Introducing the AFBI Environment and Marine Sciences Division

Date published: 02 June 2021

This is an exciting time for AFBI as the Environment and Marine Sciences Division (EMSD) was officially launched on 1st April, coinciding with the start of the financial year.

Pieter-Jan Schön, Head of Environment and Marine Sciences Division

The new Division brings together the work of the Agri-Environment Branch (AEB) and Fisheries and Aquatic Ecosystems Branch (FAEB), which have, in recent years, been part of the Sustainable Agri-Food Sciences Division (SAFSD). This new Division will be headed by Pieter-Jan Schön.

As Pieter-Jan says: “Establishing the new Division has involved a significant amount of work behind the scenes. I would like to thank everyone involved in making this all happen.”

“The decision to establish this new Division reflects the increasing importance and amount of scientific work undertaken by AFBI in the agri-environment, marine and aquatic ecosystems areas. This is also in line with the general global and national recognition that the sustainable management, protection and enhancement of the environment and our ecosystems is vital and underpins the prosperity and growth of the economy and societal well-being.”

“Like any substantial change of course there are huge opportunities to be grasped, and also potential challenges. Our ability to continue to provide and further develop high quality evidence-based science is key to addressing the significant environmental challenges whilst ensuring the sustainable use of natural resources and the future prosperity of the agri-food sector. The Division is in a unique position to deliver on a high impact and quality integrated programme of research spanning from the “soil to the sea” and build on the success of a holistic ecosystem based approach that has been developed for the marine side over the last number of years.”

“AFBI science primarily supports the agri-food sectors of agriculture and fishing, but the wider impact of environmental science means our work is increasingly supporting other sectors too. We aim to hit the ground running and within the Division we already have several ambitious strategic projects to initiate and deliver this year. These include a multimillion pound capital investment project to support DAERA’s Green Growth Strategy and 2050 net zero commitment, and the replacement of the research vessel Corystes. These, of course, provide exciting opportunities and an excellent platform to enhance AFBI’s scientific reputation internationally, but we also need to ensure that the entire Divisional science programme is well positioned to capitalise on opportunities and deliver on AFBI's new science strategy looking to 2030.

“Collaboration will be essential to successful performance and providing the required capacity to deliver on a programme of research towards a holistic agri-food and environmental system based approach. Our work programme is very much cross-cutting and we are excited to work collaboratively across the entire organisation, ensuring AFBI is well placed to develop our science and provide a strong evidence base for the various ambitious policy and strategy commitments and targets over the coming years.”

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