* With the update of QUEX Institute themes, we are now seeking expressions of interest for the next group of theme leaders, and are keen to receive applications. Please read the Call guidance notes for further instructions on how to apply *


Key themes

The virtual QUEX Institute for Global Sustainability and Wellbeing will focus on three key themes of activity which have been conceptualised in the following ways:

Theme Leads:  Ian Bateman (UoE) and Pete Mumby (UQ)

This theme encompasses many different facets of research across STEMM, the social sciences and humanities, including the sustainability of natural and modified ecosystems in the face of societal development and climate change, climate change science, adaptation and mitigation, mining and its corresponding global environmental challenges, sustainability and the circular economy.

The following are examples of key areas of alignment between Exeter and Queensland.

University of QueenslandUniversity of Exeter
  • Schools of Biological Sciences, Earth and Environmental Sciences
  • Sustainable Minerals Institute
  • Advanced Water Management
  • Geography, Planning and Environmental Management
  • Earth Sciences
  • Institute for Social Sciences Research
  • Business School
  • ARC Centre of Excellence in Environmental Decisions
  • The Centre for Ecology and Conservation/ Biosciences
  • Camborne School of Mines
  • Centre for Water Systems
  • Geography
  • GSI
  • Environment and Sustainability Institute
  • Humanities
  • Social Sciences and International Studies -  Land Environment Economics and Policy Institute
  • Business School

Sub-themes for Environmental Sustainability (this theme covers a wide range of research areas and so there are more sub themes identified than for the two other themes): 

  • Mining: Resourcing in a Changing World:  Re-use and re-cycling are important elements of any Environmental Sustainability strategy, but raw materials will always be necessary to underpin new technological developments. Sustainable exploitation of raw materials presents a number of first-order societal challenges that can only be met by taking an international and cross disciplinary approach.
  • Calibration of Future Environments from Geological Records:  The extent to which Earth's climatic and environmental systems can be perturbed is principally known from its stratigraphic record. Indeed, mechanisms of environmental change, and their impact and magnitudes, can only be reconstructed and fully understood using these records. Suitable paleoclimate archives can range from deep-sea sediments through to shallow water biogenic materials, and on to terrestrial cave deposits, and construction of these records often necessitates large-scale international collaboration.
  • Decision making tools for environmental sustainability: This sub-theme would look at the potential for developing decision support tools to assist policy makers and business decision makers understand the environmental and economic wellbeing consequences of alternative investments.
  • Optimal conservation. The siting of conservation zones is rarely determined by their biodiversity consequences alone. Other considerations including social impact, equity, economic costs and benefits, and legal factors play a role. This sub-theme develops approaches to improve management decision-making so that outcomes have greater ecological, economic and/or social value.
  • Conserving species in a changing world: The role of climate change in driving changes in the world’s biodiversity hotspots and approaches to help ecosystems and people adapt.
  • Integrated decision making for terrestrial, freshwater and coastal systems. Policy prescriptions in one location rarely manage to fully incorporate the effects that change will have on the integrated system that is the natural environment. This sub-theme addresses this deficiency through a case study approach which could look at a combination of the drivers of change, linkages between ecosystems and solutions.
  • Combating environmental change in marine and aquatic ecosystems: This research theme addresses emerging problems like plastic pollution and changing biogeochemistry and attempts to seek mechanistic understanding and solutions at appropriately large scales.
  • Extremes in a changing climate: understanding causes and impacts to build resilience. This includes changes in climate variability and their implications for ecosystem resilience, detection and early warning of damaging tipping points, and tipping positive transformative change to restore degraded ecosystems. Specific areas of study could include: (a) ENSO and climate change; (b) Heatwaves and droughts under climate change.
  • Tipping points: Threats and opportunities. This sub-theme would span topics such as detecting damaging abrupt changes in environmental systems to tipping positive transformative change to restore degraded systems.
  • Soil and landscape degradation under population and climate change scenarios: Understanding the structure, function, management and restoration of dryland soils is critical to deliver future-proof solutions across what will be 50% of the global land mass, home to 25% of the global population by 2100. This builds on UoE drylands research, which to date has a focus in Europe and the Americas, but can also be related to global concepts of environmental resilience.
  • Food Security and Crop Science

Theme Leads:  Jo Bowtell and Andy Cresswell

Physical activity plays a key role in increasing health and well-being across the human lifespan. This theme may include activity around physiology and nutrition, physical activity and workplace interventions, biomechanics and injury, applied sports psychology and public health and engineering.

