Early Career Conference at UoS

NRGBESSLogoOn the 8th and 9th of September the University of Southampton played host to the NRG BESS Early Career Researcher Conference on Biodiversity, Ecosystem Services and Sustainability. This event was just one of a number of initiatives conceived and organised by NRG BESS – a network made up of early career researchers contributing to interdisciplinary research focussing on biodiversity and ecosystem services. We are a dynamic part of the NERC research programme BESS: Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service Sustainability. The NRG in our name stands for Next Research Generation.

This was the first conference of its kind, and provided a great opportunity for postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers in these fields to come together to network and share their ideas. It was organised by two PLUS members – Sarah Pogue and Md Sarwar Hossain, with the support of NRG BESS and sponsorship from BESS, Geography and Environment at UoS and Sustainability Science at Southampton.


Quite a few months of planning and organising went into putting on the conference – this involved not only myself and Sarwar but also several other members of NRG BESS – but it was all worth it in the end as it was a big success with close to 60 postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers from all over the UK as well as Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Brazil and Bangladesh!


 There was plenty of opportunity to hear about exciting research from the twenty-four ECRs who gave talks and the twenty who presented posters, as well as our three keynote speakers Prof Georgina Mace (UCL), Prof Katrina Brown (University of Exeter) and Dr Sandra Nogué (University of Oxford). The entire event was filmed and we hope to have footage of all of the presentations available soon. In the meantime, you can click here to see a Storify of our live tweets during the event.


To get the most out of the two days, we also had a breakout session entitled “Future Directions” – this involved all of the conference participants and highlighted the essential questions in the fields of biodiversity, ecosystem services and sustainability research that the next research generation thinks science and society must tackle.

The feedback was overwhelmingly positive and so we hope that this is just the beginning and that next year will see an even bigger and better NRG BESS Conference 2015!


Photo credits: © Joanna Kuleszo (top); © Laura Harrison (bottom left and bottom right); © Victoria Wickens (bottom centre)


The New Forest: research on our doorstep

Of all the locations where the members of PLUS conduct their fieldwork, mine is almost certainly the least far flung – my research is based in the New Forest National Park, in the county of Hampshire in south-east England.

Undertaking fieldwork in a Park whose nearest border lies a mere six miles (9.7 km) from the University of Southampton’s main campus, has at times seemed somewhat unexciting and undeniably less than exotic. However, whenever I have entertained such thoughts, I have fallen into what I believe to be one of the major pitfalls of working so close to home – taking things for granted. I have at times harboured dreams of carrying out research somewhere ‘more interesting’ and occasionally, I admit, jealous thoughts of those who do, all the while failing to fully appreciate the amazing scenery, wildlife, culture and history that surrounds me.

So, I decided to fully embrace and enjoy my fieldwork in the New Forest, and recognise how fortunate I am to have the opportunity to spend so much time there. And it is a great place to do fieldwork. First of all, it’s ONLY SIX MILES from the University of Southampton’s main campus! So I can pop out there whenever I like. Very handy for taking advantage of good weather or remedying the odd bit of fieldwork gone wrong.

Secondly, it is a very beautiful place. I have, in the past, visited quite a few ‘exciting’ and ‘exotic’ places around the world, and the Forest can compete with the best of them in terms of views, particularly on a sunny autumn day when the trees are changing their colours. I carry out fieldwork all over the Park, and so have the chance to admire its ancient woodlands, heathlands, mires and rivers as well as all the flora and fauna they contain.

Then there are the people. Lots and lots of people. The thing that surprised me most the first time I visited the Park more than two years ago, on a very hot Sunday in October, was the sheer number of people who come here all year round to enjoy all that it has to offer. It wasn’t what I expected. But I have grown to appreciate the role of people in the Forest (it is after all the main focus of my research: human-environment interactions), and how fundamental they have been in shaping this area and in creating the cultural landscape that we see today.

So, I count myself lucky to have spent time in such a place, and very much look forward to the days of fieldwork to come.