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Centres to help solve UK conservation problems

Two research centres which will bring together environmental experts, mathematicians and wildlife statisticians to help solve some of the UK’s biggest conservation problems are to be developed at the University of St Andrews.

The Centre for Research into Environmental and Ecological Modelling (CREEM) and the Centre for Conservation Science (CCS) will be supported by grants totalling over £2 million from the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council (SHEFC).

CREEM is a joint initiative between the School of Biology and the School of Mathematics and Statistics at St Andrews. It aims to bring together like-minded mathematicians and biologists to address some of the most pressing environmental problems of the 21st century including oil and gas exploration and extraction, climate change and ecotourism. CCS is a joint venture between St Andrews and Stirling Universities which will use risk assessment techniques to help resolve controversies and uncertainties associated with important conservation issues in Scotland. These will include the impact of generalist predators (such as seals and hen harriers) on their prey and the impact that introduced species (such as rhododendrons and mink) are having on their environment.

The University plans to house the 25 University staff associated with the Centres in the Scott Lang building (which also houses one of the University’s astronomical telescopes). Some of the SHEFC funds will be used to extend this building to provide state-of-the- art computing, training and communications facilities. Director of CCS Professor John Harwood said, “Most people are now familiar with risk assessment in relation to the BSE and foot-and- mouth epidemics. Methods similar to those used to estimate how many people may eventually die from variant CJD can be applied to conservation problems, where there is also a lot of uncertainty about the scientific information that is currently available. We plan to use these techniques to help resolve some particularly controversial problems over the next three years.”

Meanwhile, Professor John Sizer, Chief Executive of SHEFC said, “I was impressed both by the high quality of the interdisciplinary modelling science at CREEM and by the strong linkage into Scotland’s industrial supply chain being developed through applications in areas as diverse as fisheries, energy and tourism. I expect the Council’s significant investment programme, which is announced today, will build on this and establish CREEM as a valuable national resource for Scotland and the UK and add to research capacity in modelling at an international level.”

Further information on both Centres can be accessed at http://www.creem.st-andrews.ac.uk. The Scottish Higher Education Funding Council (SHEFC) distributes public money for teaching and research to nineteen higher education institutions in Scotland. For further information, visit website – http://www.shefc.ac.uk.

ENDS

Issued by Beattie Media on behalf of the University of St Andrews For more information please contact Claire Grainger on 01334 462530, 07730 415 015 or email cg24@st-andrews.ac.uk Ref: creem/standrews/chg/12april2001

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