The following are examples of key areas of alignment between Exeter and Queensland.

University of QueenslandUniversity of Exeter
  • Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences
  • Faculty of Medicine
  • Centre for Business Economics & Health
  • Queensland Brain Institute
  • Sport and Health Sciences
  • University of Exeter Medical School
  • Engineering

Sub-themes for Physical Activity and Nutrition:

  • Exercise and Nutrition as Medicine: This sub-theme will focus specifically on the application of exercise and nutrition interventions to improve health either by risk reduction or by incorporation into treatment regimens to improve quality of life and retard disease progression, as well as enhance our understanding of the mechanisms of action and pathophysiology. There is world leading expertise in both institutions in key areas of relevance in integrative physiology (musculoskeletal, vascular, cardiorespiratory, neural), nutrition and metabolism, paediatric science, movement kinetics, kinematics and gait re-training, and motor skill learning. Research in this area will fit with the remit of RCUK, ARC, NIHR and other medical charities, as well as industry.
  • Biomechanics, motor control and skill acquisition: This sub-theme will focus on musculoskeletal biomechanics as it relates to the study of human motion and the mechanical properties of biological tissues. Applications include, but are not exclusive to, the study of movement in sporting situations, in work environments, in rehabilitation settings and where there are interactions between the nervous system and mechanical properties of the body (neuromechanics). It also includes the field of motor control, which seeks to understand how movement skills are controlled, how they develop and how they are acquired. The field examines issues that relate to both normal skill acquisition, coordination and control, plus how these processes are affected by factors such as injury, disability, disease, disuse and fatigue and involves a combination of approaches from neuroscience and cognitive science. There is significant and complementary expertise in these areas in both institutions and they align with RCUK, ARC, NIHR, as well as military and industry funding, and there is already a track record of successfully attracting such funding at both institutions.
  • Physical activity and behaviour change: This sub-theme will focus on precision measurement of physical activity, epidemiology and behaviour change that could lead to condition specific and personalised prescription for physical activity for disease prevention and treatment. There is world leading and complementary expertise between institutions and real added value from the many opportunities for international comparator work, including access to unique, large longitudinal data sets and exchange of novel methodologies developed in each institution. This theme intersects with the work of the clinical trials unit and multiple funding opportunities would be available for this work.
  • Elite athlete performance: Both institutions have world leading reputations for the application of cutting edge sport physiology, nutrition, biomechanics and psychology to innovate the support of athletes and push the boundaries of human performance. This work has been funded by national sporting associations (e.g. Cricket Australia, Football Association), professional clubs (e.g. Brisbane Broncos, Exeter Chiefs) and agencies (e.g. Team Sky) and other industry partners across a range of sectors from apparel (e.g. Nike) and footwear (e.g. Asics) to nutrition (e.g. Pepsi Co). There is enormous potential to build and extend this work by pooling complementary expertise, which will attract not only funding but also has the potential to generate considerable media interest and publicity (e.g. Nike Breaking 2).

Theme Leads:  Iain Lang and Cath Haslam

The psychological dimensions to social problems and the particular challenges for ageing populations are key issues for societies.   This theme is likely to include ageing and dementia, social psychology, health economics and medical humanities.

The following are examples of key areas of alignment between Exeter and Queensland.

University of QueenslandUniversity of Exeter
  • Queensland Brain Institute
  • Psychology
  • Humanities and Social Sciences
  • University of Exeter Medical School
  • Psychology
  • Humanities
  • Welcome Trust Centre

 Sub-themes for Healthy Ageing:

  • Healthy life expectancy
    • Biology of healthy aging
    • Cognitive integrity
    • Mental health
    • Social connectedness 
  • Dementia
    • Age-friendly built environments
      • Urban/neighbourhood design
      • Green spaces, environmental sustainability & health
    • Individual Mobility and independence
      • Technological advances
      • Falls prevention 
  • Health economics
    • Dementia
    • Chronic and other diseases in later life