#COP26 to #CabotNext10: Reflections from our 2021 Communications Assistants

Last year, we had the pleasure of working with six excellent Master’s and PhD students in the run up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26. They impressed us with the creativity in their applications and we recruited them as Cabot Communications Assistants – an exciting opportunity that doesn’t come up very often within the Institute to gain experience in communications, and work with the Cabot team. Covering COP26 themes, the ecological emergency and #CabotNext10, which celebrated the 10 year anniversary of the Cabot Institute and looked ahead to the next 10 years, our comms assistants designed and implemented campaigns for a variety of different audiences, drawing upon their own research as well as that of experts across the University.

With COP27 coming up later this year, these issues are still very much on the minds of press, the public and environmental professionals across the world. Keep reading to learn more about the work that some of our Cabot Communications Assistants created in response to the key messages of COP26 and the UN biodiversity conference COP15 and their reflections on their experience.

Dora Young – Climate Emergency and Mock COP26

I am undertaking my Master’s by Research (MScR) with the Cabot Institute in the hopes of contributing to a more equitable knowledge politics around environmental justice issues in Bristol. I aim for my work within the City Futures theme to enhance the inclusivity of urban ecological management strategies (specifically, addressing the intersections of action to restore healthy pollinator populations, improve the quality and accessibility of green spaces, and ensure food security in the city’s most deprived areas).

Dora’s reflections

I was pleased to have produced a 14 or so week long Twitter campaign, with weekly tweets to highlight crucial climate research being done by Cabot members, ahead of COP26. I was also very happy to be able to write a blog about our fantastic experience facilitating the Mock COP26, which involved 60 school students from Bristol and was a thoroughly enjoyable and inspiring day.

Lucy Morris – Clean transport, clean energy and the Mock COP26

I’m currently studying for a Master’s by Research in Environmental Themes, Sciences and Wildlife Filmmaking. I’m interested in the spectrum of framing strategies employed in wildlife films and how these shape our relationship with the natural world and in particular, non-human animals. I believe that film and other digital media, with their enormous affective power, are immensely important in confronting anthropogenic environmental degradation and demonstrating the intrinsic value of all species and natural spaces.

Lucy’s reflections

I worked on two projects throughout my time as a comms assistant. The first was a Twitter campaign promoting the work of Cabot researchers on clean transport in the run up to COP26. I interviewed 4 experts and produced videos of some of these interviews advertising the blog that would summarise them . I created a week-long Twitter campaign counting down the days to the blog release with facts about transport, links to more information and tagged amplifiers. I wrote up a blog that was released on the last day of the campaign that was read by more than 220 people. In the process, I learnt many new skills, worked as part of a great team and my own interest in the topic of transport only grew. I also worked to produce a creative output to summarise the process and events of the mock COP26 for sixth form students run by Cabot and Praxis research. Working with Jack Nicholls, I conducted qualitative research of all the notes made at the mock climate negotiations, drawing out themes of the day and learning outcomes. I produced a brief for illustrator, Ellie Shipman, who created amazing illustrations of the day. I also produced my own sketch illustrations as part of this brief, which were used in the final product – a web page all about Bristol’s mock COP.

Hilary McCarthy – Ecological Emergency

I’m an interdisciplinary PhD student working in laboratories across Life Sciences and Chemistry, investigating photosynthetic enhancement in plants and algae. My research involves investigating the role of both naturally occurring photonic nanostructures and artificially synthesized nanoparticles, called carbon dots, in photosynthetic processes such as light harvesting. A changing environment and increasing threats to biodiversity and global food and fuel supply puts increasing pressure on better understanding photosynthesis and its mechanisms, adaptations and potential routes to enhancement.

Hilary’s reflections

During my internship with Cabot, I worked on a campaign titled the ‘Ecological Emergency’, which was scheduled to run in October alongside COP15, a global convention on biodiversity. As part of the campaign I produced, I spoke with a number of academics in relevant research fields about their perspective on ecological decline and its drivers and projections. The campaign involved amplifying the academics statements, through a combination of blogs and visual social media posts. The visual content overlaid academic statements on top of staff and student photography and videography, of relevant wildlife and nature.

