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We win Research Project of the Year award

Nov 25, 2016

Dr Mike Wood and team collect the award
Dr Mike Wood and team collect the award

Last night we collected the Research Project of the Year award at the esteemed Times Higher Education Awards in London. The awards, now in their twelfth year, are widely recognised of the Oscars of the higher education sector, shining a spotlight on the outstanding achievements of those working in UK higher education.  

Dr Mike Wood from the School of Environment and Life Sciences collected the Research Project of the Year award for his work around the Chernobyl disaster. His research hugely increased understanding of how nuclear radiation affects animal life and used a ground-breaking technique to provide new evidence about what happens to the diversity and abundance of large and medium-sized mammals after radiation exposure.

He worked with Honorary Prof Nick Beresford from the NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and Ukraine’s Chornobyl Center on the international collaboration project. Together they used the area around the Chernobyl accident site as a laboratory to study the continuing effect of the disaster on wildlife. 

Mike set up more than 250 motion-activated camera positions and bioacoustic recorders to track animals over a year. The cameras provided more than 45,000 images that allowed the researchers to answer fundamental questions about the relationship between radiation exposure and biodiversity. Dr Paul Kendrick from our Acoustics Research Centre also collaborated on the project by placing special bio-acoustic recording devices across the area, providing more detailed information about the zone’s animal life.

The team found a thriving community of large and medium-sized species. This challenges existing academic work, which had suggested that mammals have declined in the area. Their findings have also contributed to high-level debate about the potential creation of a Chernobyl nature reserve and garnered a huge amount of press coverage. The judges said that the research project was impressive in the way that it used “ground-breaking radiological methods to explore the impact of nuclear radiation on wildlife in the Chernobyl area”.

On collecting the award, Mike said: “I am absolutely delighted.  What a journey this has been. To have the opportunity to undertake ecological research in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is an amazing privilege. To have the excellence of that research recognised through such a prestigious award is just fantastic. 

"To undertake such work requires excellent collaboration, with colleagues in the Ukraine, France and at the University of Salford. I clearly accept this award on behalf of all of them. Most of all, I would like to acknowledge the importance of my friend and long-term collaborator Prof Nick Beresford from NERC-CEH. Without Nick, none of this would have been possible.

"I also want to thank NERC, the Environment Agency and RWM Ltd for funding the project and the University of Salford for providing such a fantastic environment in which research can truly flourish."

Huge congratulations to Mike and the team!

 

Here are some tweets from the evening: