expected that Impact Champions will predominantly be practising researchers and will have a breadth of understanding of research across their Faculty.  They are also expected to have an understanding of the REF assessment process and of research impact.
  • Experience of external engagement and / or impact development (scored out of 5): Impact Champions are expected to be able to provide advice and direction to colleagues who want to develop their research impact. Experience of engaging with external organisations or developing your own research impact would be of benefit in this role.
  • Commitment, motivation and enthusiasm (scored out of 5): Being an Impact Champion is a big commitment and the role has the scope to help shape impact development at BU. Applicants need to be committed to the role, as well as showing the enthusiasm and motivation needed to support their UoA.

Research & Knowledge Exchange Development Framework – give us your feedback

The Research & Knowledge Exchange Framework (RKEDF) is now into its third year.  It offers training and development opportunities to academics at all stages of their career, supporting staff to increase their skills, knowledge and capabilities.

The RKEDF offers range of support including sessions for those who are new to research or to BU, for staff who want to further develop their research careers and for people who want to disseminate their research findings or create an impact plan.

The Research Development & Support team are currently planning activities and sessions for the 2019/20 programme of events and would like to hear your ideas and suggestions.  What’s worked well?  What would you change?  Are there any other sessions or training materials you’d like to see included?  We’d like to hear both from people who have engaged with the RKEDF and those who haven’t.

Tell us what you think via our survey and be in with a chance of winning one of three £20 Amazon vouchers.  The deadline date is Friday 15 March.

British Academy funded study of Digital Possessions in the Family is launched

Members of the Promotional Cultures and Communication Centre (PCCC) have been granted British Academy/Leverhulme funding to conduct an inter-generational study of digital possessions in the family.

The study is a collaborative project with industry (Microsoft Research) and two Universities (Bournemouth University and Oxford Internet Institute, Oxford University) that will provide insights into what the digitalisation of many objects – including heirlooms – means in the context of family and methodological testing that will enable future research. It also addresses crucial questions about the role digital media companies have in enabling and safeguarding family identity and history.

Dr. Janice Denegri-Knott, who leads the project said that “carrying the work now was crucial as we hope to provide a historical record of meaningful digital possessions kept at a unique point in time when children, parents and grandparents have varying degrees of digital media literacy.”   The work develops award winning research dealing with relationship between ownership and possession within a digital context (for more visit:

Janice is working on this project with Dr. Rebecca Jenkins and Dr. Sevil Yesiloglu.

The fine art of healthcare: using art to think about people and practice

The first of this academic year’s inaugural lectures will take place on Tuesday 23 October in the Shelley Theatre.  Professor Sam Porter will be discussing the ways in which art can influence health practices.

For the American philosopher, John Dewey, the importance of works of art lies in the fact that they ‘are the most intimate and energetic means of aiding individuals to share in the arts of living’. They distil the meanings behind our experiences and provide us with the opportunity to consider them from a fresh perspective.The ‘arts of living’ that will be considered in this lecture are those related to health, illness and care.Through exploring artworks from many different genres, this inaugural lecture given by Professor Sam Porter, will encourage us to think about how art can help us to improve healthcare.

Professor Sam Porter is a nurse by profession and a sociologist by academic training. His research ventures into one of the most difficult and sensitive areas of human experience: caring for people who are reaching the end of their lives. In addition to his role as the Head of Department for Social Sciences and Social Work, Professor Porter is researching issues such as the use of music therapy in hospice care, how family members can best care for their dying loved ones, and how care homes can be supported to provide excellent end of life care.

Free tickets can be booked here.

Details about whole series can be found here.

Rohingya refugees remain a heavy burden on Bangladesh

The Rohingya people of Myanmar are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. The Myanmar government doesn’t consider them as citizens and deprives them of basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement.

To avoid persecution, waves of Rohingya people have taken refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh in recent decades, with particular flash points in 1978, 1992 and 2012.