Olivia Reddy – #CabotNext10

Currently, I’m a few months into my PhD in Civil Engineering here at Bristol. My focus is on the infrastructure and management of sanitation systems in Ethiopia and Uganda, specifically looking at their resilience to climate change and the greenhouse gases they emit. I’m interested in creating sustainable, achievable change, and exploring the different ways in which to do so.

Olivia’s reflections

I think it’s really important that the work that Cabot does is understood and valued by a wider audience. That’s why I have taken the approach I have with #CabotNext10, to delve into why this research is important and what it means. Similarly, it’s important to see who Cabot is, and why the staff do what they do – which is why I wanted to re/introduce the core Cabot team. Science communication is a huge part of research which often gets overlooked, and I wanted to make sure those working here got highlighted. Read the #CabotNext10 blogs.

Also check out blogs by Comms Assistant Lois Barton on Urban Pollinating and World Water Day.

This blog is written by Joanne Norris, Cabot Institute Postgraduate Research Coordinator, and Adele Hulin, Cabot Institute Communications and Engagement Officer.


Joanne Norris


Joanne coordinates our Master’s by Research in Global Environmental Challenges, an interdisciplinary programme that brings together students from all disciplines to work on independent research projects tackling key areas of environmental change.
Adele Hulin


Adele manages internal and external communications and engagement at the Cabot Institute including recruiting and managing our Cabot Communications Assistants.
Interested in postgraduate study? The Cabot Institute runs a unique Master’s by Research programme that offers a blend of in-depth research on a range of Global Environmental Challenges, with interdisciplinary cohort building and training. Find out more.

Who is Cabot Institute? Amanda Woodman-Hardy

Amanda Woodman-Hardy (third from left) with Cabot Institute volunteers

In conversation with Amanda Woodman-Hardy, Communications and Engagement Officer at the Cabot Institute for the Environment

What is your role at Cabot Institute?

Hi there! I’m responsible for all our communications and running our biggest events and public engagement activities. I’m in a job share with the lovely and wonderful Adele Hulin.

How long have you been part of Cabot?

I’ve been part of Cabot since the very beginning, 10 years ago! It’s been my baby for sure. I’ve watched the Institute grow, learn valuable lessons, and mature into a beautiful thing.

I’d say we’re at the young adult stage now but thankfully past the awkward teenage stage where we were learning who we were and what our purpose was.

Now we are moving forward with our awesome tagline – Many Minds, one mission – protecting our environment and identifying ways of living better with our changing planet.

What is your background?

I grew up by the sea on the Devon/Cornwall border in a working-class family. I spent a lot of time outdoors because my home was depressingly cold, mouldy, and noisy as it was under a constant state of DIY. My parents took out a mortgage on a very cheap derelict bungalow as it meant I could be in the catchment for a good school…and they do like a challenge! It took them 20 years of hard graft, with their own hands, to finish the home! I spent a lot of my free time on the beach, in or on the sea, cycling around, hiking across Dartmoor, roaming around my local fields with the neighbours’ kids or digging up mud and looking at insects in our surprisingly ok garden. My connection to nature and the environment started at a young age, it was the place I could be happy and completely free, and I was always in awe of how beautiful and powerful it was.

I was the first in my family to go to university. My dad had dropped out of school at 14 to work as a mechanic and my mum got a diploma from college but no one had ever gone onto university before, so it was all new to me! I studied Geography at the University of Plymouth, living at home and working two jobs to help pay my way. It was hard but I had the time of my life! I moved to Bristol to find work after graduating. I got a temp job as an Admin Assistant at the Soil Association. I stayed there for 5 years, moving to Business Development and then into Policy and Standards as Administrator and PA. This gave me a good background in the organisation of multiple working groups and boards under several different environmental themes. It helped me understand the importance and value of bringing in different voices of people who lived and worked the subject areas, who had hands-on expertise, not necessarily lots of qualifications.

Towards the end of my time at the Soil Association, I decided I wanted to study part-time for a Masters in Sustainable Environmental Management at the University of Plymouth. I would be a mature student! I started a second job in a coffee shop to help me pay the fees and associated costs of doing a masters and then a year later I was made redundant from the Soil Association just as I was about to start my thesis. The redundancy was a complete shock but unfortunately the whole organisation had to be downsized due to the financial crash. I finished up my Masters and then did some temping in Payroll at UWE. I moved to a local job as a Library Assistant for the next 18 months and did some voluntary blogging for an environmental consultancy on the side to keep my CV relevant to the environmental sector.

