Sphere cover from the Sustainable Earth Institute

The current buzzword in the UK academic hothouse is ‘Global Challenges’ – and for good reason

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals – global targets around environment and development which the world has signed up to delivering on by 2030 – are looking ever more tricky to deliver. The Research Councils UK’s (RCUK) substantive Global Challenges Research Fund, therefore, is a welcome effort to direct scientific excellence at real-world problems through close collaborations with in-country partners and the application of transformative interdisciplinary actions. 
In a way, that is precisely what the Sustainable Earth Institute at the University was set up to do. We are a platform for translating cutting-edge research into meaningful action, which we achieve by bringing together researchers and practitioners from multiple disciplines to work on some of the most pressing societal issues. You can get a flavour of the breadth of that work in the pages that follow, which showcase a suite of current research projects confronting a variety of global challenge themes.
Many of those themes featured prominently in ‘Sustainable Earth 2017’ (29 and 30 June) – our annual shop window for promoting what we do. As ever, the conference offered an eclectic mix of environment-related interests, though this year’s headline sessions merged global health and climate change.
Infusing the event, however, is arguably our greatest academic challenge: communicating effectively with those communities that are most at risk. Which is exactly why these ‘research stories from the Sustainable Earth Institute’ are so telling.
Professor Iain Stewart
Director of the Sustainable Earth Institute
Iain Stewart, Director of the Sustainable Earth Institute
Children in Papua New Guinea quickly grasp what global carbon dioxide emissions are doing to their coral reefs

Ocean acidification has diverse effects on zooplankton, damaging coral reefs

With adequate protection from overfishing and habitat destruction I am confident that we can slow the decline in coral reefs
Photo credit Bakir/Thompson/University of Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre

You could damage the environment by using cosmetic and cleaning products

Research has shown that almost 100,000 tiny ‘microbeads’ of plastic could be released in every single application of cosmetic products

Spotlight: Professor Tom Hutchinson

“From my scientific training, I feel there is an absolutely fundamental link between human health and wildlife health. That has been my driving principle in a professional capacity: people cannot be healthy if the world they live in is not healthy.”
Professor Tom Hutchinson