Tagged / research successes

Research reflections 2022 – Your highlights: The RaNTrans project

Dr Dan Franklin, Associate Professor in Environmental Science, and Annesia Lamb, Post-Doctoral Research Assistant/Senior Research Associate, write about RaNTrans, an Interreg project addressing the issues of excess nutrients in coastal waters… 

The Interreg (Rapid Reduction of Nutrients in Transitional Waters) project is a partnership of several UK and French organisations addressing the issues of excess nutrients (particularly nitrogen) in coastal waters. Human modification of the nitrogen cycle is recognised as one of the “planetary boundaries” beyond which humanity currently operates. Excess nitrogen in coastal ecosystems can cause dramatic ecological changes and significantly alter how ecosystems function.

The surface of Holes Bay covered in a green algae with three people wading in it

Seaweed collection in Holes Bay, Poole Harbour

RaNTrans has had a strong focus on the use of seaweeds and oysters to mitigate excess nitrogen conditions. Seaweeds and oysters take up and store nutrients in their tissues and when harvested can act as a removal mechanism to offset human nutrient discharges from agriculture and wastewater treatment works. They are also the subject of large-scale ecosystem restoration projects through European coastal waters.

Green seaweeds (such as Ulva) are often very abundant in high-nutrient estuaries. They can form “mats” and shade other species of seaweeds, potentially change dissolved oxygen conditions, and can also change the amount of food available to wading birds in the underlying sediments. Improving our understanding of mat species and biochemical composition, mat dynamics and computer modelling, and mat detection with remote sensing are other aspects of the project.

An aerial image showing areas of algae at Holes Bay

Holes Bay algal mat detection

This year RaNTrans successfully completed a large-scale seaweed collection trial in Holes Bay, Poole Harbour, which removed several hundred kilos of seaweed mat. This effort involved up to 10 project personnel working at our Hole’s Bay experimental site.

We are now monitoring the impact of this collection effort on bird ecology, sediment macrofauna (the clams, worms etc that live in the mud) and we are quantifying how fast the seaweed mat returns to the harvested plots. We have found that the growth conditions for green mat-forming species of seaweeds in Holes Bay are especially benign, resulting in an almost single-species mat which is relatively straightforward to harvest.

The project runs until June 2023 and we hope that our findings will lead to a better understanding, and greater innovation, in how we manage an environmental issue that is significant throughout the coastal waters of the world.

Find out more on the RaNTrans project website 

Research reflections 2022 – Your highlights: DONATION project

Dr Rounaq Nayak, Lecturer in Sustainability, writes about the DONATION project, which explored the impact of the cost of living crisis on food aid programmes… 

The research success I have had is with a project that I started at the beginning of the year, titled ‘Design of a social sustainability and food utilisation matrix for food banks (DONATION)’, using the Charity Impact fund (internal call).

The fund helped me explore the impact of the cost of living crisis on various food aid programmes in the UK (including food banks and community markets in Dorset, Leicestershire and Shropshire).

I would term this project a success due to 3 reasons: it gave me the chance to carry out research in a new topic area, it allowed me to network both within the university as well as with key stakeholders outside the University, and apply successfully for seed funding from the British Academy.

Findings from the study were published in a Call for evidence on the UK Parliament website, which is a first for me. Detailed findings will also be published as a peer-reviewed paper in a special issue journal that is widely read by audiences in the sector.

Vegetables in packaging in a food bankWhat started out as a small project that was awarded £2500 at the start of the year has led to a larger project with a defined theme (£7900) that is attracting interest from various stakeholders such as BCP, Bristol City and Oxfordshire Councils, key stakeholders associated with food aid programmes in the UK, and charities that work with vulnerable populations.

The findings have also led to the identification of a new group of clients that need access to food banks due to food and fuel poverty – people working full-time jobs and on an annual salary. Based on these findings and the gravity of the situation identified through this project, I am aiming to apply for a UKRI New Investigator Grant in the autumn of 2023.

