Inaugural professorial lectures 2014/15/16

An Inordinate Fondness for (Water) Beetles

Inaugural professorial lecture by David Bilton, Professor in Aquatic Biology, School of Biological and Marine Sciences on 1 December 2016.

Beetles have colonised water at least 20 times from different terrestrial ancestors, these events giving rise to independent aquatic radiations, many of which occur across the entire spectrum of inland water habitat types.
With more than 12,000 described species, water beetles are abundant, speciose and ecologically important organisms in almost all non-marine aquatic habitats, from water filled tree holes to larger lakes and rivers, and can be found on all continents except Antarctica. Their wide geographical and ecological range, coupled with high species richness and relatively stable taxonomy, make these insects ideal for addressing a range of ecological and evolutionary questions, as well as being fascinating in their own right – themes which were explored in this inaugural lecture.

This image shows ten species of water beetle from seven separate families, not to scale. 

Eight of the species illustrated were first found by Professor Bilton, and three of them are still to be named and formally described.

Download full-sized image as a PDF (10MB)

Soil Erosion: a global challenge

Inaugural professorial lecture by Will Blake, Professor of Catchment Science, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences on 7 December 2016.

Soil erosion challenges water, food and energy security. Loss of topsoil and nutrients threatens food production. Pollution and siltation of downstream water bodies impact water supply, hydroelectric power generation and the natural function of aquatic ecosystems.

Drawing from experience in logged tropical rainforest, burnt Australian landscapes, and the East African Rift System, this inaugural lecture explored how catchment science evidence from advanced soil and sediment tracing tools can support land management and soil conservation decisions. The importance of an interdisciplinary approach to tackle this global challenge, against increasing pressure from population growth and global change, was also highlighted.

From Armageddon to Xanadu: Lessons in the fine and dark arts of national climate politics

Inaugural professorial lecture by Ian Bailey, Professor of Environmental Politics, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences on 1 November 2016.

The Paris Climate Agreement has been heralded as a landmark in international cooperation on climate change. However, whether COP21 produced just warm words or charted a course to avoid the worst effects of climate change will depend to a very large degree on decisions taken nationally on climate and energy policy.

This inaugural lecture reflected on lessons gained from Ian's experiences attempting to understand and contribute to the advancement of national climate politics.

Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals: The Human–Wildlife Health Connection

Image of child drinking water. Credit: Tom Hutchinson

Inaugural professorial lecture by Tom Hutchinson, Professor of Environment and Health Sciences, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences on 20 October 2016.

The landmark book 'Our Stolen Future' helped raise global awareness of the health risks posed by hormone mimicking chemicals, leading to major scientific advances in chemical safety assessment over the past decade.

This inaugural lecture discussed the critical linkage between human health and the environment, focusing on the early warnings from wildlife research and the major scientific contributions made to the OECD and other international chemical regulations. The lecture also highlighted the lessons learned for the future of the human–wildlife health connection.

Passwords, PINs and Biometrics: Developing more secure and convenient authentication technologies

Inaugural professorial lecture by Nathan Clarke, Professor in Cyber Security and Digital Forensics, School of Computing, Electronics and Mathematics on 2 December 2015. 

The world of user authentication is focused upon developing technologies to solve the problem of point-of-entry identity verification. Unfortunately, authentication approaches: secret knowledge; tokens and biometrics, all fail to provide universally strong user authentication – with various well-documented failings existing.

This inaugural lecture discussed the research that has been undertaken at Plymouth to develop a fundamentally new approach that seeks to minimise the authentication burden placed upon users, yet improves the level of security currently being provided.

The importance of entrepreneurial ecosystems within regional development narrative

A networking event and inaugural lecture by Professor Gideon Maas took place to mark the first anniversary of the launch of the Futures Entrepreneurship Centre on 19 November 2014.

Gideon, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Director of the Futures Entrepreneurship Centre explored the importance of entrepreneurship creating and supporting socio-economic growth.

There is no doubt that a new approach to the development of sustainable entrepreneurship is needed – a systemic approach that is more heuristic and holistic in nature. Needed is the creation of a compelling entrepreneurial narrative for regions, and from that basis the creation of  entrepreneurial ecosystems that will support the implementation of such a narrative.