I then got quite ill. After 9 months of severe weight loss, vomiting and absolute agony and an emergency admission to hospital I was told I needed to have my gall bladder removed. Two weeks into my convalescing after the surgery, I saw a job at the Cabot Institute and thought it was too good to be true. It certainly looked like my dream job and I had all the skills required. To my delight I got an interview and I attended with bandages still on my tummy and my suit trousers smarting around my surgery wounds. I managed somehow to smile through the pain, and I got the job as PA and Administrator! After I settled into the role, I found there was a need for more and more communications and engagement of what Cabot academics were finding out through their research and so I naturally fell into the role of doing communications and engagement. It’s an absolute privilege working at the University of Bristol as they encourage training and learning so I’ve been able to do lots of courses and learn on the job for my current role. I also work across many departments so I learn lots from the super talented people I collaborate with too.

Why did you want to join the team?

I wanted to join Cabot because of what it was standing for. It was like a beacon of light in so many ways. I am so passionate about the research areas and working here means I can support people who are positively changing the world. It has been an absolute privilege to be a part of and I thank my lucky stars that I get to spend every day with such an incredible bunch of people on the biggest issues of our time.

What do you think is the biggest environmental challenge facing us today?

Without a doubt – justice.

Justice for all.

There will be no saving the planet or indeed a safe planet unless there is justice for everyone. There are so many valuable voices that need to be heard that my white privileged colleagues and I need to amplify, and bring into our research agenda because ultimately, those people, those communities, are resilient AF. They have been living at the sharp edge forever, dealing with many horrors and traumas, yet still somehow living. Living in their environment and within their means. They know how to solve the environmental problems we have.

We just must listen to them; ensure they are brought fully into decision making and act quickly. We have to ensure everything we (Cabot does) is fair and just. I’d also like to see more people of colour hired by the University, especially those working on environmental research.

There is A LOT of work to be done but I’m up for the challenge!

What is your favourite part of your job?

That’s a tricky one as I love so much about it. I love working with my colleagues and the people I meet on the job – they inspire me every day and I’ve learned so much from them. I love the public engagement aspects of my job, where I get to communicate the work of our researchers and put it into Plain English or support work with an artist so that academics complex work can be understood by everyone.

When you see people approaching an artwork for example, or they come and talk to you about some research they’ve read about, their eyes go wide and their mouths drop open in awe and wonder, and something clicks in their brain that makes them more engaged with environmental issues.

I love that side of the role. That’s why I do this. The more I can communicate what our academics do, the more people will see that there can be a positive outcome for our planet if we all work together.

What are you most looking forward to over the next 10 years of Cabot?

I can’t actually believe I’ve done ten years already; it’s been an incredible decade! Just this year we’ve had some really cool stuff come out in the run-up to COP26 including Cabot Conversations, and the Annual Lecture in October 2021. A few months ago we had a collaboration between Cabot academics, Rising Arts Agency and the incredible artist Emma Blake Morsi which lead to the creation of artwork which was displayed on billboards across the City of Bristol to highlight environmental issues in the run up to COP26.

As for what’s coming up next year, watch this space! Plenty of events, public engagement activities and fingers crossed more collaborations with creatives around the city.

Looking further ahead, I would hope that we have really nailed the justice side of our work, fully embedded equity and inclusion into everything we do and help to positively influence policymakers and government on just how crucial this aspect of environmentalism is. I would also love to see us known the world over for our excellent quality research and expertise. I think we’re getting there, but there’s much more work to be done!

Come and join us, we’ll do it together!

Find out more about Amanda here.

You can follow her on Twitter @Enviro_Mand and find out more about her background on LinkedIn.

#CabotNext10 Spotlight on Environmental Change


Dr Alix Dietzel

In conversation with Dr Alix Dietzel, co-theme lead at the Cabot Institute

Why did you choose to become a theme leader at Cabot Institute?

It is important to me to have diverse voices within the Cabot Institute, which has typically been focused around the work of scientists. It has become increasingly clear that although the science around environmental change is definitive, policy makers are not taking radical enough action. Social scientists and those from the Arts faculty specialise in areas like justice, policy making, social change, creative engagement, and history of activism.

