Wolfson College S&C Stories

Sustainability and Conservation Hub

Wolfson College Cambridge

A growing collection of Sustainability & Conservation Stories from the Wolfson community past and present to capture individual and collective successes of sustainability, climate action and the natural world.

Organised by the Wolfson Interdisciplinary Research Hub on Sustainability & Conservation

Wolfson College has an illustrious history of successful students, alumni and researchers in the fields of conservation and sustainability in their broadest sense. The Wolfson S&C stories catalogues and showcases the wide range of professional, community and research efforts that our members have contributed too.

Select a theme:

Conserving Nature and Biodiversity

In 1973, Lee Seng Tee came to Wolfson College with his daughter Fiona, who was beginning her studies here. By chance, then-Senior Tutor Dr Peter Lowings offered to drive him back to Cambridge station, and in the course of the journey, discussion turned to the problem of ‘pineapple fruit collapse’, which was having a devastating impact on Mr Lee’s Malaysian pineapple plantations.

Dr Lowings, a plant pathologist, was intrigued by the problem and arranged for research student Lim Weng Hee to carry out an investigation. Working between Cambridge and Malaysia, Lim identified the cause of the problem as a bacterium transmitted by ants, and recommended measures to prevent future disease outbreaks. Subsequent research students have carried out further work on aspects of pineapple production, and Mr Lee has remained involved with Wolfson ever since as a benefactor and Honorary Fellow of the College.

Read the full story here.

Ant research expedition brochure

Designing and Building a Better World

Ken Yeang (1971) is an alumnus and Honorary Fellow of Wolfson, where he obtained his doctorate in ecological architecture and planning. During his career as both an architect and ecologist, he has developed an authentic, innovative, ecology based eco-architecture with a distinctive verdant green aesthetic.

A thought leader in the field, Ken shared his observations at the recent ASEAN Emerging Researchers Conference (AERC), which focused on how to design a resilient planet. His keynote address, entitled 'Ecotopia', focused on the importance of the bio-integration of the man-made, manufactured environment into the natural biosphere. This year's AERC was jointly organised jointly by the S&C Hub, bringing together expertise from Wolfson and the wider Southeast-Asian region. By sharing his experience as an eco-architect, Ken is helping to initiate discussions, stimulate research and expand knowledge on building a more sustainable world.

Ken Yeang's architectural concept

Engineering Better Processes

During her time at Wolfson, recent PhD graduate Lara Urban (2015) used genomic computational techniques to quantify the genetic diversity of the endangered kākāpō population. A combination of habitat loss and predation means that there are now just 144 individual kākāpō, and conservationists are making efforts to increase the population through selective breeding.

Information provided by Lara's analysis lets conservationists know how closely related individual birds are to one another, helping them to prioritise individuals in a breeding programme in order to increase the total genetic diversity of the population. Her work will also inform conservation decisions when it comes to breeding birds for maximum ability to withstand disease, like the current cloacitis disease that plagues the kākāpō population.


Organising change in our everyday lives

A current PhD student in Engineering, Charlie Barty-King (2017) started Wolfson's first ever Green Society while WCSA Green Officer 2019-2020. After a successful launch event on 6 February 2020, the Green Society completed a number of projects too extensive to mention in full, but which includd energy-saving, emissions management, waste reduction, increased reuse and recycling, increased site biodiversity, and broadly embedded sustainable practices into all areas of the College. The Green Society hosted the regular student Green Week, and set up a termly Green Talks lecture series, while also working with our Head Chef Sam Frost to introduce more sustainable food choices. For these initiatives, Wolfson was awarded a Green Impact Gold Award in the University's Green Impact Challenge 2019-2020.

In recognition of his central role in organising the College's green activities, Charlie was awarded the NUS Green Impact Challenge Student Leadership Award (2020), and for this many efforts within Wolfson and across Cambridge, Charlie went on to receive the Vice-Chancellor's Social Impact Awards (2021).

Charlie now coordinates the Interdisciplinary Research Hub on Sustainability & Conservation along with membership from across the College.

Sustainability and Conservation Hub @ Wolfson

The Wolfson College Sustainability & Conservation Interdisciplinary Research Hub brings together our international Fellows, students and others to inform and educate, to improve our understanding, and generate impactful solutions to fight the destruction of the natural world.

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See our latest events and activities on our Hub website, and join our group on Wolfson Connect (available for all alumni and members) for updates.

gardens at Wolfson
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