Interdisciplinary challenge themes

The Sustainable Earth Institute (SEI) is currently focusing on four sustainability challenge themes that require a systems approach to examine the larger picture of interacting factors. These challenge themes transcend disciplinary research and bring together a critical mass of interdisciplinary expertise to look at the issue holistically rather than in isolation.

Healthy landscapes

 Global pressures of climate change and population growth are putting unprecedented pressure on the planet’s natural capital that supports food, water and energy security, the foundations of societal health and wellbeing. We need to deliver more food from the same amount of land without triggering an environmental and climatic catastrophe. 
While there are multiple entry points into research in this field from One Health concepts (environmental health, animal health, human health), to systems thinking across soil-crop-water or people-land-water connectivity, it is clear that collaboration across disciplines is essential to deliver the credible evidence base required to support land management decision making and future policy. 

<p>potatoe crop</p>
<p>Silhouette of a woman walking through a computer with colourful rainbow connections in a virtual reality.</p>

Environmental intelligence and sensors

Regulators and stakeholders are demanding more real-time data. We are increasingly becoming data-rich and information poor. The University of Plymouth has a national and international track record in specific areas of data acquisition, interpretation and visualisation of environmental data. 
By drawing these strengths together, our experts can deliver the next generation of environmental monitoring and assessment, particularly as we increasingly move towards the need for real-time data and response to the challenges faced across all ecosystems, from life on land to life below water.

Net-zero carbon

Over the past couple of years various national/local governments, businesses, social enterprises and Universities have declared a climate emergency, often with subsequent targets to reach net-zero carbon. 

Now is the time for action and reaching net-zero carbon requires a holistic, systems-thinking approach requiring input across a number of interacting areas including built environment, mobility, energy, food, resources, behaviour change, nature-based solutions, arts and policy. By bringing research and cross-discipline expertise together around this topic we can do more to accelerate progress in this important area.

<p>green wall</p>

The South West Natural Powerhouse

Natural assets like the wind, critical minerals and heat lie at the heart of the journey to net-zero and the Green Industrial Revolution policies – which include offshore wind, the shift to zero-emission vehicles, greener buildings, sequestrating carbon and protecting our natural environment. The South West Natural Powerhouse (SWNP) is a movement that aims to connect natural capital assets – our resources – with the South-West’s ambition for clean growth. The SWNP is an independent consortium formed from industry, academia and local government that works in collaboration to facilitate clean growth in the South West. The consortium fosters responsible stewardship of our natural resources, whilst promoting sustainable and accelerated development of the blue and green economies.
Find out more about SWNP

<p>South West England coastline</p>