The latest and largest mass exodus to Bangladesh took place in late August 2017. Within a month, around half a million Rohingya had fled to Bangladesh. This influx gradually slowed down, but did not stop there. A year later, the total number of Rohingya in Bangladesh is estimated to be 918,000, with around 700,000 new arrivals since August 2017.

The Rohingya refugees are confined within several camps in the Cox’s Bazar district of Bangladesh, which are managed jointly by the government and a coordinating body of international organisations called the Inter Sector Coordination Group (ISCG). The largest of these, which I visited in August 2018, is known as the Kutupalong camp and hosts more than a half a million people. The camp seems neverending, with shelters, shops and narrow paths leading to every corner.

The Kutupalong site covers about 6,000 acres and is densely populated with eight square metres per person. The sites are highly vulnerable to rain, floods, cyclones, fire and landslides. Access to basic services is still insufficient, and there are poor quality shelters, latrines and delivery clinics. According to the ISCG’s 2018 joint response plan, 12,200 metric tonnes of food per month and 16m litres of safe water per day are needed to sustain the refugee population.

Disappearing forests

From what I saw, the environmental impact of the crisis is clearly devastating. A local forest officer told me that, in the past, the site upon which the Kutupalong camp now stands was a protected forest. Now, not a single large tree can be seen.

Many local Bangladeshis around the camps previously depended on nearby forests – to collect honey, and use dead branches and leaves as firewood. These forests are now disappearing.

Near the camp, I saw many large holes, evidence of the complete uprooting of trees to meet the demands for firewood. Bangladesh’s forest department is relentlessly trying to protect the nearby forests, but doesn’t have enough manpower to maintain the vigil 24 hours a day.

There is no clear boundary to the camp, and nearby I saw some Bangladeshi settlements. The demarcation is obvious: if a group of houses is surrounded by large trees then it is a Bangladeshi settlement, if not, it’s a Rohingya settlement.

The area used to be a habitat for many forest animals including about 40 elephants. The animals are now all gone and the elephants are trapped in another small patch of forest nearby, a local forest officer told me. In the early part of 2018, some elephants attacked Rohingya settlements.

Impact on local economy

The local economy of the camps seem to be thriving and the Kutupalong site is full of small shops selling many kinds of goods. The shop sellers are largely Rohingya, though there is reportedly some Bangladeshi involvement, too.

The presence of the refugees has imposed a heavy financial burden on the Bangladeshi government. One government officer told me that about 2,000 government officials are involved in the management of the camps at various levels – at an annual cost of US$15.24m to the Bangladeshi government. This is a huge sum, considering the per capita annual GDP of Bangladesh is only about US$1,700.

It was the local community in the area that provided much needed early support to Rohingya refugees in August 2017, before aid arrived. Since then, research has begun to highlight the impact of the Rohingya refugees on the local communities, including on the price of local goods and on the local job market

In June 2018, the Bangladesh government signed a memorandum of understanding with the aim of facilitating the voluntary repatriation of 700,000 Rohingya back to Myanmar, but the prospect of actual returns is in question because of the previous experience of the Rohingya people in Myanmar. Meanwhile, they continue to see Bangladesh as a place of refuge, as they have for decades. To ensure voluntary repatriations happen, full assurance is required that they will not be persecuted upon their return.

The ConversationMeanwhile, a longer term, sustainable solution is required for the area, one which secures the safety and livelihoods of both those Rohingya people in fear for their lives, and the hosts who have given them sanctuary.

Mehdi Chowdhury, Senior Lecturer in Economics, Bournemouth University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Brexit: champagne, parmesan, prosecco and feta could soon be at the centre of negotiations

As Brexit day creeps closer, one issue that remains unresolved is the way that food names will be protected in Britain and the EU. From parmesan and feta to cornish pasties and Bavarian beer, the EU is fiercely protective over protected designations of origin (PDOs) or protected geographical indications (PGIs).

