The University of Exeter is carrying ground-breaking environmental research in partnership with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Projects include studentships, joint lecturing and a major multi-partner European research project.

The University works particularly closely with two executive agencies of Defra: The Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS).

FERA first worked with the University on a collaborative PhD studentship investigating social networks in badger communities. Since the relationship has grown, leading to the development of a wildlife cooperative between the organisations.

The cooperative supports collaborative science, develops and exchanges skills and trains staff and students, supporting 28 studentships to date. Areas of interest relate to the ecology and management of wildlife and the natural environment.

It has supported projects in areas including assessing the biodiversity of ecosystems and human-wildlife conflict.

The cooperative benefits from the expertise of academics in the University’s Centre for Ecology and Conservation and Environment and Sustainability Institute in particular.

The partnership between FERA and the University was formalised by the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding in 2010.

On signing the agreement Adrian Belton, Chief Executive of FERA, said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with the University of Exeter. We are already closely aligned with the University’s Biosciences department and I look forward to the benefits that our working together will bring to key areas such as food security and environmental protection, both in the UK and abroad.”

CEFAS are supporting studentships as part of the GW4+ Doctoral Training Partnership, a consortium formed to train tomorrow’s leading environmental scientists.

Student projects will investigate the impact of climate change on fisheries and the contribution of fish to coral reef ecosystems, helping the fishing industry to adapt to a changing world.

This builds on the Channel integrated Approach for marine Resource Management (CHARM) project, which helped policy makers sustainably manage the English Channel and North Sea’s resources. CHARM provided reports on 17 action areas, drawing on the expertise of partner organisations in the UK and France, following a significant survey of marine ecosystems.

The University have also worked with the centre on jointly lecturing MSc programmes and involving students in marine cruises.

CEFAS formed a strategic alliance with the University in 2012.

Speaking of the alliance, Professor Nick Talbot, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Impact at the University said: “The collaboration is great news for Exeter. It not only provides access to applied scientific research teams at CEFAS, but also provides opportunities for our students and researchers to utilise marine samples collected by CEFAS.”