Projects funded to engage public with issues of environmental science

4 January 2017

NERC has backed 18 projects to engage the UK public with environmental science around challenging issues.

Blue beetles

Starting in January 2017, the programme will build collaboration between researchers and public groups working together on projects covering key issues including pollution, green infrastructure, water quality, energy, carbon capture, climate change, ocean acidification, flooding, invasive species, rewilding and pollinators.

Partner organisations include National Trust, National Museum Wales, Bristol Natural History Consortium, Community Action: MK and Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. A range of methods, including 'co-production' - external link, citizen science, debates, events and public dialogue will be used to bring members of the public and researchers together to explore environmental science issues.

Researchers will work with targeted groups including volunteers, children, families, policymakers and public groups who do not usually engage with science. The programme aims to benefit members of the public and the research/researchers by improving dialogue, increasing knowledge and understanding and building skills. Training and support for the involvement of early-career researchers and PhD students will be provided by 13 of the projects.

NERC has invested £500,000 in the programme, Engaging the UK public with the big issues of environmental science, the first under NERC's public engagement strategy: engaging members of the UK public with relevant contemporary issues of environmental science through delivery of environmental science public engagement activity building public engagement capacity in the environmental science research community and providing opportunities for early career researchers and PhD students to develop skills, practice and embed public engagement in their research careers building partnerships between researchers and publics or public-facing groups, and between research organisations.

Successful Projects

The 18 successful projects are:

Name Organisation Partner Project title
Leonie Alexander Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh Scottish Wildlife Trust, University of Glasgow Connecting communities with urban coastal landscapes under a changing climate
Trevor Bailey National Museum Wales Cardiff University, Swansea University, Independent marine biologist and underwater photographer Raising public awareness of ocean acidification via a pop-up museum
Sarah Bell University College London (UCL) Inter-disciplinary researchers at UCL Community partnerships for green infrastructure in London
Richard Brazier University of Exeter Environment Agency, Devon Wildlife Trust Engaging publics with large mammal reintroduction: the case of the Eurasian beaver
Savita Custead Bristol Natural History Consortium University of Bath Waterscapes
Alison Dunn University of Leeds Yorkshire Wildlife Trust Engaging the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust volunteer network with invasive non-native species (INNS) and with biosecurity to slow the spread of INNS
Mordechai Haklay University College London Earthwatch Europe, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology Into the night: using citizen science to engage public discussion on the effects of light pollution
Sebastian Hennige University of Edinburgh Heriot-Watt University She sees sea beasties on the seashore
Nigel Hester National Trust University of Exeter Tackling climate change: exploring the science behind natural flood risk management with local communities in SW England
Anna Klis-Davies Community Action: MK The Open University Energage
Timothy Lane Liverpool John Moores University Children's Radio UK, Manchester Metropolitan University, King's College London, Aniku Ltd, Creative Data Projects Ltd, Met Office Climate explorers: using radio to engage children with climate change
Judith Lock University of Southampton Inter-disciplinary researchers at University of Southampton Education in the green space
David Manning Newcastle University Friends of Summerhill, Creative Space Management, Earthwatch The science of carbon capture: creating a carbon capture garden at Newcastle Science Central for people and nature
Hannah Mossman Manchester Metropolitan University University of Southampton, Cardiff University, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust Engaging with contemporary issues in coastal management
Rich Pancost University of Bristol Ujima Radio, Bristol Green Capital Partnership The green and black ambassadors: fostering a dialogue between environmental research and BME communities
Felicity Perry National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS) Inter-disciplinary researchers at NCAS The air we share: Yorkshire
René van der Wal University of Aberdeen Imperial College London Planting for pollinators: automated feedback to foster environmental engagement via positive action
Sarah West University of York The Conservation Volunteers Making the invisible visible

Further information

For media enquiries contact:

Mary Goodchild
NERC media office
01793 411939
07710 147485

For research enquiries contact:

Hannah King
Public engagement officer
01793 411572


1. The panel membership comprised:

  • Michael Depledge, University of Exeter (Chair)
  • Heidi Burdett, Heriot-Watt University
  • Hermione Cockburn, Dynamic Earth
  • Keri Facer, University of Bristol
  • Helen Featherstone, University of Bath
  • Penny Fidler, Association for Science & Discovery Centres (ASDC)
  • Ewan Hunter, Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science (CEFAS)
  • Rob Mackenzie, University of Birmingham
  • Helen Roy, Centre of Ecology & Hydrology (CEH)

2. NERC is the UK's main agency for funding and managing research, training and knowledge exchange in the environmental sciences. Our work covers the full range of atmospheric, Earth, biological, terrestrial and aquatic science, from the deep oceans to the upper atmosphere and from the poles to the equator. We coordinate some of the world's most exciting research projects, tackling major issues such as climate change, environmental influences on human health, the genetic make-up of life on Earth, and much more. NERC is a non-departmental public body. We receive around £330 million of annual funding from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).