Loddon Catchment Consultancy forges links between undergraduate students, staff and local organisations to address real-world research questions that bring benefits to the local environment and its residents alike.

When students apply their knowledge and skills through volunteering in an authentic work-based setting, their understanding, confidence and employability grows. For local organisations, collaborating with University students and staff opens a door to the knowledge, skills and facilities that the institution has to offer. By working together, a mutually beneficial, collaborative relationship evolves.

This is the premise and experience of Loddon Catchment Consultancy, a research collaboration with local community partners. Students work with staff members and a partner organisation to co-design and carry out research projects to explore social and environmental challenges. Undergraduates from Geography and Environmental Science and Agriculture have worked with a wide range of clients including Wokingham Borough Council, Southeast Water and Loddon Fisheries Conservation and Consultative. They are also supported by Typography students and staff, who design a brand for their work.  Across the Loddon catchment in 2018 alone, students’ research has informed drainage management, natural flood management and plans for ‘ecosystem services’, such as pollination.

Success breeds success, and organisations actively approach Loddon Catchment Consultancy with questions and ideas, initiating many of the projects themselves. Engaging students in real projects supports further research work between partners and the University. The module is also popular with students. They benefit from working with experts on real-world problems, helping them to develop professional skills for future employment.

Partners: Wokingham Borough Council, Southeast Rivers Trust, Southeast Water, Loddon Fisheries Conservation and Consultative, Swallowfield Flood Resilience Group
Judges’ comment: This is a great example of how the University can benefit local organisations by providing student project support in areas that might not otherwise be resourced.