These areas are critical for tackling environmental change – and it is my mission to ensure their voices are heard. I have already invited three more people from these disciplines onto the steering group.

I am also keen to work with the city of Bristol – for the Cabot Institute to have a role to play in local environmental policy making, but also to elevate the voices of those most vulnerable to environmental change in our city. We hold a lot of power in the institute, and we need to use this for good, helping those with less power be heard and seen. Their lived experience is important to me, and I aim to ensure we pursue a just transition that is socially inclusive for all in the city of Bristol.

In your opinion, what is one of the biggest global challenges associated with your theme? (Feel free to name others if there is more than one)

Climate change, biodiversity, just transition.

As we are looking into the future, what longer term projects are there in your theme?

We have over 200 members working in various areas, but we all share a common goal – to influence policy makers to make the right decisions and protect vulnerable populations across the globe.

Across the portfolio of projects in your theme, what type of institutions are you working with? (For example, governments, NGO’s)

A mix – local and national governments, the MET office, NGOs, etc.

Please can you give some examples and state the relevant project.

I am currently working on research on a just transition in Bristol, working together with the Bristol Advisory Committee on Climate Change, the One City Boards, the Mayor, the Bristol City Council and community groups including Livable Neighborhoods and the Black and Green Ambassadors.

What disciplines are currently represented within your theme?

We are very diverse! A heavy STEM population but with many social scientists and artists beginning to come along as well.

In your opinion, why is it important to highlight interdisciplinary research both in general and here at Bristol?

Because we cannot solve complex environmental problems from one perspective alone – these are issues that will need insight from many different disciplines. In addition, we thrive when we work together, inspiring one another to leave our comfort zones and try something new.

Are there any projects which are currently underway in your theme which are interdisciplinary that you believe should be highlighted in this campaign?

Waves of change.

Is there anything else you would like to mention about your theme, interdisciplinary research and working as part of Cabot Institute?

We are keen to influence policy at the University, city level, and globally – so please come and speak to our experts if we can help!

For more information, visit Environmental Change.

Who is Cabot Institute? Joanne Norris


Jo Norris

In conversation with Joanne Norris, PGR Coordinator at the Cabot Institute

What is your role at Cabot Institute?

I am the Postgraduate Research Coordinator for our Master’s by Research in Global Environmental Challenges. My role works with both current and prospective master’s students, but also involves communicating with academics and the Professional Services teams across the University’s Faculties.

How long have you been part of Cabot?

I joined Cabot in January 2019, just as the master’s had been approved and was beginning to be put together. It has been a busy but exciting couple of years since then!

What is your background?

I have a degree in English Literature and had never expected to find myself in an environmental research institute but am delighted that life has brought me here! I spent much of my working career in marketing agencies but left that world to find something more fulfilling. I had always believed that an environmental career wouldn’t be open to me because I’m not a scientist, but one of the things I’ve loved most about working at the Cabot Institute is seeing real world examples of interdisciplinarity research and learning how I can use my own skills to contribute to an issue that will affect each and every one of us.

Why did you want to join the team?

I was aware of the Institute from having attended a past Annual Lecture, and initially joined via the TSS (Temporary Staffing Service). When the job advert was sent to me the first thing, I did was watch the videos on our homepage, and had a very emotional response to them (and I still do when we play them to students!). Reading about the Institute’s research and public engagements really inspired and excited me, and I was utterly thrilled when my position became permanent. It’s a truly wonderful team and a real pleasure to be a part of it.

What do you think is the biggest environmental challenge facing us today?

It’s such a difficult question because everything is so interconnected – nothing happens within silos and that’s something that the Institute’s research themes illustrate really well. Food security is something that particularly stands out – the impacts of global warming both as increased droughts and sea level rise both have catastrophic impacts on food security and will impact the areas that are already suffering the most.

I truly believe that one of the most important things that both we as individuals and governments worldwide need to address is that our poorest and most marginalized communities are already seeing the effects despite contributing the least to global emissions, and it will only get worse – so the pressure must be applied to those most resource-rich to make tangible change now.

What is your favourite part of your job?

I absolutely love hearing our students talking about their research projects! They are so diverse, and you can learn so much. It’s a real privilege to see them at the beginning of their careers. The same goes for our academics – through our events and working with supervisors for master’s projects you can meet so many different people and get an insight into their work, which will never get boring.

