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Researching global change

3 April 2008

A ‘Global Change Day’ held at the University on 14 March brought together more than 100 researchers for a day of round-table discussions, networking opportunities and presentations on current and future University of Bristol directions in global change research.

Global change research, in seeking to better understand the causes and global consequences of human activities, requires the close integration of experts from across a broad spectrum of disciplines. Global Change Day capitalised on the considerable research strengths in the essential disciplines at the University of Bristol, allowing for interdisciplinary research. Participants came from a diverse range of disciplines and departments, including Philosophy, Earth Sciences, Chemistry, Geographical Sciences, Biological Sciences, Civil Engineering, Engineering Mathematics, Computer Science, Aerospace Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Education. The aim of this day-long immersion in a multidisciplinary cooking pot was to foster the interdisciplinary connections and activities needed to address future global change.

The keynote speaker was Dr Gavin Schmidt from NASA GISS and the founding contributor of the award winning ‘realclimate’ website. To kick-start the day, he provided an overview of the current understanding of recent and future climate change and highlighted research needs, emphasising the importance of applying records of past climate to test global climate models used to generate future predictions – an area where University of Bristol is a world leader.

The keynote speech was followed by talks from Dr Andy Ridgwell (Bristol Research Initiative for the Dynamic Global Environment, Geographical Sciences), Dr Jon Bridle (Biological Sciences), Dr Peter Flach (Computer Sciences) and Professor Alan Champneys (Engineering) highlighting current Bristol-based global change research. The afternoon included brainstorming sessions to identify new areas of cross-departmental and faculty collaboration in global change research at Bristol. Face-to-face meetings between all delegates exposed different understandings of what global change is and interpretations of the issues global change encompasses. Four thematic groups met to discuss bridging research under the umbrella of ‘sustainable communities’, ‘hazards’, ‘ecosystems’ and ‘climate active gases’. Integrating research across traditional divides resulted in creative ideas to tackle global change challenges and devise future collaborative research within the University.

The Global Change Day was sponsored by the Directors of Research of the Science and Engineering Faculties (Professor Chris Hawkesworth and Professor Nishan Canagarajah) and held in the School of Geographical Sciences. The event was organised by Dr Daniela Schmidt and Dr Erica Hendy (both from Earth Sciences), Dr Jon Bridle (Biological Sciences), Paul Harper (Aerospace Engineering), Dr Andy Ridgwell and Dr Dirk Hoffmann (Geographical Sciences) and Dr Rich Pancost (Chemistry).

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