Left to right: Professor Janice Kay (Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor), Professor Stephen de Mora (CEO of Plymouth Marine Laboratory) and Professor Nick Talbot (Head of the School of Biosciences) tour the University's School of Biosciences.

University of Exeter and Plymouth Marine Laboratory join forces to tackle environmental issues

The relationship between the University of Exeter and Plymouth Marine Laboratory has moved a step closer, with the signing of a memo of understanding (MOU).

This development signifies that both institutions are committed to working together on a number of major research projects and share a vision of developing a hub of world-class science in the South West.

It will involve two of the region’s key research institutions working together to address some of the most challenging environmental issues of the 21st century.

The collaboration will bring together the University of Exeter’s expertise in molecular biology and state-of-the-art genomics technologies with the world class reputation of Plymouth Marine Laboratory in marine ecology. Projects will focus on the impact of environmental change on human health, the effect of climate change on marine environments and the biological effects of marine pollutants.

On Friday 1 May, Professor Stephen de Mora, CEO of Plymouth Marine Laboratory, visited the University of Exeter. He was given a tour of the laboratories in the School of Biosciences and attended presentations from University researchers before the MOU was formally signed by both organisations.

The hope is that the MOU will also lead to exchanges of students, the sharing of equipment and expertise, and additional joint appointments between the two institutions. There is an ambition to develop a leading centre in marine molecular biology using the joint expertise in the two institutions. Projects are expected to involve biosciences teams from the University’s campuses in Exeter and Cornwall.

“This is a great opportunity for the University of Exeter” said University of Exeter Senior Deputy Vice Chancellor Professor Janice Kay, “The University of Exeter is investing £80 million in science over the next three years. Many of the areas in which we will focus this investment, such as Climate Change research and Systems Biology will benefit from this linkage with Plymouth Marine Laboratory. We have common research interests and a shared vision for the growth of world class science in the South West.”

“There is some tremendously exciting science being carried out at Plymouth Marine Laboratory which addresses some of the major challenges facing our planet, including the effects of climate change on the world’s oceans and marine habitats” added Professor Nick Talbot, Head of the School of Biosciences at the University of Exeter. “This new collaborative agreement will allow us to apply the latest technologies in genomics research to the study of marine organisms, developing new expertise and a leading centre for marine molecular biology. This centre will address the biological impact of pollutants and environmental change on marine wildlife and fisheries. We believe that together we can become a very powerful centre for this type of research, which is important for the UK, but also vital for the local economy.”

“We welcome this closer collaboration and look forward to strengthening the region’s expertise in molecular biology and environmental change research” continued Professor Stephen de Mora. “The city of Plymouth already enjoys close links between its marine science organisations through the Plymouth Marine Sciences Partnership but this is a step further to enhance the region’s capabilities as a whole and take advantage of the wide range of skills and knowledge found within the SW peninsula.”

The two institutions already enjoy a close working relationship. Current collaborations involve investigating the effects of pollutants on estuarine environments in the South West, studying the behaviour and population biology of salmon in South West rivers, investigating the effects of marine environmental changes on human health and a wide range of climate change-associated science. The Met Office is a key partner in many of these projects.

Date: 5 May 2009