Think Tank

To stimulate innovative thinking and project ideas, our regular Think Tank events bring together researchers and partners from across the University and community to explore concepts that cut across all our themes. This approach allows us to synthesise across fields, and to be dynamic; changing over time to tackle the big questions in environmental and sustainability science.


In an era of unprecedented environmental and societal change, the ESI’s overarching aim is to provide insight and solutions to meet the challenges this creates in securing a sustainable future. This is being done by:

  1. Addressing challenges of environmental and social change over time and multiple spatial scales.
  2. Developing strategies for biological, technological, political and social innovations that promote responsible stewardship of terrestrial and marine systems.
  3. Recognising and building on the role of the environment in promoting human health, prosperity and well-being.
  4. Use our research to help build positive and productive futures for the economy, environment and education of Cornish communities.

Whilst much of our research and impact is national or international, Cornwall is at the heart of our endeavours. All of our research is either specific to a challenge faced in Cornwall but that has global impact and consequences, or global research that has impacts on the communities and environment in Cornwall.


Energy, Materials & Resources

It is essential that we utilise fewer resources, more efficiently, with less damage to the environment and greater benefits to society to enable sustainable futures across the globe. This theme includes work that spans clean technologies, bioremediation, reducing waste and developing methods of use that reduce environmental impact or harm.

Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

Environmental change threatens biodiversity and ‘Natural Capital’ in terrestrial, fresh water and marine ecosystems. This theme covers the measurement, monitoring and modelling of biodiversity, ecological processes and the benefits that nature affords humans under different environmental change scenarios.

Environmental Stewardship and Citizenship

Human activity largely triggers rapid environmental change. Humans are also responsible for the regulation, management and maintenance of various environments across the globe. This theme examines the conflicts and opportunities posed by environmental stewardship: exploring how humans interact with land, sea and natural capital, and whether those interactions can be improved for environmental and social sustainability. Solutions could be behavioural, technological or political, but by integrating the study of all three we can inform the transition from resource-intensive economic growth to resilient, environmentally sustainable economies.

Ecosystem Health (including animal, plant and microbial)

Pollution and pathogen dynamics in individual populations or communities of animals, plants or microbes can degrade healthy, functioning ecosystems and also affect the balance of natural capital. They can alter the production of food, fuel and timber in both aquatic and terrestrial systems. The interplay between wild and managed species - in terms of disease dynamics - is therefore key to maintaining diverse ecosystems as well as the services they provide. This theme investigates disease load, microbe communities and pollution (whether physical, chemical or biological) with a view to finding robust management strategies over the long-term.

Cornish Futures

The ESI has a responsibility to contribute to the improvement of Cornwall’s economic, educational and environmental opportunities. How can the results of our national and international research portfolio be applied to bring benefits to regional landscape, seascape and society? Likewise how can our deep and broad engagement with local partners and stakeholders generate research and innovation that is usable outcomes and insights that have national and international reach and relevance? One example would be the feasibility of embedding the Environmental Growth paradigm.