A number of highly popular products are protected under this legal framework that dictates certain products can only be produced in certain regions. So champagne must be produced in the Champagne region of France and prosecco in a small pocket of north-eastern Italy. These are products with big market shares in the UK, with consumer loyalty being built up and consolidated through the use of these reputable geographical names.

The issue is also important to the UK. Many British products are also protected under the EU regime. It helps protect both their quality and value.

Accept no imitations.

But when the UK leaves the EU, it will no longer be under the laws that govern the protective status of these products. The government’s recently launched white paper, which outlined the UK’s plans for Brexit, declares that Britain will set up its own protection of geographical names to provide for continuous protection of UK products within the UK. But it doesn’t mention any continuation of the EU’s protection scheme.

Some in Brussels have expressed fear that British producers will start exploiting previously protected European names. Yet, rather ironically, British products would not lose their status in the EU (and could still seek new EU registrations in the future), since the EU allows for the protection of geographical names from non-EU countries. It’s an imbalance which seems to please British negotiators.

So, the European Commission fears that after Brexit the high level of protection that European products currently enjoy in the UK under EU law may evaporate. The white paper proposal rather contrasts with the commission’s proposal, which suggests that the UK continue protecting geographical indications, as it does under the EU.

US interference

But the EU’s desire that post-Brexit Britain keep its protection of geographical indications is bound to collide with US strategic interests. The US position is an important factor to take into account in the Brexit negotiations. If the UK signs a trade deal with the US, it will likely clash with a lot of EU regulations – including provisions governing the use of geographical names for food and beverages.

The US plays by different rules when it comes to the protection of these names. There are numerous US food companies that freely use European geographical expressions (including parmesan and feta for cheese) to identify products that have not been produced in the relevant European locations. In the US, these are considered to be generic names that describe the products and cannot be monopolised by anyone, not even by the producers coming from the relevant European geographical area.

Is it feta or ‘Greek-style cheese’?

That is why the US is lobbying the UK to abandon the EU’s protection of geographical indications, namely to allow US food and beverage companies to enter the British market by freely using European names. A US-UK trade deal would likely be contingent on the UK dropping the EU-level protection of geographical indications. But this, in turn, would scupper the prospects of a trade deal with the EU – an even bigger trading partner for the UK.

Sticking point

The EU has continuously placed great emphasis on the protection of its geographical names during trade negotiations. It proved to be a big sticking point in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations. France and Greece, for example, threatened to veto a deal with the US unless it upheld their geographical indications. More recently, Italy’s minister for agriculture noted that Italy may not ratify the EU’s trade deal with Canada because, in his view, it does not adequately protect Italian geographical names.

The ConversationIt is therefore not a stretch to say that the entire Brexit deal could hinge on the issue of geographical indications. There is no doubt that providing a level of protection in the UK which is comparable to the current EU scheme – for example, via a mutual EU/UK recognition scheme – would facilitate an agreement not only on the specific issue of geographical names, but also of the entire Brexit deal. This would, however, make favourable trade agreements between the UK and the US less likely. The battle over geographical indications will surely go on.

Enrico Bonadio, Senior Lecturer in Law, City, University of London and Marc Mimler, Lecturer in Law, Bournemouth University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Plastic pollution: could we clean up the ocean with technology?

File 20180720 142405 1lpfc4u.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1

Rick Stafford, Bournemouth University

Our oceans are threatened by three major challenges: climate change, overfishing and pollution. Plastic pollution is of growing concern, and has gained international attention from governments, media and large sections of the public, partly fuelled by last year’s BBC documentary Blue Planet II and its images of sperm whales and seabirds entangled or ingesting plastic debris.

Despite the attention plastic pollution has received, some scientists think this is the least important of the major marine threats, and that climate change and fisheries need more urgent attention.

This is not to say that plastic is not a major issue – it is, especially in some parts of the developing world, and in large open ocean gyre systems where ocean currents meet and all that they carry accumulates. Research has also found that microplastics (small fragments which form as larger plastic pieces are broken down in the sea) are found in seafood, and plastic may even accumulate as it passes up the foodchain.

