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The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

University of Southampton research wins national industry award for innovative design

Published: 17 October 2014

A research project led by the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University and including Dr. Louise Firth and Professor Stephen Hawkins from Faculty of Natural and Environmental Sciences at the University of Southampton has won a national industry award for incorporating biodiversity benefits into engineered developments.

The project, led by IBERS PhD student Ally Evans, is acollaborative effort between Ally, Dr. Pippa Moore (IBERS), Dr. Louise Firth (University of Southampton), Marine Ecological Solutions Ltd., Professor Steve Hawkins (University of Southampton), Gwynedd County Council, rock-drilling company SMS Wales, and KESS (Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships).

The competition was run by CIRIA, a non-profit organisation that links science with the construction industry. Their BIG (Biodiversity Interest Group) Challenge called for developers to incorporate one biodiversity enhancement into each new development or construction site.

As part of her PhD looking at coastal defence structures as surrogate habitats for natural rocky shores, Ally and her project partners trialled artificial rockpools as a biodiversity enhancement in a granite breakwater at Tywyn, Gwynedd. The rockpools have proven a great success, increasing the species diversity of the manmade habitat and supporting species of conservation importance. They are also equally diverse and productive as natural rockpools. At a time when hard coastal defences are proliferating around our coasts inresponse to rising and stormier seas, interventions such as this are becoming essential to counter the considerable negative impacts to our natural environment.  

Ally attended the awards ceremony at The Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew on Tuesday 14 October, accompanied by industry partner Liz Morris (Director at Marine Ecological Solutions Ltd.), to accept the award for “Most Innovative Design” on behalf of the project team.

The design, initially conceived by Dr. Louise Firth, was praised for its simplicity and innovation, and the case study was also credited for having a post-construction monitoring plan and rigorous evidence base for measuring the success of the intervention. Judges commented that the rockpool enhancements, installed by SMS Wales, demonstrate that “biodiversity enhancements can be incorporated into infrastructure projects with some simple and cost-effective measures.” The project also came first runner-up in the Overall BIG Challenge Award 2014, awarded Highly Commended overall out of 118 otherconstruction enhancement projects.

Tony Juniper, leading environmental campaigner, gave akeynote, concluding that “these awards are going to shine a light on excellence that’s already out there and once we begin to show what’s possible we will gain momentum.”

Louise said, “We’re all overjoyed by the level of excitement surrounding our work amongst the construction industry. This has been a tremendous opportunity to raise the profile of our research and we’ve got lots of exciting possibilities for future work. We know that the way to get our ideas out there and implemented is to link into industry, so we’re really grateful to CIRIA for creating these valuable links”.

Commercial Project partner Liz Morris commented "I'm pleased to report back that the project received overwhelming support from the award judges and construction companies at the event, which is a well deserved boost for Ally's project. It was great to see so many engineers and ecologists at the CIRIA awards talking together about simple enhancements to make our environment greener and more sustainable. Louise and Ally's rock pool enhancements are simple and make these otherwise hard, grey infrastructure projects more exciting for beach goers and ecologists. I hope that other coastal construction projects will consider such simple enhancement measures in future. We look forward to seeing the wider implications of Ally's sea defence and stakeholder perception work coming into press next year, and taking new ideas for developments forward with Ally and our clients."

The research was funded by Marine Ecological Solutions Ltd. and KESS (Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships). KESS is part-funded by the European Social Fund (ESF) through the European Union’s Convergence Programme, administered by the Welsh Government./p>

Competition entry

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