Grand Challenges Seminar Series 2016

The Grand Challenges Seminar Series is organised and run by the DTP students in their first year during Hilary Term (term 2). They select topics that represent the grand challenges of today’s environmental researchers and invite renowned guest speakers to debate approaches in tackling these challenges. The format is a series of short talks followed by a panel discussion. All are welcome to attend.

The seminars will be held on Tuesdays in week 1-5 at 5pm in the TS Eliot Lecture Theatre, Merton college, and there will be drinks and discussions afterwards, between 6-7pm.

To sign up for these free seminars please visit the Eventbrite link

Dates for Hilary Term 2016

Tuesday 19th January 2016 (wk 1) – Designing cities with nature in mind

As the world population climbs inexorably beyond the 7 billion mark, demand for habitable land follows suit. Currently half the worlds’ population live in cities or urbanised areas and by 2050 that figure will double. This expansion is placing a great burden on the natural world for space and resources and is contributing to climate change. The ecological cost is becoming well understood but what is the cost for those inhabiting the new urban environment? Does a disconnection between the urban human and nature have unexpected consequences? How can we design environmentally sustainable habitation centres that incorporate displaced ecology and provide physical and psychological wellbeing for their human inhabitants? This seminar and panel discussion will explore these and other questions relating to the urbanisation of the Earth.

Tuesday 26th January 2016 (wk 2) – Are we alone? Discourse on extraterrestrial research

‘Are We Alone?’ is a public seminar on the existence of extraterrestrial life, and the implications for our society. Questions posed during ‘Are We Alone?’ will include: is it worthwhile (economically, philosophically) to pursue extraterrestrial research? Are we are looking for life in the right forms? And how might the discovery of extraterrestrial life affect society?

The seminar will be ran as a panel discussion with three renowned guest speakers: Dr Klara Anna Capova, who is investigating attempts to detect life beyond Earth as well as scientific entrepreneurship at Durham University; Professor Ian Crawford, who is researching the future of space exploration at Birbeck University, University of London; our final guest speaker will shortly be announced. ‘Are We Alone?’ will be chaired by Dr Stuart Armstrong from the Future of Humanity Institute, University of Oxford; he is a SETI (UK) member and is interested in the long term potential for intelligent life.

Tuesday 2nd February 2016 (wk 3) – Science Communication in the 21st Century

“We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.” – Carl Sagan.

Why should the public care about science? What are the most effective approaches to involving the public in science? How do you get the general public excited about science? Join us for an engaging panel debate, in which we bring together a mix of scientists and science communicators to explore these questions.
There will be short presentations and then a panel debate, followed by an open floor session. Here we invite you to bring your own questions and discussion points.

Tuesday 9th February 2016 (wk 4) – ‘The prediction, perception and prevention of natural hazards?

Millions of people worldwide are affected by natural hazards ranging from devastating but localised events such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis to the more subtle but global effects of climate change. It is therefore in our interests to be able to accurately predict these hazards, assess their risks and communicate this information quickly and effectively to those affected so that major loss of life can be avoided. Exactly how this should be done, and the extent to which certain natural hazards can even be predicted are key questions that need to be addressed. Less obvious but of equal importance are the roles that governments and charities should play in communication and prevention, and how different communities perceive the risks associated with natural hazards in the first place. These questions will be debated by a diverse panel of speakers from a variety of different backgrounds to be announced shortly. There will be a free drinks reception afterwards. So come on down, you might just learn something*!

*Or you can just come for the free wine

Tuesday 16th February 2016 (wk 5) – How can we feed 10 billion?

By the year 2050, it is estimated that the global population will exceed 9 billion. Much of this population growth will occur in the poorest regions of the world, placing intense pressure on the supply of food to these regions. Changes in dietary preferences are likely to place additional pressure on the planet’s food supply. This increasing requirement for food is occurring at the same time as we become increasingly aware of factors reducing the productivity of agriculture such as: soil erosion, disease, extreme climate, and pollution. An increased awareness of the negative environmental impacts of intensive agriculture further highlights the range of pressures facing food security. In order to tackle these issues, different groups involved in the maintenance of food security need to cooperate effectively.

This panel discussion will bring together leading figures with different roles in the food supply network. We aim to provoke a stimulating and engaging debate with input from individuals with a variety of perspectives.