What are you most looking forward to over the next 10 years of Cabot?

In 10 years, I hope that the master’s programme has grown even bigger and better! I’m very much looking forward to seeing it change and adapt with each new cohort of students. I also hope that following this year’s COP26 we will start to see policy changes being made, creating even more opportunities for our academics to connect with the public.

Find out more about Joanne here.

#CabotNext10 Spotlight on Food Security


Dr Taro Takahashi and Dr Vicky Jones

In conversation with Dr Taro Takahashi, Theme Leader, and Dr Vicky Jones, Development Associate at the Cabot Institute

Why did you choose to become a theme leader at Cabot Institute?

T.T: While working for Cabot in my previous role (Director for the Cabot Master’s programme), I saw first-hand the breadth of food-related research across the university. This made me wonder — wouldn’t it be rewarding to work more with these talented colleagues and help develop a research community that can transform the agri-food landscape in Bristol and beyond?

In your opinion, what is one of the biggest global challenges associated with your theme?

V.J: The biggest and very broad challenge is how to feed a growing population sustainably. We know that the food system is a major driver of climate change through changes in land use and production of greenhouse gases – as well as the depletion of freshwater resources and pollution of ecosystems. To meet the targets set in the Paris Agreement it is simply not possible to continue as we are. Yet our population is growing, with some estimates that we will need to produce more food in the next 35 years that we have ever produced in human history.

In addition, environmental degradation such as soil degradation, freshwater availability and biodiversity loss seriously threaten our ability to produce the food we require. And increased levels of CO2 reduce the nutritional content of some food products. Whilst extreme weather conditions, worsened by climate change, such as heatwaves and floods can significantly impact food availability.

And finally, there are extreme inequalities in the food system, both within the UK and globally. One in three people across the world currently suffer from malnutrition of some form whilst more than half the population are either overweight or obese.

T.T: 100% agree with Vicky. We need to identify the best way to make this transition happen while impacting on people’s livelihood and happiness as little as possible.

As we are looking into the future, what longer term projects are there in your theme?

T.T: We would like to make a better use of the University of Bristol campus — a community of 30,000 people — as a testbed for interventions. We cover both the most upstream points (Fenswood and Wyndhurst Farms) and the most downstream points (Source Cafes, Source Bars and residence canteens) of agri-food supply on campus so there are hundreds of strategies we can try to make the system more sustainable. As an additional bonus, quantifying these improvements may also make us prouder to be part of the University of Bristol family, including those who don’t directly work in this area. To realise these goals, we are now trying to work much more closely with the operational departments in the university, and in particular Catering, Sustainability and Estates. And the level of commitment they show to agri-food sustainability has just been amazing.

V.J: Here are long-term activities and projects that might be of interest: Living LaboratoryHigh Yield FarmingWorking for ‘five a day’, and CONNECTED.

Across the portfolio of projects in your theme, what type of institutions are you working with?

T.T: Upstream we mainly work with local farmers, National Farmers’ Union, Defra as well as seed and agrochemical companies. Downstream we primarily work with retailers and consumer groups, both directly and through the Bristol Food Network. In addition, the Bristol City Council is an extremely important partner whose advice on our theme has been invaluable.

What disciplines are currently represented within your theme?

V.J: There are 135 people that are currently members of the Food theme from the following disciplines:

Geography, Civil Engineering, Policy Studies, Chemistry, Sociology, politics and international studies, Earth sciences, History, Biological sciences, English, Vet School, Physics, Management, Psychology, Anthropology, Law… but this number is always growing!

In your opinion, why is it important to highlight interdisciplinary research both in general and here at Bristol?

T.T: In the context of food research, my top answer would be because otherwise ‘solutions’ to agri-food sustainability are often infeasible. For example, I often speak with livestock producers, who as you know are associated with a large amount of greenhouse emissions, and one of the remarks I most frequently hear from them is that they don’t know what to do with the definition of ‘new sustainable diets’ that are reported in the media. I mean, you are a grassland farmer in a high rainfall area who is now told that lentils are better — but it’s not like you can strip off the grass and grow lentils profitably overnight. So any new proposal made downstream must be accompanied by technologies upstream, including both the farm and food processors. Equally, any new proposal made upstream must be accompanied by consumer demand; otherwise, the market price would not support the transition. This cannot be done unless you have an interdisciplinary team that is committed to real-world solutions.

