Watch the recording of this event

This event took place on Wednesday 31 March 2021.
We are delighted to welcome you to the Inaugural Professorial Lecture of Professor Sean Comber. 
Metals, phosphates and pharmaceuticals entering our rivers and seas can have considerable consequences for nature and human health, requiring an assessment of their risks and regulation to reduce or mitigate their effects. But these measures can also have a cost on society and industries. Brexit now requires the UK Government to consider what regulations could, or should, be introduced to regulate the pollution, and how far do we go to protect the environment?
Sean Comber, Professor of Environmental Chemistry, explores whether these pollutants pose any cause for concern and how water quality holds up against the environmental standards currently in place. He reflects on the impact of the South West’s mining history and the threshold for how much metal can enter our waterways before they cause a toxicity problem. 
Inversely, Sean questions whether the significant costs predicted to reduce phosphate levels are actually good value for money, and highlights the challenges facing regulation of pharmaceuticals, which exacerbate the risk of antibiotic resistance hotspots in the environment. 
Sean’s expertise spans more than 30 years, starting as a consultant for the water industry; he remains a consultant and brings this extensive industry knowledge, alongside established partnerships, to his portfolio of applied research. His work has had considerable impact, with his work on quantifying the sources of chemicals to water underpinning the UK’s decision to invest £4 billion to reduce chemical pollution entering UK rivers. The model not only accurately predicts the origin and significance of a pollutant but can also run scenarios to identify the most cost-effective solutions for improving water quality. 
The event concludes with a Q&A session where Sean answers questions submitted by attendees.
Sean Comber

Providing sound science to protect our waters 

"There is no place in the UK that is truly pristine anymore. We need to develop science-based water quality standards that take into account the full fate and impacts of organic chemicals on water environments."

Sean Comber, Professor of Environmental Chemistry, has applied research and industry expertise spanning more than 30 years, including as a consultant for the water industry, that has real-world impacts on improving the UK's water quality.

Read the Academic Spotlight on Sean's journey so far

Marine Institute

Marine Institute 

The University’s Marine Institute is the first and largest such institute in the UK. 
We provide the external portal to our extensive pool of world-leading experts and state-of-the-art facilities, enabling us to understand the relationship between the way we live, the seas that surround us and the development of sustainable policy solutions. 
We are integrating our multidisciplinary expertise in marine and maritime research, education and innovation to train new scientists, engineers, policy-makers, artists, technicians and business managers of the future. 
Sustainable Earth Institute hero

Sustainable Earth Institute 

The Sustainable Earth Institute is about promoting a new way of thinking about the future of our world. 
We bring researchers together with businesses, community groups and individuals to develop cutting-edge research and innovative approaches that build resilience to global challenges. 
We link diverse research areas across the University including science, engineering, arts, humanities, health and business. 

Biogeochemistry Research Centre

Researching the environmental behaviour, fate and impact of nutrients, metals and pharmaceuticals in terrestrial, atmospheric and aquatic systems.
The Biogeochemistry Research Centre comprises expert researchers and instrumentation, with acknowledged international leaders in organic geochemistry and environmental analytical chemistry and a strong focus on marine science and current and past ecosystems and climates.
Scientists working with a University of Plymouth team on sea ice in the Arctic (credit: Simon Belt/University of Plymouth)

Public Research Programme

The year-long programme of public events showcases our research across a spectrum of topics. It presents the Inaugural Professorial Lecture series which celebrates the achievements of our academics who have been awarded their professorship; providing a platform for which they can share insights into their esteemed research.
All are welcome to join us as our academics open the door to the intriguing world of research, inviting you to learn more about the fascinating work taking place across the University.
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