Loddon Catchment Partnership Workshop (and some musings on the value of value)

Wow, it’s been a while. Part of the downtime here hasn’t been for lack of stuff happening, more a product of a lot of people either leaving CAER for different horizons (ZSL, as is the case for Ken’s group who have gone to study birds) or just plain finishing their PhD’s. So, being the most deskbound member of CAER I’ve taken the reins on the blog and will be posting assorted updates about various things we’re doing in the very near future.
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Life in the swishing lane: A PhD’s perspective on being part of an EU project

by Victoria Wickens

A lucky few get the chance to be part of European projects, such as STEP (Status and Trends of European Pollinators, http://www.step-project.net/). I have been one of those lucky ones and I hoped to share some insights I have had along the way.


STEP: Status and Trends of European Pollinators, http://www.step-project.net/

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Doing the wrong thing for the right reasons? The environmental benefits of organic food: Part 1

by Sam Leigh

Stall at Queens Park farmers market, London

Stall at Queens Park farmers market, London

Every Sunday afternoon, a school playground round the corner from my girlfriend’s flat is transformed into a bustling farmers’ market. Set amongst the swings and slides are a number of stalls selling everything from potatoes to pesto, cabbages to coffee. There is a vibrant atmosphere: traders talk passionately about their produce, customers barter and friends meet up. In the market the word ‘organic’ is prevalent, littered across the chalk boards, posters and signs. Organic food sells well here, perhaps not surprising in a gentrified London suburb. However, you don’t need to go to a farmers’ market to find organic food, it is now ubiquitous with all major supermarkets having an organic range. Organic food sales in the UK are doing well, from a contraction following the economic downturn in 2008, sales grew in 2013 out performing sales in general grocery items. Continue reading

Seabird soup: unravelling relationships between dispersal behaviour, genetics and the environment.

by Katherine Booth Jones

Round Island sunset

Round Island sunset

Surprisingly, not all research at CAER is agri-environmental in nature. Some of our research team actually have special interest in avian ecology, focussing particularly on population ecology and conservation. Because of this quirk, I have ended up studying seabirds in an agriculture department!

My study species is the enigmatic Round Island petrel; a highly pelagic seabird, cousin to the albatross, which makes it’s home 22km off the coast of the popular honeymoon destination of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. Continue reading

Common misconceptions: why Einstein isn’t an authority on bees

by Tom Breeze

bee Tom blog

#SaveTheBees Facebook Campaign

I recently stumbled upon this article on Wikipedia. Not exactly what I’d expect from an encyclopaedia, I mean how common does common have to be and how do you rank such criteria for starters… but from a purely subjective position I’ve got a big one that needed to be on the list: the idea that humanity is doomed without bees. A lot of this stems from this quote that has become seemingly ubiquitous these days:

If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live. No more bees, no more pollination … no more men!

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Crop diversification in vogue. Is it time to go back to our roots?

by Erika Degani 

Sawing the winter crops at Sonning farm

Sowing the winter crops at Sonning farm

I’m a newbie at CAER and my PhD is looking into the potential of novel crop rotations to enhance ecosystem services in arable systems. So what, you may ask, are ecosystem services?  As highlighted in a previous post “this buzzword is everywhere at the moment”, but what exactly does it mean? I thought it would be a good idea to explain, as I often get puzzled looks when talking about it with friends outside my area of work. Well, it does what it says on the tin. Ecosystem services are services that ecological systems provide to us. The good news is that they are free; and the ones I’m particularly interested in are pollination and soil fertility.
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Is conserving biodiversity the key to good mental health?

By Natalie Clark, University of Reading and Rebecca Lovell, University of Exeter


Naturally uplifting. Varuna/Shutterstock

The biodiversity of our planet sustains us. From the air we breathe and the water we drink, to the soil we sow and the fuel we use. But Earth does more than provide the basic necessities that allow humans to survive and prosper. Our ability to experience nature could have the capacity to improve our well-being and consequently mental health.
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CAP 2020 unravelled: an outlook of the major changes

by Tom Breeze

As an agri-environmental research group, it will come as little surprise to many of you that changes in EU farming policy are a particular concern to us in CAER. Originally I was asked by Charlotte to do a quick 200-400 word opinion piece on what the new CAP would mean for ecosystem services… However, it is equally unsurprising that few people actually sit down to read that ~500 page sleeping aid that is CAP, Continue reading

Following oranges through agri-business supply chains

by Charlotte Selvey

Seeing as this is CAER’s first blog post, (and what a privilege it is to be CAER’s first blogger) I decided to start off a trend of posts to briefly describe what each of the department’s PhD students are currently researching. There is a huge diversity of exciting projects which range from developing conservation management techniques to protect the CR Mauritian Olive White Eye (Gwen Maggs) to understanding the importance of biodiversity in supporting the ecosystem services of apple orchards in Kent (Sean Webber). Not only will this blog thread inform the world outside of CAER what we are all up to, but it will help us understand what each other are actually doing too!
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