Conservation Research Institute established

30th August 2013

Biodiversity conservation is concerned not only with the preservation and management of species and habitats but also with understanding the complex web of ecosystem functions and how these underpin sustainable human development, whether in ‘natural’ or ‘managed’ (agricultural, forest, fishery) systems.

Progress in tackling these issues, however, is currently hampered by key disconnects in the way researchers and conservationists go about their business. These include disconnects between research, policy and practice (in the way problems are identified, scope defined and solutions adopted), between the social and natural sciences (in the way questions are framed and answered), and between alternative perspectives, theories and models amongst researchers.

Tackling these disconnects requires new ways of working, based around iterative interactions among researchers, practitioners and policy-makers aimed at identifying emerging problems, devising practical solutions, and understanding their wider impacts.

The University of Cambridge has committed itself to tackling these globally important issues, in collaboration with its Cambridge-based conservation partners, in the form of the Cambridge Conservation Initiative (CCI), which was established in 2007. Since 2010, CCI has been one of the University’s Strategic Research Initiatives. As part of CCI’s core agenda, the University is establishing a Conservation Research Institute, to scale-up and drive forward collaborative programmes of research. Dr Bhaskar Vira, from the Department of Geography, will be the Founding Director of the University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute, and will take up this role from 1 September 2013.

As Founding Director, Dr Vira will:

• Facilitate and champion an expanding programme of cross-disciplinary, interdisciplinary and cross-departmental conservation related research within the University of Cambridge;
• Build capacity across the University to respond to funding opportunities by gathering upstream intelligence on forthcoming funding streams and opportunities, developing high-level contacts in funding bodies, and supporting and leading, where necessary, joint bids, drawing on constituent Departments and Faculties within the University of Cambridge and other CCI partners;
• Strengthen the impact of University research through targeted policy interventions and outreach activities;
• Provide a link and focal point between the University of Cambridge and other global centres of excellence in biodiversity conservation research and education; and
• Develop detailed strategies for the establishment of a University Conservation Research Institute as a central hub of the planned Conservation Campus.

Further information about the University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute, its members, its areas of focus and programmes of research will be available on its dedicated website, which will soon be launched. Enquiries can be addressed to Dr Vira by email at bv101@cam.ac.uk