Are there any projects which are currently underway in your theme which are interdisciplinary that you believe should be highlighted in this campaign?

V.J: An interesting project that is currently running is titled “Could disappearing glaciers threaten regional food security?”. This is combining history with glaciology and social science. Another is a partnership with Bristol based start-up LettUs Grow which is focused on vertical farming.

For more information, visit our theme web page – Food Security.

Who is Cabot Institute? Angus Morrice


Angus Morrice

In conversation with Angus Morrice, Administrator and PA to the Director at the Cabot Institute

What is your role at Cabot Institute?

I am the Administrator and PA to the Director of the Cabot Institute for the Environment. I work primarily with the core Cabot Team and our academics who are in leadership positions to keep the Institute running. I also work with members of the academic and non-academic community at the University to organize events, arrange and provide support and I operate as a first port of call for incoming enquiries into the institute.

How long have you been part of Cabot?

I joined Cabot near the beginning of 2019, so I’ve been here for over two years now.

What is your background?

I studied Geography at the University of Bristol. This of course meant that the works of the Institute and many of its members were familiar and the job seemed to be a good fit for my interests and skills. I have almost a decade’s experience working in the arts in various capacities and the skills developed as well as the love and respect I have for the arts have been invaluable. The grounding gained through my degree and work in the arts has allowed me to wholly engage with the spirit of deep interdisciplinarity and cooperation that runs through the core of the Institute.

Why did you want to join the team?

Even from a young age the urgency of what is now called the climate emergency was glaringly apparent to me, it was one of the things that made me want to study Geography at University and made me determined to work in the environmental sector after graduating.

Unfortunately, the state of jobs for graduates in the UK being what it was when I graduated in 2018 (a state that has only continued to decline) I was unable to find any jobs in the environmental sector upon graduating. I continued looking and the job at the Cabot Institute came up and it was a perfect fit for my skills interests and values.

What do you think is the biggest environmental challenge facing us today?

The entrenched, deliberate, and perpetuated inequality of wealth, power, and resources.

What is your favorite part of your job?

I most enjoy working with people to deliver public events.

What are you most looking forward to over the next 10 years of Cabot?

I look forward to the Institute growing and diversifying, coming to a richer place of interdisciplinarity and cooperation and acting as an exemplar of what can be achieved through open, creative, and inclusive interdisciplinary collaboration when approached with humility, curiosity, and passion.

Anything else about who Cabot is and what you do that you would like to add?

Cabot is its membership, and its membership is diverse and passionate.

Cabot as a community might best be thought of as a rich woodland, growing, changing, living, interconnected, and mutually supporting. The whole is hard to see sometimes, and it might be impossible to truly quantify all its parts, actions, outputs, and effects but that makes it neither less valuable nor less of a superb model for the work that is so urgently needed.

Find out more about Angus here.

#CabotNext10 Spotlight on Natural Hazards & Disaster Risk


Dr Ryerson Christie

In conversation with Dr Ryerson Christie, theme lead at the Cabot Institute

Why did you choose to become a theme leader at Cabot Institute?

Obviously with a decision such as this, there are numerous reasons informing our choices. However, there are three specific factors that were central to my agreeing to take this on.  First, and foremost, I am passionate about the theme.  Secondly, I have personally benefited from the work of the Cabot Institute, and as such I feel a responsibility to contribute back to the research institute.  Finally, while I have always seen value in interdisciplinarity, my own research on disasters has convinced me of the fundamental importance in increasing the ties between academic disciplines.  I should add as well that I would not have agreed to take on this role if I didn’t enjoy the people I am able to work with.

In your opinion, what is one of the biggest global challenges associated with your theme?

There are a multitude, and identifying one is difficult.  The nature of our area of focus, on natural hazards and disasters, means that we are dealing with the complex interface between geophysical processes, a changing climate, and societies.  Work across the working group relates to everything from seeking to better understand the science behind natural hazards, to how we can better design and maintain physical infrastructure, to how states and communities can reduce the potential impact of hazards.  However, if I have to pick one specific global challenge, it is how we can ensure that development can take place in a way that reduces vulnerabilities in a way that privileges the local voices in these paramount policy decisions.