The Ocean Cleanup

One reason why plastic pollution seems to get more attention than other threats to the ocean is that the issue may have a technological “fix”. The Ocean Cleanup is the flagship tech solution to marine plastic and proposes using several 600-metre long barriers to float in the ocean current and catch plastic drifting in the surface waters of the gyres.

Invented by a then 19-year-old student, the idea has come in for criticism in recent years with concerns ranging from the project’s ability to reach microplastics to it causing harm to wildlife.

Nevertheless, the Ocean Cleanup has captured imaginations by trying to reverse the problem of ocean plastic on a large scale.

We’re familiar with the idea that we can all do something to prevent plastic ending up in the sea, such as refusing plastic straws and carrying a refillable water bottle. However, while we need to use less, we also need to produce less, and throw away less of it. This means not only individual behaviour change, but changes in industrial processes, and government policies worldwide.

The visual impact of plastic pollution and high levels of public interest might be fundamental to some solutions. In many countries, local beach cleans are a regular occurrence, and are rapidly gaining in popularity. It has also been suggested that despite plastic hotspots in ocean gyres, eventually, many large plastic items will wash up on beaches, and that a significant proportion of plastic waste ending up in the sea comes from coastal or riverside communities.

Most plastic enters the ocean from the shore and accumulates in ocean ‘gyres’, where different currents meet.

Think global, act local

This provides hope for community networks to be formed that can combat plastic pollution at a local level. These networks need to expand beyond beach or river clean-ups to involve and engage multiple groups and individuals in society.

These stakeholders, who have a shared interest in healthy oceans, should include local retailers who can provide deposit return schemes on bottles and other recyclable materials and even reduce or eliminate the sale of products such as plastic straws, disposable coffee cups, plastic bags and takeaway containers.

Local councils could set up rubbish and recycling facilities for beach goers and enforce penalties for littering and fly tipping near beaches and rivers.

Communities in charge of managing their local environment have been shown to be effective in coastal areas, but issues always arise with the scaling-up of these approaches to national or international levels.

There is clearly a need for policies which support local initiatives, rather than combat them. For example, government policies should immediately call for bans on non-essential plastic packaging rather than “working to a target of eliminating avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042” as the UK’s 25 year environmental plan currently indicates.

Beach cleanup events can engage communities in halting the flow of plastic into the ocean.

Remaining non-essential packaging should urgently be made recyclable, and recycling incentive schemes, such as payment for recycling, need to be introduced quickly, beyond the approaches used by local retailers.

Technological solutions can and should form part of our approach to environmental problems, whether plastic pollution or climate change. However, they can only be part of a solution.

Schemes which change attitudes and empower communities at a local level can be effective worldwide, but they need support from national and international policies to bring about real change. At present, pollution and natural resources are dismissed as necessary casualties in the pursuit of economic growth.

The ConversationSupport for seaside communities in policy is missing, and until it is in place, no high tech miracle will step in to save us.

Rick Stafford, Professor of Marine Biology and Conservation, Bournemouth University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Can a scientific name save one of Earth’s most iconic freshwater fish from extinction?

File 20180723 189319 11gg69t.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
The iconic hump-backed mahseer.
J. Bailey, Author provided

The mahseers are an iconic group of fish found throughout the fast-flowing rivers of South and South-East Asia. Characterised by their large scales, attractive appearance and potentially vast size, the mahseers have long been afforded saintly status as “God’s fishes”. They are also known to anglers as some of the world’s hardest fighting freshwater game fish, earning them the reputation of “tigers of the water”.

But despite lots of interest in mahseers, their future is under serious threat as their rivers become polluted and blocked by hydropower dams in order to support a rapidly growing human population. Those fish that do survive are vulnerable to illegal “dynamite fishing” in which a blast kills or injures all aquatic life, allowing poachers to harvest anything that floats to the surface.

Of the 18 currently valid species of mahseer, the official IUCN Red List of Threatened Species currently lists four as endangered, one as vulnerable, and one as near threatened. The rest either lack enough data to reach a conclusion or haven’t been evaluated.

