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Natural Environment Research Council

Natural Environment Research Council

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The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) is a British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 research council
Research Council
The UK Research Councils, of which there are currently seven, are publicly-funded agencies responsible for co-ordinating and funding particular areas of research, including the arts, humanities, all areas of science and engineering...

 that supports research, training and knowledge transfer activities in the environmental sciences.


NERC began in 1965 when several environmental (mainly geographic) research organisations (including Nature Conservancy
Nature Conservancy (UK)
The Nature Conservancy was a British government agency established by Royal Charter in 1949.The Nature Conservancy was superseded by the Nature Conservancy Council in 1973....

 which became the Nature Conservancy Council
Nature Conservancy Council
The Nature Conservancy Council was a United Kingdom government agency responsible for designating and managing National Nature Reserves and other nature conservation areas in Great Britain between 1973 and 1991 ....

 in 1973 and was divided up in 1991) were brought under the one umbrella organisation
Umbrella organization
An umbrella organization is an association of institutions, who work together formally to coordinate activities or pool resources. In business, political, or other environments, one group, the umbrella organization, provides resources and often an identity to the smaller organizations...

. When most research councils were re-organised in 1994, it had new responsibilities - Earth observation and science-developed archaeology. Collaboration between research councils increased in 2002 when Research Councils UK
Research Councils UK
Research Councils UK is a strategic partnership between the seven UK Research Councils. It enables the Councils to work together more effectively to enhance the overall impact and effectiveness of their research, training and innovation activities, contributing to the delivery of the Government's...

 was formed.

Chief executives

  • Sir John Lawton
    John Lawton (scientist)
    Professor Sir John Hartley Lawton, FRS is a British ecologist and RSPB Vice President and Chair of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust....

  • Professor Alan Thorpe 2005-2011
  • Dr Stephen Wilson (Acting) - 2011-2012
  • Professor Duncan Wingham - from 1st January 2012(BIS announcement)


The council's head office is at Polaris House in Swindon
Swindon is a large town within the borough of Swindon and ceremonial county of Wiltshire, in South West England. It is midway between Bristol, west and Reading, east. London is east...

, alongside the other six Research Councils.

NERC supports several research centres including the British Antarctic Survey
British Antarctic Survey
The British Antarctic Survey is the United Kingdom's national Antarctic operation and has an active role in Antarctic affairs. BAS is part of the Natural Environment Research Council and has over 400 staff. It operates five research stations, two ships and five aircraft in and around Antarctica....

, the British Geological Survey
British Geological Survey
The British Geological Survey is a partly publicly funded body which aims to advance geoscientific knowledge of the United Kingdom landmass and its continental shelf by means of systematic surveying, monitoring and research. The BGS headquarters are in Keyworth, Nottinghamshire, but other centres...

, the National Oceanography Centre
National Oceanography Centre
- The National Oceanography Centre :The National Oceanography Centre is a marine science research and technology institution based on two sites in Southampton and Liverpool, United Kingdom...

, the National Centre for Atmospheric Science, the National Centre for Earth Observation and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology is the United Kingdom's Centre of Excellence for integrated research in hydrology, terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems and their interaction with the atmosphere...

. It also supports a number of collaborative centres of excellence and subject-based designated Environmental Data Centres
NERC Data Centres
The Natural Environment Research Council has seven subject-based environmental data centres to store and distribute data from its own research programmes and data that are of general use to the environmental research community...

 for the storage and distribution of environmental data.


The Natural Environment Research Council delivers independent research, survey, training and knowledge transfer in the environmental science
Environmental science
Environmental science is an interdisciplinary academic field that integrates physical and biological sciences, to the study of the environment, and the solution of environmental problems...

s, to advance knowledge of planet
A planet is a celestial body orbiting a star or stellar remnant that is massive enough to be rounded by its own gravity, is not massive enough to cause thermonuclear fusion, and has cleared its neighbouring region of planetesimals.The term planet is ancient, with ties to history, science,...

Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

 as a complex, interacting system. The council's work covers the full range of atmospheric, Earth, biological, terrestrial and aquatic science
Aquatic science
Aquatic Science is the multidisciplinary study of aquatic systems, encompassing both freshwater and marine systems. Scientific investigations within this field often examine the human impact on and interaction with aquatic systems and range in scale from the molecular level of contaminants to the...

s, from the deep ocean
An ocean is a major body of saline water, and a principal component of the hydrosphere. Approximately 71% of the Earth's surface is covered by ocean, a continuous body of water that is customarily divided into several principal oceans and smaller seas.More than half of this area is over 3,000...

s to the upper atmosphere
Earth's atmosphere
The atmosphere of Earth is a layer of gases surrounding the planet Earth that is retained by Earth's gravity. The atmosphere protects life on Earth by absorbing ultraviolet solar radiation, warming the surface through heat retention , and reducing temperature extremes between day and night...

, and from the geographical pole
Geographical pole
A geographical pole is either of the two points—the north pole and the south pole—on the surface of a rotating planet where the axis of rotation meets the surface of the body...

s to the equator
An equator is the intersection of a sphere's surface with the plane perpendicular to the sphere's axis of rotation and containing the sphere's center of mass....


