Conservation of biodiversity and the environment

The urgent and complex global issues of biodiversity loss and adaptation to climate change lie at the heart of the research carried out by the Animal and Environment Research Group in the Department of Life Sciences. This vibrant and growing research group joined forces with part of the Global Sustainability Institute to form the largest research unit submitted to REF 2014 by Anglia Ruskin University.

Our main research areas include ‘global change ecology’, ‘animal behaviour and welfare’ and ‘environmental monitoring, management and policy’. Over half of our research was recognised as being world-leading or internationally excellent by the REF 2014 ‘Geography, Environmental studies and Archaeology’ sub-panel. To publish world-leading research, it is necessary to work in a well-supported and collaborative research environment. We had worked hard over the previous five years to create a dynamic research environment for the Animal and Environment Research Group and this, along with the appointment of talented early career researchers and new collaborations with the Global Sustainability Institute helped us achieve our highly successful REF 2014 submission.

Perhaps the most exciting outcome from the REF 2014 exercise was the realisation that much of our research has had significant impact outside academia (an impressive 60% of our research was considered to have world-leading or internationally excellent impact). The restoration of habitats and green infrastructure, the measurement of ecosystem services and understanding the impacts of invasive alien species are all high priorities on national and international biodiversity agendas. For example, they all appear on the agenda of the newly formed, independent, Intergovernmental science policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) established to strengthen the science-policy interface for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, long-term human well-being and sustainable development. Our research in these key areas has achieved significant impact in many ways, for example, by informing conservation policy and by providing conservation organisations nationally and internationally with a toolkit for measuring the ecosystem services of protected sites. Excellent expertise with citizen science and training members of the public in biodiversity identification are also among the areas of outreach that our research group specialises in. Research by the Global Sustainability Institute has also had significant impact, for example, on understanding the risks associated with climate change and with global resource constraints on infrastructure investments. All these topics were presented as impact ‘case studies’ in our REF 2014 submission and convincingly made their mark.

Into the future we are continuing to develop our research on conservation genetics and genomics, animal behaviour and welfare, ecosystem services, habitat restoration, invasive species and the innovative use of biostatistics and Geographical Information Systems in conservation science. To maintain these research areas at world-leading levels we have to address the serious challenges of funding more PhD students and postdoctoral staff, of keeping our talented young early career researchers and of finding more time for research – a perennial battle cry in the university sector!