Recent research published by colleagues and I in PLOS ONE focused on the hump-backed mahseer, the largest and most endangered of all mahseers. The fish was once common throughout the Cauvery river and its various tributaries in southern India, but it is now limited to just a handful of small isolated populations. Weighing as much as a small adult human (55kg), this freshwater giant qualifies as megafauna, yet bizarrely it has remained a taxonomic enigma without a valid scientific name.

The Cauvery and its tributaries flow through the states of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
Central Ground Water Board, India

Until now. Colleagues and I discovered that the hump-backed mahseer is actually the same species as Tor remadevii: a mahseer that previously lacked a common name. Scientists first described Tor remadevii as a new species in 2007, based on a small sample of juvenile fish from the most southerly tributary of the Cauvery catchment in the state of Kerala. Little did they realise that the small fish they had discovered from this remote sub-catchment was the same as the monster mahseer found in the upper and middle reaches of the main river Cauvery.

The rise and fall of a freshwater icon

The hump-backed mahseer was first brought to the attention of the world’s anglers in Henry Sullivan Thomas’s 1873 classic, The Rod in India. During British rule, several huge specimens were recorded, including the still-standing world rod-caught record, a 120lb (54kg) monster captured in 1946 by a taxidermist from Mysore known as de Wet Van Ingen. Indian independence followed soon after, and the mahseer was largely forgotten by the outside world, with many believing the fish had been dynamited to extinction.

Although larger fish have been reported, this catch by de Wet Van Ingen still stands as the official world record.

That was until 1977, when the Trans World Fishing Team – comprised of three Englishmen –travelled to India and spent several months exploring the country’s rivers before reaching the Cauvery. There they found the hump-backed mahseer very much alive, and realised their sporting dreams by recording individual catches up to 92lbs (42kg).

This reignited global interest, and catch-and-release anglers from around the world flocked to the River Cauvery in search of the legendary fish. Local villagers found employment as angling guides, cooks or drivers, some of them rehabilitated poachers who realised that a live mahseer had renewable value, unlike the single value of a dead one at market. Patrols were set up to protect the species 24/7, allowing the ecology of the river to flourish.

Martin Clark of the Trans World Fishing Team with one of the fish caught in 1978.
Trans World Fishing Team, Author provided

But all was not what it seemed. Since their establishment in the 1970s, the angling camps had been collecting invaluable data which shed new light on the situation. When colleagues and I analysed these detailed catch records, we realised the hump-backed mahseer had almost disappeared. Although overall mahseer stocks were rising, the humpback itself was being rapidly replaced by a non-native and highly invasive species of mahseer, which had been deliberately introduced to the River Cauvery to boost stocks in the late 1970s. This led us to publish a paper in 2015, outlining the threat of imminent extinction facing the hump-backed mahseer.

So, what’s in a name?

The hump-backed mahseer has been known around the world by its common name, but confusion over its scientific name has prevented its inclusion in the IUCN Red List of threatened species. Given the fish is on the edge of extinction, it proved a significant challenge finding wild specimens from which to collect the DNA and associated evidence required to support a formal taxonomic clarification. Only after three years of expeditions was our team finally successful in finding a small population of humpbacks in a remote jungle section of the River Moyar, a tributary of the Cauvery.

The paper we recently published fixes the scientific name as Tor remadevii and should see the iconic species assessed as “critically endangered” in the next update of the Red List. The significance of the research published will afford this iconic fish the recognition and legislative protection it so urgently requires to develop robust conservation planning.

The ConversationHowever, in the long term, the fish’s future rests in the hands of the three Indian states with stakes in the highly-contested Cauvery river system – Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka. One hope is that the humpback mahseer will become a unifying force and bring these states together to protect the rich biodiversity and natural function of the Cauvery from further decay, allowing the river to continue to support the many millions of people who depend on it.

Adrian Pinder, Associate Director, Bournemouth University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.