As environmental scientist I’m confronted with the effects humans have on the environment every day. At a given moment I read about the effects of livestock and agriculture. I began to delve in and got shocked. In various scientific literature you can find that the consumption of animals products cause 18% of global greenhouse gases, a large part of deforestation (70% in the Amazon), desertification, rapidly declining fish stocks, water scarcity, increasing risk of resistant diseases through antibiotics, terrestrial and aquatic nitrogen pollution, loss of biodiversity, animal cruelty, et cetera. In addition to these environmental problems I read that humans can live perfectly well without eating any animal products. There is even evidence that high intake of animal product cause several health problems known particularly in the west. And then I asked myself: why I should be part of this damaging system if I can have a perfectly happy life with a plant based diet?
Stefan Dekker and I recently attended a workshop at the ancient city of Sagalassos located high in the mountains in south-west Turkey. The idea of the meeting was to bring together researchers from a range of disciplines to understand the history of Sagalassos in the context of a complex socio-ecological system integrated within the wider Roman world. Studies of ancient societies can be extremely informative in a sustainability context as they can illustrate the long-term implications of short-term socio-ecological interactions.
Blog entry by David Bijl - PhD student
Water scarcity has been on the international agenda for a few years now (OECD, 2012; UNEP, 2012). Overuse of freshwater resources has already caused environmental degradation in many locations, and causes significant economic and health risks as well. However, the problem can get much worse in the future, with continued population growth and economic development. That’s why researchers like me build computer models: to get a better idea of how water demand and availability may change in the future.
My name is Kees Klein Goldewijk and I’ve joined Copernicus as a research fellow last year on a VENI grant from NWO. The topic of my grant is: "Looking back to the future: improving historical land use reconstructions for better understanding of the global carbon cycle". The main research questions are: When did human activities trigger global environmental change at relevant scales? And how did these activities such as settlement strategies and agriculture affect land use and land cover, the global carbon cycle and climate? I’d like to explain in my blog about my project and all the highly interesting problems (and solutions!) I do encounter. Follow me on a epic journey into the past...
Blog entry by David Bijl - PhD student
Who or what is R? Is it Reason? Is it Revolution? Is it a Robot?
I was introduced to R last year, a few months after the start of my PhD. I had heard about R before, but we never met face to face. Now I could find out for myself whether R would really work miracles for a humble PhD student like me.
Welcome to the blog of the Environmental Sciences group of the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University. Through this blog we – PhD candidates, junior researchers and post-docs – would like to tell you about our ongoing research.
Our research group is very diverse in nature, which will be reflected by this blog. Some of us construct computer models, to get an improved understanding of the systems we study and explain their past behaviour and assess their future development. Other researchers spend a lot of time gathering data in the field or in the laboratory, while yet others analyse large, existing databases to test hypotheses (or disprove them…) and formulate new hypotheses. The strength of our research group lies in combining these methods and applying them to different topics.
A wide variety of topics is studied within our group. We study the climate in the Roman period, but at the same time try to predict how the climate will be in the future. We also investigate the potential role of pesticides in enhanced bee mortality, and how environmental change can push drylands towards a critical threshold beyond which these ecosystems develop to a bare desert. We carry out studies on the eco-hydrology of flood plains in Thailand and Poland. This is only a small selection of the topics that we study and that we will write about in the coming months.
We would like to tell you about the who, what, why and how of our research. Why are we doing the research that we do? What are the practical day-to-day things when doing research? Where are the systems that we study? What are our findings? Very soon you will be able to read all about it.
Environmental Sciences Blog
Written by the junior researchers, PhD-students and post-docs of the Environmental Sciences group.