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Our planet and society are changing faster than ever, and keeping track of it is a huge challenge. Tonight we will discover how researchers are measuring the environmental and social changes that are taking place as we speak, and how we are going to cope with the Planet Earth of the future.
Mission to Planet Earth
Dr Eloise Marais (Research Scientist in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Science at the University of Birmingham)
Air pollution is challenging to monitor on the ground, in particular in hard-to-teach parts of the world. Satellite observations offer a unique opportunity to address these data gaps, as they provide global coverage of atmospheric gases and particles (aerosols). In this talk Eloise will demonstrate how her research group and others in this research field use instruments on-board NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) satellites to estimate how polluted the world is, identify pollution sources, and assess the success of air quality policy.
Learning from evolution: Reconstructing the past to help engineer future crops
Dr Iain Johnston (Biomathematician working in Plant Sciences at the University of Birmingham)
Climate change, expanding populations, and degrading agricultural land mean we need more efficient crops to feed the world. Some plants have evolved an efficient form of photosynthesis called “C4”, which uses less water and wastes less energy. However, important crops like rice remain stuck using inefficient “C3” photosynthesis. Iain will talk about how we combine maths and plant science to reveal how evolution discovered C4 photosynthesis dozens of independent times, and how we can learn from this to breed crops.