Three pioneering students whose work will help develop a greater understanding of the priceless Cumbrian environment have begun their research.
Partly funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), Eco-Innovation Cumbria is led by the university and will see students Lucy Stevens, Hannah Field and Lucy Dodd undertake projects for the next 12 months.
The successful applicants come from different walks of life but all say they were attracted to the project by the urge to make a difference.
Hannah Field, who will be studying a Masters in Ecosystem Services Evaluation with Friends of the Lake District funding her research project, said: “I want to have an impact on a wide scale and this masters provides that by looking at landscape rather than individual species.
“There’s some data already available so I will be looking to collate this as well as collecting my own data to find techniques on how to effectivley monitor landscape change. This includes how a landscape makes people feel, which is important within the Lake District both historically and for future protection of it.
“One technique, already used in other areas, is interactive mapping so residents and visitors can add information to the work to show how the landscape has changed.
“My aim is to recommend techniques and feed into monitoring of the Landscape Character Assessment, which could also provide data for the State of the Park report and the new monitoring requirements as part of World Heritage Status for UNESCO.
“I’m very excited at the prospect of working with a lot of different people and organisations.”
She will be drawing on her experience as a member of the Cumbrian community and from working in the U.S., Canada, and more recently the Forestry Commission across the north.
Colleague Lucy Stevens brings experience gained in Australia where she spent three years looking at freshwater quality.
Working with the South Cumbria Rivers Trust, she will be liaising with a wide range of groups who make use of Cumbria’s lakes and rivers.
Lucy said: “I hope the information I gather can be used to pinpoint areas of non-native invasive species and help prevent their spread.
“I worked with Logan City Council , Brisbane looking at terrestrial conservation and from that moved into examining fresh water systems and water quality.
“I’m excited; there’s a massive area here that contains hundreds of people and by going to events ranging from sailing regattas to wild swims I’ll be able to interview them to build up a better picture of where they come from.”
Lucy Dodd who will be working with Portable Ecosystems Ltd said: “I chose to study the MSc as I am fascinated by the role of understanding stakeholder perspectives of ecosystem services within future conservation objectives.
“I was attracted to Portable Ecosystems as they provide an exciting opportunity to be part of an innovative concept, in which studying the life cycle of emerging technology puts Ecosystem Services Evaluation into practice.”
The work starts just a year after the University of Cumbria launched the Centre for National Parks and Protected Areas (CNPPA), based at the university’s Ambleside campus, the only one based within a national park and UNESCO world heritage site.
Dr Darrell Smith, Programme Leader MSc Ecosystem Services Evaluation, said: “We’re really excited that these collaborations have been achieved and it will be fascinating to see what emerges from the different projects which are a real opportunity to make an impression in an area of work that’s certainly topical.
“This collaborative research will make use of the wealth of experience and knowledge that exists here to produce a piece of work that will be useful to the Cumbrian community and other areas around the world facing similar challenges.
More projects are planned to offer university led expertise to organisations looking to improve their green credentials.
Glyn Griffiths, Eco-Innovation Cumbria Project officer said: “These ERDF funded projects are aimed at reducing CO2, which is important to companies and businesses.
“Providing a student researcher to help deliver these projects that reduce business costs can improve efficiency and ultimately profitability.
“More schemes are in the pipeline and we’re always looking to collaborate with organisations who may stand to benefit from this kind of research work.”
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