As we are looking into the future, what longer term projects are there in your theme?

In a way that longer term projects that we will be undertaking in the years to come are no different from the ones in which we are currently engaged.  However, the impact of climate change is going to make the importance of these issues all the more acute.  So, we will be exploring in greater depth the intersectionality of vulnerabilities to disasters, expanding our geographic focus, and seeking further interdisciplinary approaches to these questions.

We have a number of ongoing research projects across Bristol, and I will note a few here:

Tomorrow’s Cities – The University of Bristol has a central role in this Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Hub project, which is working with partners in Istanbul, Nairobi, Kathmandu, and Quito. The aim is to better understand disaster risk in the rapidly urbanising environment with the aim to ensure that future city development is resilient and addresses underlying drivers of disaster risk.

UK Flood Impacts project – This project is seeking to produce more accurate projections of the nature of UK flood risk which is crucial to ensure that policy decisions on mitigation, adaptation and development are fit for purpose.

Helping East Africa get Earthquake-Ready – focused on the East African Rift, this project is seeking to develop usable risk assessment tools to assist Malawi in disaster preparedness.  The project will also work with local authorities to co-produce planning guidelines to ensure development is resilient. A new statistical tool is being developed to help identify and help the most vulnerable sectors of society within disaster effected states.

Across the portfolio of projects in your theme, what type of institutions are you working with? (For example, governments, NGO’s)

The work that has been taking place within the hub has been extraordinary in the breadth of partners involved in the activities.  Crucially, the work is not only about targeting and helping states and communities, but it is motivated by a drive to empower communities and governments in alleviating disaster risk.  This means that the range of partners are actively involved in the entire life cycle of projects, from the identification of problems, co-designing research projects, the collection, interpretation and writing up of research, and the development and implementation of policy.  We actively work with local communities, social movements, and Non-Governmental Organizations (both local and international), all levels of Government, as well as regional and international organizations.

Please can you give some examples and state the relevant project

Tomorrow’s Cities is an exemplar here, where we are partners include community groups and formal NGOs in Quito, academics at FLACSO, the Instituto Geofisico, local and city level government representatives, and professional bodies representing engineers.  Without bringing all of these actors together we would not be able to fully appreciate the complexity of the problems, let alone develop and implement effective policies to reduce disaster risk.

What disciplines are currently represented within your theme?

We have been drawing on a broad range of disciplines, including Economics, Modern Languages, Sociology, Politics, Law, History, Civil Engineering, Geography, and the Earth Sciences.

In your opinion, why is it important to highlight interdisciplinary research both in general and here at Bristol?

The only way to redress the complex problems posed by natural hazards, is by bringing together the skills and expertise across the breadth of academia.  We can not bring about positive change by working in silos, and interdisciplinarity, while sometimes difficult, is fundamental.  We all come at the problems with different perspectives, tools and indeed language.  But we are all working for the same common ideal, of improving the lives of people, of reducing disaster risk, and doing so in a way that is empowering and sustainable.

Are there any projects which are currently underway in your theme which are interdisciplinary that you believe should be highlighted in this campaign?

All of our projects are interdisciplinary to one degree or another.  To highlight one in this respect is very difficult.  I suppose, if pushed, I would point to the work of the Tomorrow’s Cities team.  I would also like to highlight a previous project, BRACE, which was innovative in its integration of history, seismology, education, and engineering in a focused project seeking to increase resilience to Earthquakes in Bhutan.

Is there anything else you would like to mention about your theme, interdisciplinary research and working as part of Cabot Institute?

As with other working groups, our activities crosscut the breadth of Cabot and drawing lines between this working group and others is exceptionally difficult.  Cabot has been a fantastic catalyst to our work, and it is likely that little of these endeavours would have been possible without the support of the research institute.

For more information, visit Natural Hazards and Disaster Risk.

Who is Cabot Institute? Dr Vicky Jones


Dr Vicky Jones

In conversation with Dr Vicky Jones, Development Associate at the Cabot Institute

What is your role at Cabot Institute?

My overall role is to support the Cabot community in making new interdisciplinary research connections, both within and outside the University. This could be by making direct links between individuals or running meetings and events that provide the space for interdisciplinary discussions to take place.  I also run our Innovation Fund, which is an annual call that provides small amounts of funding to pump-prime new interdisciplinary research ideas or support impact and engagement focused activities. My role means I get to work with researchers from right across the University and particularly with our theme leads.

