Environmental scientists celebrate four decades of pioneering study at Plymouth University

Students and lecturers spanning the past four decades have gathered to celebrate the anniversary of a pioneering course at Plymouth University.

The BSc Environmental Science degree was among the first of its kind in the country when it was started in 1973 to meet the environmental challenges of the day.

There have been constant developments to keep it up to date and relevant, and it has spawned a host of successful graduates including world renowned academics and the directors of global environmental companies.

They – and many of their lecturers – were among the special guests at a celebratory event held at the University, which retains its status as one of the top environmental science programmes in the UK.

Dr Paul Lunt, Associate Head of School (Environmental Science), said: “Dr Peter O’Neill and his colleagues had a real moment of innovation to launch this course 40 years ago, when Plymouth recognised that applied science graduates needed to be more interdisciplinary to help solve the environmental problems of the day.

"The principle of integrating socio-economic, political, legal  and ethical issues within an essentially science-based programme was what made Plymouth stand out, and it has continued to blaze a trail ever since.”

The course was launched following a European environmental science festival, held in Plymouth during the early 1970s, and the celebratory event 40 years later also attracted an international array of delegates.

They included representatives from government and industry, and academics and policy advisors from Italy, Australia and Sweden, and they were treated to talks about the course’s past successes and future development.

These advances include the recent addition of an MSc Environmental Consultancy programme, with the imminent launch of a four-year BSc Environmental Consultancy degree, which will provide work-based training in environmental management and environmental impact assessment.

Dr Lunt added: “Over the years, the knowledge, passion, enthusiasm and conviction of the teaching staff has been a key element in bringing environmental issues to life for our students. Our alumni demonstrate perfectly that if we are to get meaningful change then we need environmental scientists to work with industry. We know from experience what a difference one well-placed, highly motivated environmental manager can make, even within a large company.”

Notable graduates who attended the event included: Professor Greg Morrison, Head of Division, Civil and Environmental Engineering, at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden; Simon Shaw, Managing Director of world-leading marine and coastal environmental services company Fugro EMU; Desiree Lucchese, founder of Australian sustainability consultancy SHIFTT; Tudor Evans, Leader of Plymouth City Council; and Lorna Pilbin, named the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment’s graduate of the year in 2012.

To find out more about studying at Plymouth University, visit the Open Day on Saturday 19 October 2013. For more details, visit plymouth.ac.uk.