Collaboration and interdisciplinarity is key to achieving the green recovery we desire. At Wolfson College, University of Cambridge, our researchers have brought about positive change by working with industry, and through the innovative use of interdisciplinary methods.
Dr Chris Town, a computer scientist and research fellow at Wolfson, was inspired by the work of marine biologists studying manta rays. The marine biologists were painstakingly going through thousands of images to manually identify individual mantas, so Dr Town developed a pattern matching algorithm to automate the task. With the help of the MantaMatcher algorithm, we now have a more comprehensive understanding of mantas’ behaviour and ecology. The scientific data collected using the algorithm also led to increased protection of the species under CITES. A citizen science platform — mantamatcher.org — was also created to crowdsource images of mantas, which will assist scientists in tracking mantas’ movements and documenting their numbers. Dr Town continues to assist in the collection and analysis of data of animals, including whales and turtles.
Professor Steve Evans, a Wolfson fellow and Director of Research in Industrial Sustainability, decided to tackle the resource-intensive process of jeans manufacturing. Working with an industrial manufacturer, they found that a pair of jeans requires about 800 litres of water to produce. His work resulted in a LEED certified facility with 98% efficiency, which reduced water use to just 0.4 litres per item. Over a year, the new process would save over 430 million litres of water, equal to the annual water consumption of 432,000 people. Research applied to industry can revolutionise inefficient processes, reducing our ecological footprint and assisting with our green recovery.
By collecting and publicising these successful research interventions, Wolfson’s Sustainability and Conservation Hub seeks to inspire the next generation of thinkers and practitioners. These stories and past experiences help us imagine new ways of harnessing research and technology. They also show how collaborating across disciplines and with industry can lead to big successes. Only by working together and thinking outside the box can we have a chance at achieving the green recovery we seek.
The Sustainability and Conservation Hub at Wolfson College, University of Cambridge, convenes interested individuals and organisations to inform, educate, and explore disruptive solutions to combat the destruction of the natural world. By empowering Wolfson’s diverse and international network with thought leadership, action and ambition, we seek to facilitate the deep changes needed to wider global systems. We take interdisciplinary focus, multi-generational collaboration and systems thinking to be key elements of the change required. We host events, projects, mentoring and much more, with strengths in inclusion and diversity of people and thought. We connect returning professionals, new students from 85+ nations, world leading researchers and engaged external individuals and organisations towards action. For more information, visit our website: www.wolfson.cam.ac.uk/sc-hub
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