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REF 2014 Case studies

Protecting habitats

Public need for better methods to monitor, manage and protect international marine assets has motivated sonar methodologies research by Dr Richard Bates, of the Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences, and colleagues.

This research has resulted in the establishment of over 107 internationally important sites of Marine Special Areas of Conservation and Marine Special Protection Areas.

The sonar methods used are now part of internationally adopted practice, for example on fisheries protection sites, while at the same time providing stunning visualisation widely used for public understanding of the sites.

Other applications of the techniques have been in the study of rapidly retreating glaciers and areas of sea-ice melt in Greenland, habitats to some of our most threatened species, such as the polar bear.


Marine mammal conservation

Marine mammal conservation case study

The research undertaken from 1996 to 2013 by researchers of the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) of the School of Biology focused on the accurate measurement of marine mammal populations and distributions in UK and EU waters. As a result of evidence that the research provided to government:

  • effective conservation of marine mammals has been put in place in UK, EU and international waters
  • UK and EU policy objectives have been defined for marine mammal conservation
  • UK obligations to EU legislation are being delivered
  • marine mammal bycatch has been reduced by over 90% in key fisheries

Marine mammals spend most of their lives under water and are typically highly mobile and difficult to study. This has necessitated the development within SMRU of new data collection technologies and statistical analysis methodologies to ensure that estimates of population abundance and mortality rates are robust. New techniques include:

  • “sparse data sampling” from boats or aircraft, to give robust estimates of marine mammal population density and distribution
  • new telemetry technology which allow individual animals to be tagged and their behaviour and movements to be logged and recovered via satellite or mobile phone

Understanding the Roman army

Understanding the roman army case study

Dr Jonathan Coulston is a leading authority on the Roman army and has engaged the imaginations of a wide audience through his public lectures, work for magazines and TV documentaries, and input to heritage organisations. Museums such as Housesteads Museum on Hadrian’s Wall have drawn on his expertise to classify and display their Roman army collections. 


Seamus Heaney's Fife Fables - iPad app

five fables case study

Drs Chris Jones and Ian Johnson, from the School of English, have collaborated with Flickerpix Animations and Touch Press on their exciting new multimedia iPad app of Seamus Heaney's translation of Five Fables by the medieval Scottish poet Robert Henryson. Henryson was a master of the craft of verse, who probably lived and worked in Fife in the 15th century. No longer widely read, Henryson deserves proper recognition as a giant of medieval European literature, and towards the end of his life Seamus Heaney translated several of Henryson's poems into modern English, with a view to renewing interest in this neglected genius. This app, and its accompanying animated versions of Heaney's translations of Henryson's verse adaptation of Aesop's fables, which Heaney was working on at the time of his death in August 2013, will continue to find new audiences both for Heaney and for Henryson.


Bringing history to life

Two BBC television series on medieval subjects: Inside the Medieval Mind (BBC4, 2008) and The Normans (BBC2, 2010), written and presented by world-leading medieval historian, Professor Robert Bartlett of the School of History, have exposed millions of viewers to historical documentary about the Middle Ages.

Inside the Medieval Mind discussed medieval views of issues such as miracles, the way medieval people thought about the physical world and the nature of human society. The Normans was informed in part by Professor Bartlett’s earlier work on medieval colonialism and conquest.