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Healthier Oceans

Translating Science into Real World Impact

Our global reputation is founded on the highly interdisciplinary nature of our work, from a molecular to ecosystem level, we are well-equipped to rise to each and every challenge faced by the oceans. We provide the evidence which is being translated into real-world policy impact at every level, from local government to the United Nations.

Our long-term commitment to ecotoxicology research is leading scientific insights of how chemicals impact the natural world and human health. We are facilitating and impacting policy in many areas, from plastics and packaging to pharmaceutical product development.

Our history is rooted in impact-driven success stories. We have led the way in ground-breaking research on endocrine disruptors; uncovering that some chemicals in the environment can impact hormone levels. This discovery drove positive real-world impact in pharmaceutical product development.

Through our work with partners, Astra-Zeneca, we’re shaping product testing and development to ensure it’s safer and more sustainable. Specifically, our research on minimal selective concentrations of antibiotics has been of interest to both policymakers and industry at national and international levels. This research led to the inclusion of antibiotics and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in the EU Commission's Water Framework Directive Watch List.

AMR is one of the world’s greatest environmental threats and has become a major priority for the World Health Organisation (WHO), emerging in both bacteria and fungi as well as parasitic diseases. Our research has helped shape the global understanding of antimicrobial resistance and its impact on the environment, ecosystems and subsequently, how that may affect animal and human health. At the University of Exeter, our reputation lies in our expertise on environmental risk assessment of AMR. Our experts have been consulted by policy makers and have co-authored papers that have been cited by the UK Government, Environment Agency, Joint Programming Initiative on AMR, Food and Agriculture Organisation and WHO. 

Today, we lead the way in placing human safety at the centre of our research to influence change in both global policy and human behaviour around waste in our oceans. Particularly with reference to plastics.

In 2019, our team were awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher Education for exposing the devastating effect that plastic pollution has on human and wildlife health. This pioneering work focused on micro- and nano-plastics and led to the UK ban on microbeads in cosmetics and has become a clarion call for tackling the modern throwaway culture. It has also helped shape a government blueprint entitled ‘A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment’.

Meanwhile, in the Galapagos and wider Eastern Pacific, our scientists are leading a major project to map the sources of plastic waste, investigate its effects and generate solutions. It’s a collaboration that’s effectively working on co-designing effective, long-lasting ways to cut plastic pollution and encourage a circular economy.

Our research is diverse, spanning pesticides, anti-microbial resistant bacteria, plastics, coral bleaching, the circular economy and anthropogenic noise. But our focus is singular: to provide the scientific impetus that will change global policy and human behaviours.

The key to our success is our depth of expertise, knowledge and our interdisciplinary approach both in academia and with our long-standing partnerships, to tackle challenges affecting every aspect of the marine ecosystem, from molecular level through to entire ecosystems.

We address every challenge with collaborative systemic thinking, paving the way for key industry and academic partnerships that are bringing practical, positive solutions to life.

This is impact-driven ecotoxicology for a healthier planet.

Hear more from our Ecotoxicology academics

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