NERC's mission is to gather and apply knowledge, create understanding and predict the behaviour of the natural environment
Natural environment
The natural environment encompasses all living and non-living things occurring naturally on Earth or some region thereof. It is an environment that encompasses the interaction of all living species....

 and its resources, and communicate all aspects of the council's work. The British Meteorological Office is not part of NERC.


In Sutradhar v Natural Environment Research Council [2006] UKHL 60, [2006] 4 All ER 490, the NERC was sued by a Bangladeshi national, Mr Sutradhur, who claimed that he got ill after drinking water that the NERC had done a report on. The NERC had prepared a geological report, which Mr Sutradhur alleged had induced the Bangladeshi government to not take any steps to ensure that the drinking water was not contaminated by arsenic. The House of Lords held that there was no proximate relationship between the parties to give rise to a duty of care. In other words, they held that the NERC's report were not there to be relied upon by residents that they had never heard of or met, even if the reports were negligently prepared.

Airborne Research and Survey Facility

The NERC Airborne Research and Survey Facility (ARSF) collects and processes remotely sensed data for use by the scientific community. The data are collected by various instruments on-board a Dornier 228 research aircraft based in Gloucester, UK. These instruments currently include a Leica LIDAR
LIDAR is an optical remote sensing technology that can measure the distance to, or other properties of a target by illuminating the target with light, often using pulses from a laser...

 and two hyperspectral sensors, Eagle and Hawk. Meteorological data are also collected in-flight.

Processing is performed by ARSF-DAN (Data Analysis Node) at Plymouth Marine Laboratory
Plymouth Marine Laboratory
Plymouth Marine Laboratory in the city of Plymouth, England is an independent collaborative centre of the Natural Environment Research Council . PML's Chairman is Terence Lewis and PML's Chief Executive is Prof. Stephen de Mora.They focus global issues of climate change and sustainability...


See also

  • Conservation biology
    Conservation biology
    Conservation biology is the scientific study of the nature and status of Earth's biodiversity with the aim of protecting species, their habitats, and ecosystems from excessive rates of extinction...

  • Conservation ethic
    Conservation ethic
    Conservation is an ethic of resource use, allocation, and protection. Its primary focus is upon maintaining the health of the natural world: its, fisheries, habitats, and biological diversity. Secondary focus is on materials conservation and energy conservation, which are seen as important to...

  • Conservation movement
    Conservation movement
    The conservation movement, also known as nature conservation, is a political, environmental and a social movement that seeks to protect natural resources including animal, fungus and plant species as well as their habitat for the future....

  • David Carson (climatologist)
    David Carson (climatologist)
    David John Carson is a climatologist. He has been director of the Hadley Centre , director of Numerical Weather Prediction at the UKMO , and was director of the World Climate Research Programme from 2000-2005....

  • Ecology
    Ecology is the scientific study of the relations that living organisms have with respect to each other and their natural environment. Variables of interest to ecologists include the composition, distribution, amount , number, and changing states of organisms within and among ecosystems...

  • Ecology movement
    Ecology movement
    The global ecology movement is based upon environmental protection, and is one of several new social movements that emerged at the end of the 1960s. As a values-driven social movement, it should be distinguished from the pre-existing science of ecology....

  • Environmentalism
    Environmentalism is a broad philosophy, ideology and social movement regarding concerns for environmental conservation and improvement of the health of the environment, particularly as the measure for this health seeks to incorporate the concerns of non-human elements...

  • Environmental movement
    Environmental movement
    The environmental movement, a term that includes the conservation and green politics, is a diverse scientific, social, and political movement for addressing environmental issues....

  • Environmental protection
    Environmental protection
    Environmental protection is a practice of protecting the environment, on individual, organizational or governmental level, for the benefit of the natural environment and humans. Due to the pressures of population and our technology the biophysical environment is being degraded, sometimes permanently...

  • Habitat conservation
    Habitat conservation
    Habitat conservation is a land management practice that seeks to conserve, protect and restore, habitat areas for wild plants and animals, especially conservation reliant species, and prevent their extinction, fragmentation or reduction in range...

  • List of environmental organizations
  • Natural environment
    Natural environment
    The natural environment encompasses all living and non-living things occurring naturally on Earth or some region thereof. It is an environment that encompasses the interaction of all living species....

  • Natural capital
    Natural capital
    Natural capital is the extension of the economic notion of capital to goods and services relating to the natural environment. Natural capital is thus the stock of natural ecosystems that yields a flow of valuable ecosystem goods or services into the future...

  • Natural resource
    Natural resource
    Natural resources occur naturally within environments that exist relatively undisturbed by mankind, in a natural form. A natural resource is often characterized by amounts of biodiversity and geodiversity existent in various ecosystems....

  • Renewable resource
    Renewable resource
    A renewable resource is a natural resource with the ability of being replaced through biological or other natural processes and replenished with the passage of time...

  • Royal Research Ship
    Royal Research Ship
    A Royal Research Ship is a British-operated merchant ship that conducts research for British Government scientific research organisations, notably the British Antarctic Survey and the Natural Environment Research Council...

  • Sustainable development
    Sustainable development
    Sustainable development is a pattern of resource use, that aims to meet human needs while preserving the environment so that these needs can be met not only in the present, but also for generations to come...

  • Sustainability
    Sustainability is the capacity to endure. For humans, sustainability is the long-term maintenance of well being, which has environmental, economic, and social dimensions, and encompasses the concept of union, an interdependent relationship and mutual responsible position with all living and non...

External links