PML Chief Executive Professor Stephen de Mora and University of Exeter Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Steve Smith.

Excellent science for the environment links Plymouth Marine Laboratory and the University of Exeter

Two of the South West’s leading environmental research organisations will work much more closely to address some of the key questions facing the sustainable future of the ocean, which ultimately supports all life on Earth.

Building on existing collaborations, Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) and the University of Exeter today signed a Memorandum of Understanding formalising joint projects, enhancing existing co-operative research themes, and creating new opportunities for future collaboration. 

Coastal systems are a key area of research for both institutions and are of huge importance to the South West and across the globe. Yet with around half of the world’s population living close to the sea, coastal waters are coming under pressure from human activities as well as changing environmental stressors, such as climate change. Now this unique partnership will work together to investigate fundamental questions about how the ocean functions, how it may be changing and how we can benefit from the many goods and services it offers while ensuring it has a healthy, sustainable future. Among the scientific collaborations already identified, joint groups of scientists will continue looking into marine biogeochemistry and ecosystems, climate and ecosystem modelling, molecular biology and socio-economics; all taking advantage of the widened pool of multidisciplinary expertise that the two organisations bring together.

Students training through joint doctoral studentships will also be able to capitalise on the breadth of expertise, experience and enthusiasm of scientists working at both the University and PML.

PML Chief Executive Professor Stephen de Mora sees the continuing and strengthened partnership as a very natural step: “We are delighted to further our very successful working relationship with the University of Exeter. We have the utmost respect for each other’s research outputs and already collaborate in many areas, including with another partner, the UK Met Office, also based in Exeter. Together we have national capability in coastal and shelf sea science including predictive modelling, relevant expertise in climate change and are at the forefront of understanding what the seas provide for us and how we are changing them. This partnership builds on existing relationships but takes them further and wider and will ensure that as a joint centre of excellence the South West remains the leader in coastal and shelf seas science, not just in the UK, but globally.”

So far the joint collaboration between the two institutions has resulted in research funding of nearly £3 million; additional joint funding has been set aside by the University and PML to encourage further co-operative research projects and encourage more external funding into the region.

As University of Exeter Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Steve Smith points out while this is an excellent step for the two world renowned institutions it will also boost confidence in the South West and enhance the reputation of the UK in the field of marine science: “We recognise a natural synergy between Plymouth Marine Laboratory and the University of Exeter and it makes sense to continue to work together and grow our respective world-class research activities. Existing collaboration between the two partners has already made an outstanding contribution towards advancing the science behind the world’s ocean. We fully expect this partnership to bring benefits not only to regional, but also to national and worldwide marine studies.

“This is a very significant partnership for the University of Exeter, and is all the more important because its aim is to carry out world leading research that will help us better our understanding of how to improve the future sustainability of the Earth’s scarce resources.”

Date: 31 July 2013

Read more University News