RESPiRES international research team

Bath Spa–led international Smart Cities research team kicks off collaboration

Friday, 12 April, 2019

The international research team working together to investigate how Smart Cities can better implement initiatives to improve social and ecological resilience around local water ecosystems has met for the first time at Bath Spa University.

A Smart City is one which actively collects data from a range of dispersed resources – including its citizens’ own connected devices – and processes and analyses the information centrally to aid better decision-making.  The researchers, made up of academics from Universities in Mexico and the UK, is led by Bath Spa University Senior Lecturer in Nature Conservation and Environmental Management, Dr Ian Thornhill.

The ‘RESPiRES’ project - standing for 'RESilient People need Resilient EcoSystems' - is examining what more could be done to incorporate people’s values into the monitoring and management of their local water ecosystems, so-called ‘blue spaces’ such as  wetlands, ponds, lakes and rivers. The team is investigating Bristol and Mexico City as cities with contrasting economic circumstances.

Through their research the project group aims to better understand people’s perceptions of their local blue-spaces, identify future-proof smart tools and techniques available to monitor these locations, and make recommendations on how these tools and techniques might be brought together in effective ways that help protect the natural resources.

Ian Thornhill said “This is our kick-off bilateral meeting and it is great to be together as an international team for the first time.  We are refining the methods we will apply to the first phases of the project and have visited a number of sites in Bristol to see some blue spaces, which our colleagues from Mexico found fascinating. We’re also meeting with a number of local groups and authorities involved in managing the spaces.

“Effective monitoring of ecosystems is vital for their survival, especially in an urban setting.  But solutions must respond to local realities: in simple terms, to local culture. The output from our research will help planners and those responsible for blue spaces in Cities to better identify how to manage these spaces in a way that works both ecologically and socially.”

By identifying key local values and applying a standardised analytical framework in both Mexico City and Bristol, the project team will create indicators for each city that allow more focused and effective monitoring by local communities.

Bath Spa University has received over £540,000 in funding for the research from the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Mexican Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnologia (CONACyT), to fund the project, and is also receiving support from the Earthwatch Institute.  The project will run for the next two and a half years.

As well as Bath Spa University, researchers are drawn from Mexico’s Autonomous Metropolitan University (UAM), National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and Ecosur in Mexico, alongside Scotland’s Rural College and the University of Huddersfield in the UK.

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