Sustainability and Conservation at Wolfson

What's your story?

Sundial garden, Wolfson College Cambridge

Building a sustainable world has never been more important.

At Wolfson, we are rising to meet the challenge.

The Sustainability & Conservation Hub would like to collect stories from the Wolfson community. We want to hear about your efforts to help the environment and to promote sustainability.

Stories can be about your past research, about your professional work and projects, or about your grassroots and community activities. Stories about ongoing activities and projects are also welcome!

Read on for some examples, or jump directly to our submission form.

A research legacy to be proud of

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.

Ant research expedition brochure

Communicating and inspiring 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

Research in action

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.


Adapting heritage for sustainability

Konstantinos Korakakis (2020) is an architect and current Wolfson student. Before coming to Wolfson, Konstantinos began working on the redevelopment of Wildcroft Manor, a 1930s mansion block development of heritage character in a conservation area of Southwest London. The initial project brief was to replace the building's service systems and to conduct major maintenance to avoid further deterioration of the historical complex. Currently still underway, Konstantinos is using this project as an opportunity to explore the challenges that buildings of historical nature present when it comes to their sustainability and impact on the natural environment.

To explore the best ways to integrate sustainability with the preservation of heritage buildings, Konstantinos enrolled in the MSt in Sustainability Leadership for the Built Environment (IDBE). Konstantinos is an active member of the S&C Hub, where he coordinates our discussions around buildings and sustainability.

Wildcroft Manor Development

Organising change in our everyday lives

A current PhD student in Engineering, Charlie Barty-King (2017) started Wolfson's first ever Green Society. After a successful launch event on 6 February 2020, the Society has already completed a number of projects with many more underway. These include ways to save energy, manage emissions, reduce waste, increase recycling, and embed sustainable practices into all areas of College. The Society hosted Green Week and a series of Green Talks, and also worked with our Head Chef Sam Frost to introduce more sustainable food choices. For these initiatives, Wolfson was awarded a Gold Award in the University's Green Impact Challenge.

In recognition of his central role in organising the College's green activities, Charlie was also given the Student Leadership Award. Charlie now coordinates the Sustainability & Conservation Hub. Students like Charlie are actively involved in the S&C Hub, combining their involvement with their research interests.

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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, and to improve our understanding and generate impactful solutions to stop 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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