In a bid to significantly boost our understanding of the fragile marine environment, the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the Lowestoft-based Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science (Cefas) are launching a new strategic alliance.
The alliance will strengthen existing collaboration between the two institutions and establish exciting new areas of joint research. The pressures of global climate change on the marine environment will influence much of the work.
The overall aim is to produce high-quality science that will influence policy-making, economic development and, ultimately, an improved quality of life.
The partnership will include a new joint UEA-Cefas lectureship in marine ecosystem services - the services provided by the natural environment that benefit people. The new lecturer will be appointed over the coming weeks and start in Autumn 2008.
It is also hoped that the two organisations will work together to develop a pioneering new degree course in marine environmental management.
The official launch of the new alliance takes place on April 17 from 10am to 4pm in the Zicer building at UEA. An agreement will be signed by UEA Vice-Chancellor Prof Bill Macmillan and Cefas Chief Executive, Dr Richard Judge. There will also be a series of scientific presentations from Cefas and UEA staff, covering areas where there is potential for further collaboration. Topics include coastal erosion, marine ecosystems, pollution, climate change, social sciences, marine policy and oceanography.
"This new partnership will produce a unique capability in the UK to deliver top-quality research into coastal systems and the wider marine environment," said UEA Vice-Chancellor Prof Bill Macmillan.
"This is a high priority for Government and the forthcoming Marine Bill will focus further attention in this area."
Cefas Chief Executive Dr Richard Judge said: "We are fostering expertise and integrated interdisciplinary science and technology to deliver sustainable outcomes which are fundamental actions underpinning Cefas' vision to make a real difference for society.
"This step-change in our existing relationship offers mutual benefit to both partners. It will provide access to funding and influence that could be very beneficial for our understanding of key scientific and environmental issues."
UEA and Cefas have a long and successful history of collaboration in teaching and research, covering both the fisheries and broader environmental/coastal management sectors.
Recent research collaborations between the two institutions have:
- Supported the development of modified fishing gears, which in trials reduced 'discards' (non-targeted commercial fish caught but thrown back dead) by two thirds.
- Revealed that more than half of the coral reef fisheries in island communities around the world are being exploited unsustainably.
- Contributed to a wider understanding of marine climate change impacts (see www.mccip.org.uk/arc/2007/default.htm).
- Discovered high concentrations of phytoplankton, a continual food source, in large areas of the North Sea, thus offering a new understanding of how ecosystems function.
Ongoing work that will provide tangible, practical outcomes - which will make a real difference to individuals and communities, and for sustainable marine and coastal environments - include:
- Coastal erosion and managed re-alignment of the coast
- The impact of climate change on fish growth and stocks in general
- Nutrient supply from rivers and sediment storage in estuaries.