A biologist at the University of Sussex has revealed how his research into the impact of pesticides on bees came about as a result of suggestions made by members of the public.
In a new episode of the podcast ‘ Impacted’ , Professor Dave Goulson revealed that members of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust , the charity he founded in 2006, urged him to investigate whether the chemicals were poisoning bees.
Despite his initial scepticism, Professor Goulson decided to follow up on their concerns, researching the impact of neonicotinoids, a neurotoxic insecticide used to control pests. His findings exposed the devastating effect they were having on bumblebees, and achieved significant media coverage.
It also sparked a review commissioned by the European Parliament to review the impacts of chemicals, and saw Prof Goulson become embroiled in a very political debate about pesticides.
In a half hour episode of Impacted, a podcast series about research for real change co-hosted by Suzanne Fisher-Murray and Will Hood, Prof Goulson spoke about why insects are so important and the risks that they’re facing.
Over the years, Prof Goulson’s work has been widely cited. A paper which he co-authored, highlighting the dramatic plunges in insect numbers, was cited by the UK’s former environment secretary Michael Gove, as key to his rationale for supporting an EU ban on the use of neonicotinoids, reversing the UK governments’ previous position on the insecticides.
It’s this engagement with policy and the public, which spurs Prof Goulson on. Counting environmentalist Chris Packham among his supporters, the Professor of Biology is aware of the importance of reaching a wider audience outside of academia, and helped set up Buzz Club , a citizen science group which harnesses the enthusiasm of the public to further researchers.
Prof Goulson’s work captures the public attention. Author of several popular science books, his latest work, The Garden Jungle (2019, Jonathan Cape) reached no.10 in the Sunday Times bestseller list within just two weeks of hitting the shelves.
This new book touches on some of the ideas Prof Goulson is exploring as part of his research for the Sussex Sustainability Research Programme. Comparing allotments lying on the outskirts of both Calcutta and Brighton, Prof Goulson is investigating how peri-urban farming could help grow food sustainably for the population of both cities.
Despite the success he’s already had when it comes to conveying his message, Prof. Goulson is aware that more still needs to be done and, as an academic, sees it as his role to help bring about that much-needed change.
Impacted episodes will be released every month and are available to listen to for free from: soundcloud.com/user-931071968
F or more information, visit: www.sussex.ac.uk/research/explore-our-research/impacted-research-impact-podcast
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By: Stephanie Allen
Last updated: Monday, 5 August 2019