The School of Sustainable Environments delivers supports a broad research portfolio within the discipline of biodiversity conservation in partnership with other academic institutes and also international and national sector organisations.
In 2011 Professor P R Hobson from Writtle University College and Professor Ibisch from Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development established a new Centre for Econics and Ecosystem Management to bring together the research and consultancy activities of both institutes. Under their directorship the Centre has grown rapidly and currently supports five jointly supervised interdisciplinary PhD projects as well as a substantial number of masters projects linked to various international and national conservation organisations. Shortly, there are to be another four PhD projects starting in collaboration with German WWF and German state forestry.
As well as publishing scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals staff and postgraduate students at the Centre are invited to organise seminars and present papers at international conferences including the International Convention for Conservation Biology, European Convention for Conservation Biology and the World Congress of International Union of Forest Research Organisations. Included amongst the different activities carried out with partners from the international conservation sector are the UNESCO European beech forest programme, conservation planning for two marine reserves in Costa Rica, and the UNESCO Altai Mountains Biosphere Reserve management plan.
Both the Centre and the School of Sustainable Environments focus on sector-led research so that they may meet one of their main objectives, which is to contribute in a significant and meaningful way to the sustainable management of natural resources. For instance, one of the PhD projects is examining a range of ecological attributes in both forested and agricultural landscapes across Europe that offer insights in to ecosystem resilience to human disturbance and climate change. Distinct from this work is a programme of ongoing theoretical research in partnership with German colleagues that analyses the application of complex systems theory and post normal science to problems of sustainable development and global biodiversity conservation. A synthesis of this research culminated in the publication of the Convention for Biological Diversity technical series number 54 in preparation for the COP10 congress on biodiversity hosted in Nagoya, Japan.
Other collaborative staff-sector research work with a more specific species focus has helped strengthen the ties between academia and industry but also contributed significantly to applied research knowledge. For instance, the recent work carried out on the ecology of a new British Plume Moth (Emmelina argoteles), and the Red-tailed Bumblebee Bombus lapidarius.
Finally, the research programme within the School of Sustainable Environments draws heavily on the resources offered at the college including extensive use of mixed agricultural landscape, glasshouse facilities, livestock, and considerable meta data generated from the two national recording schemes based at the college - the National Butterfly Monitoring Scheme, and the Rothamsted Insect Survey Scheme. In addition, ongoing collaboration with organisations within the environmental sector including the RSPB, National Trust, Woodland Trust, Essex and Suffolk Wildlife Trusts, and Forestry Commission allows staff to broaden the scope of research to include landscape types other than agricultural systems.