The Heslington Circle

Making a lasting impact on York’s students and research communities

Our new state-of-the-art Environment Building hosts legacy supporters for the annual Heslington Circle lunch.

The Heslington Circle was formed in order to recognise our generous donors who have decided to leave a gift in their will to the University. At the end of February Heslington Circle members were treated to a tour of the impressive new Environment Building facilities, including the ‘Green Wall’. Four of our leading academics from the Environment Department and associated institutes based in the building, gave excellent talks on their research, which contributes to finding sustainable solutions to the world’s environmental problems.

The Green Wall at the Environment Building

Professor Sue Hartley, Director of the York Environmental Sustainability Institute, spoke on the challenges which increases in pests, diseases and unpredictable levels of rainfall can cause for food production. As the climate changes, food security challenges increase, and create a ‘perfect storm’. Tackling problems of this magnitude requires innovative thinking, unprecedented cooperation between countries, academic communities and other partners, and a willingness to cross the boundaries between academic disciplines.

Continuing this theme, Professor Callum Roberts from the Environment Department asked the pressing question “can you eat seafood with a clear conscience?”. The contradiction between healthy eating guidelines which advise us to eat more seafood, and the consequent pressure on global fish stocks, means that we now have to look for a ‘Blue Revolution’ in fish farming and implement sustainable production methods. Better management of wild fisheries could also boost production, and help to protect and heal threatened marine ecosystems.

Dr Lisa Emberson of the Stockholm Environment Institute at York then addressed the problem of ozone pollution, an issue which has for many decades concerned scientists and policy-makers. Dr Emberson’s work focuses particularly on the effects of ozone on agricultural and forest ecosystems worldwide, and she outlined the benefits for climate change, human health and food security which would follow from targeted control of this pollutant.

Finally, Professor Matthew Collins of BioArCh, an interdisciplinary and collaborative facility created by the Biology, Archaeology and Chemistry Departments, spoke on his innovative academic approach to historical artefacts. Parchment documents written on animal skins which are so abundant in archives such as the Borthwick Institute are, for him, not merely a source of historical data. They provide a biological archive of skins which can be mined for information about past animal – as well as human – lives, and the techniques used to analyse them can assist scientists today who work on food safety.

The event received excellent feedback from those who attended. The opportunity to meet with fellow supporters while exploring such wonderful facilities, to listen to talks from leading academics, and to hear from Professor Koen Lamberts, our Vice-Chancellor and President, was a day well spent.