Research reflections 2022: Your highlights

As we come to the end of 2022, we’re taking a look back at some of our research and knowledge exchange successes from across the year.

In today’s blog post, members of the BU community share some of their highlights…

In 2022, we celebrated the REF 2021 results (and associated increase in QR funding) and our increase in performance in KEF2. We also supported BU to successfully retain the HR Excellence in Research Award for the 8th year.

We had a successful internal research audit and we received positive feedback from the Senate review on URPPC management, administration and advice.

We supported the launch of the Strategic Narratives, including organising the Online Public Lecture Series, and we ran our first research conference in several years, which was a great success. We also re-started our in-person Café Scientifique series and delivered several events as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science.

We established the Research Excellence Team and welcomed the Business and Knowledge Exchange Managers to BU, as well as launching the RCaTS scheme.

We made further improvements to the RKE processes by working with the BU Transformation Team, such as the implementation of the enquiry management system, the eItB, and the launch of a new process for Research Centre memberships.

We’ve increased our number of bids compared to the previous year, which has led to some exciting new awards, such as Dr Philip Riris’ AHRC grant and a Knowledge Transfer Partnership led by Professor Marcin Budka.

RDS moved into Studland House and Joelle Fallows, RDS Operations Officer, has been instrumental in linking a new charity (Story Works, set up by Dee Hughes in FMC) with a local primary school, launched with a visit from Michael Rosen (the charity patron) to BU – pretty cool!

Julie Northam, Head of RDS

The work being undertaken by myself and Henry Bang from the BUDMC has had major impacts through projects such as AFRICAB, EVALDIS and ELIED, working with governmental organisations in preparing for, responding to, and recovery from crisis.

Elsewhere in the Faculty, Professor Mike Silk has concluded his big grants around the Paralympics, with major coverage in the year of the Paralympic Games; Professor Dimitrios Buhalis’s achievement of being the most cited academic in terms of individual papers in the field of Tourism and Hospitality; Professor Janet Dickinson and her exciting e-drones project; and Professor Chris Chapleo has been supporting local business Actisense, enhancing and automating their customer service through a Knowledge Transfer Partnership.

Professor Lee Miles, Deputy Dean for Research and Professional Practice, BU Business School

As part of the BOU (British Ornithological Union) panel that records fossil and archaeological birds from the last 2.6 Million years for the official British list (category F) we published a paper in Ibis detailing our database. This can be used to inform policy decisions on native status of British birds. The paper includes a discussion of some of the more interesting and controversial records like the mandarin duck, pigmy cormorant etc.

Professor John Stewart, Professor of Evolutionary Palaeoecology, Faculty of Science and Technology

The launch of the Research Excellence Manager role, full stop; having a role which has specific responsibilities for BU’s research environment and research culture is pretty brilliant. Equally, the launch of the Research ‘Most Excellent’ team – having a team with this lens brings a lovely perspective to the work we do.

Our REF results and QR funding increase was a massive achievement and testament to the hard work everyone has been putting in for years. We’ve been rejuvenating connections among the UOA teams, with a large number of expressions of interest from staff wanting to get involved (50 plus), ranging from ECRs to Professors. We’ve also been working with academic colleagues to achieve 100% compliance on our Research Outcomes submission.

We have lively, active and full research leadership programmes, ECR network and almost fully represented Research Staff Association, and the research conference had a large number of attendees and great speakers – cracking!

It’s been great to reconnect our RDS team after a few unsettling and disjointed years and move into our new home on the 8th floor of Studland House (complete with sea views!) Finally, a special shout out to Peng Peng Hatch for being awarded the Doctorate in Education!

Shelly Anne Stringer, Research Excellence Manager, RDS

A paper published by Dr Laura Renshaw-Vuillier, Dr Rachel Moseley and Dr Maddy Greville-Harris (entitled “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on individuals with eating disorders: the role of emotion regulation and exploration of online treatment experiences”) was selected for the Best COVID-19 2022 Research Paper award in the Journal of Eating Disorders.

Professor Jan Wiener, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Science and Technology