How long have you been part of Cabot?

I joined Cabot in 2016, so I’ve been here almost five years now.

What is your background?

I studied for my PhD here at the University of Bristol, in the School of Chemistry. After that I spent almost 15 years working in research funding, first in various roles at EPSRC and then moving to HEFCE (now Research England), where my final role was Deputy Manager for REF2014.

Why did you want to join the team?

The remit of the Cabot Institute was the main reason I wanted to join the team. I believe that the climate crisis is the most important challenge we face. I was really excited to join Cabot and have the opportunity to play a small role in supporting the researchers that are responding to that challenge.

What do you think is the biggest environmental challenge facing us today?

The will of governments to take the bold steps that are required to meet the challenge of the climate crisis. Individual action can only take us so far.

Governments will have to take decisions that are unpopular and will impact on how we live our lives. But the short-termism of our political system acts against those sorts of decisions being taken. Those that have contributed least to this crisis are already suffering and dying as a result of our inaction, but there is still time, if there is the will to do so.

What is your favourite part of your job?

Getting to meet our amazing researchers and learn more about their research is always so interesting. But, when I am able to bring people together that might otherwise not have met, and that sparks a new collaboration, that is the absolute best part of my job.

What are you most looking forward to over the next 10 years of Cabot?

The Cabot community is fantastic, so I’m looking forward to learning more about all the great research ideas that develop. With the increasing recognition of the importance of protecting our planet and those who live on it, I’m looking forward to seeing what can be achieved with our creativity, ingenuity, compassion, and global cooperation.

Find out more about Vicky here.

Who is Cabot Institute? Sophie Ross-Smith


Sophie Ross-Smith

In conversation with Sophie Ross-Smith, Manager at the Cabot Institute 

What is your role at Cabot Institute?

I am the Manager for Cabot Institute for the Environment, responsible for the day-to-day running of the Cabot Institute, contributing to and delivering our strategy, supporting our community, and managing Cabot’s dedicated professional services team.

How long have you been part of Cabot?

I joined Cabot in March 2021 but have enjoyed collaborating with Cabot in my previous roles at the University, so super excited to have joined the Cabot team.

What is your background?

I studied Biological Sciences at Bristol and then went on to work at the University, where I’ve held numerous roles focusing on research and project management, bid development and partnership management. I have working in numerous disciplinary areas from aerodynamics to the future of our communication system to city scale experimentation. I have also managed some of our university key partnerships and keen to grow our partnership within Cabot.  Having worked in lots of different areas, I have a great university network and passionate about bring people together to solve some of the most complex challenges we face today.

Why did you want to join the team?

I find working on interdisciplinary projects inspiring, rewarding and a continuous learning experience, coupled with Cabot’s focus on environmental research and our mission to ‘protect the environment and identifying better ways to live in our changing planet’, it was a team really wanted to join. To wake up every morning and know that what you are doing daily is making our planet a better place to live, is awesome!

What do you think is the biggest environmental challenge facing us today?

Climate change and the implementation of the changes we need to take to tackle our climate and ecological emergency. If you want to find out more about some of our biggest environmental challenges, check out our Cabot Conversations.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Ooh, not sure I can pick a favorite, but here are a few highlights: working with the fantastic Cabot team and Community, meeting passionate and inspiring Caboteers daily, the vibrant and can-do culture of Cabot meaning every day is different.

What are you most looking forward to over the next 10 years of Cabot?

We have an incredible community of over 600 experts, who are working across multiple boundaries to help solve complex environment issues. I am looking forward to continuing to support this community to grow from strength to strength and continuing to help people connect across the University. I think we have an exciting opportunity over the next 10 years to build upon our strong community foundations, to increase our profile and develop partnerships to amplify the impact of our research.  Our pioneering Cabot Master’s by Research Programme, which spans across all faculties, is training our future leaders in global environmental challenges and I’m excited to see how we can continue to develop and nurture talent through educational and development opportunities.  I am looking forward to continuing to work with Guy and the rest of our senior leadership team, the Cabot team, our Co-theme leaders, and our wider community to realise our ambition goals.

Find out more about Sophie here.