The Sustainability Skills & Education (SusSEd) series is a collection of engaging and interactive lunchtime talks, designed to give you the knowledge and skills needed to bring about a more sustainable world. Delivered by academics and PhD scholars from the University of Sheffield, these sessions will cover different aspects of a chosen sustainability theme.
This year, the theme is ‘The Biodiversity Crisis’ – the webinar series will put a spotlight on the current global nature emergency, exploring our dependence on nature for survival and how we’ve paved the way to this period known as the sixth mass extinction. But it’s not all doom and gloom, as we’ll be looking at the options we have to reverse some of these damages, if we act imminently.
Whether you’re pushing to develop the skills needed to make a real difference or just want to hear more about what sustainability entails, everyone is welcome at our free sessions! This year the sessions will be held online via Google Meets.
These sessions are a great opportunity for students to enhance their CV as HEAR recognition is given for attending at least 5 sessions. A register will be taken to keep track of attendance.
All talks are from 12pm – 1pm
Colin Osborne – What threatens biodiversity and why should I care?
Humans are causing the mass extinction of species at a rate not seen in nature for millions of years. In this talk, Professor Osborne will look at what we mean by biodiversity, how human activities threaten biodiversity, and the reasons why biodiversity matters. Is there anything that we, as individuals, can do to protect species?
Tuesday 23rd February – 12pm
Jo Wilkinson – How to help hedgehogs (before it’s too late)
Jo Wilkinson is the Project Manager for Hedgehog Friendly Campus, a behaviour change scheme funded by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society. Jo’s talk will cover the mysterious life of hedgehogs, why they so desperately need our help and what you can do to save them.
Thursday 25th February – 12pm
Dharma Sapkota – The Impact of Fire on Biodiversity
Global forests are continuously threatened by anthropogenic activities such as agricultural expansion, infrastructure development and settlements. Tropical and subtropical forests contain most of the globe’s biodiversity but are being lost and degraded at a higher rate than any other forest types. Fire is one of the environmental drivers responsible for causing ecological disturbances, forest degradation and deforestation and is greatly associated with changing the pattern of biodiversity. Fire is predicted to continue to do so in the future due to warming and drought arising from anthropogenic climate change. Although the impacts of fires on biodiversity are also recognised by the several international policy frameworks, the impacts are, however, complex and incompletely understood.
In this context, Dharma has carried out global data analysis on the impact of fire on plant diversity in the tropical and subtropical region, working on the impact of three fire metrics (fire type, fire frequency and time since fire) on plant species richness and turnover across the biomes and protection status. This talk will explore i) current global research trends and outcomes on the impact of fire on biodiversity and ii) the result of Dharma’s global data analysis on the impact of fire on plant diversity.
Wednesday 3rd March – 12pm
Oscar Morton – Species Impacts of the Wildlife Trade: Is Current Policy Enough?
Wildlife trade is a pervasive phenomenon, providing income for stakeholders across the world, while concurrently threatening species with extinction and increasing the risk of harmful pathogens passing from animals to humans. Thus, understanding and regulating such trade is of critical conservation and societal value. However, our current understanding of how this commercialisation of species effects species populations is sorely lacking. Drawing on a global analysis of studies we quantify overall changes in species abundance where extraction for trade occurs and potential drivers of this. Finally, the talk will discuss examples of how the international wildlife trade is currently managed, and the effectiveness of this.
Thursday 4th March – 12pm
Francesca Quell – Biological traits discriminate between native and non-indigenous marine invertebrates
Given the increasing rate of marine invasions to Western Europe in recent decades, studies addressing the central questions of invasion biology (i.e.what allows an invader to be successful and which species are likely to become invasive?) are of increasing importance. Consensus is currently lacking regarding the key traits that determine invasiveness in marine species and the extent to which invasive and indigenous species differ in their trait compositions. This limits the ability to predict invasive potential. During this talk I will propose a method based on trait profiles which can be used to predict non-indigenous species likely to cause the greatest impact and native species with a tendency for invasion.
Tuesday 9th March – 12pm
Kaisa Pietila – The Governance of the Biodiversity Crisis
The planet is experiencing sixth mass extinction, marked by a loss of species and ecosystems. International efforts against climate change have been agreed under the Paris Agreement, but what about global cooperation to overcome biodiversity loss? In this talk, Kaisa will discuss the global governance of biodiversity, starting from the 1970s to present day.
Thursday 11th March – 12pm
Jocelyne Sze – Tropical forests and Indigenous peoples
Tropical forest loss continues unabated, despite their known importance in planetary climate regulation and harbouring high levels of biodiversity. One of the key tools that conservationists use to reduce deforestation is setting aside protected areas, but this may come at the expense of local and Indigenous peoples. Efforts are underway to make conservation more equitable by giving Indigenous peoples tenure rights over their forest land, but are Indigenous peoples effective at protecting forests?
Tuesday 16th March – 12pm
Mira Lieberman – Agrochemical Armageddon
Over the last 20 years the use and application of pesticides shifted from reactive to prophylactic. Now many fungicides, pesticides and herbicides are applied to the seeds before sowing, with farmers ‘stuck’ on a pesticide treadmill (Mason et al., 2013; Gillam, 2017). “The chemical companies are ‘like the drug cartel warlords that get their people addicted to their drugs’” (Gillam, 2017: 236). Resistance of plants and target species incurs larger and larger doses of applications. Neonicotinoids working systemically through plants, reach target and non-target species, negatively affecting them directly and sub-lethally. Insects die en masse, not only acutely but chronically. Sub-lethal effects weaken the immune system of nearly all living beings and has been demonstrated in bees, fish, amphibians, birds and mammals (Hayes et al., 2006; Mason et al., 2013). Are pesticides a contributing factor in the sixth mass extinction?
Beginning with an overview of the different classes of pesticides, their mode of operation and their adverse effect on wildlife, climate change and human health, the talk will discuss the ways in which pesticides can affect mammals directly or indirectly. Pesticides will be explored through the negative effects of intensive farming, as is now practiced in most western countries, and in the UK in particular. Despite the move away from organochlorines, adverse effects are still experienced by mammals exposed to new pesticides, and new risks. What are some remedies to the current ongoing poisoning of nature and all living beings by pesticides? Are there viable alternatives to current agricultural practices?
Thursday 18th March – 12pm
Phil Warren – Are cities ecosystems, and does it matter?
Our final talk will explore Phil’s research to understand the ecology of urban areas and its significance for people. Join Phil to explore the role of ‘nature’ in our concrete jungles and how we can benefit from greener cities.
Tuesday 23rd March – 12pm