University of Reading Research Blog

As sea levels rise, are we ready to live behind giant walls?

Climate change, it’s fair to say, is complicated. And it’s big. One of the main challenges of responding effectively is simply getting your head around the scale of the problem.

Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash (more…)

Rewilding: lessons from the medieval Baltic crusades

The Forest of Białowieża, which straddles the border of Poland and Belarus, is unique in Europe: it is incredibly ancient. Woodland has been continuously present there for some 12,000 years. With the protection of 6059 hectares from human disturbance within the Polish national park, as well as the return of its iconic European bison herds from the brink of extinction, the forest is widely regarded as a model for restoring biodiversity or “rewilding”, which areas across Europe are trying to emulate.

© Magnus Elander, Author provided, (no reuse)


Coronavirus: learning from the second world war’s industrial pioneers

Wars often generate “inspirational” tales of underdogs overcoming insurmountable odds. But the heroes in question are normally soldiers, risking their lives behind enemy lines. They don’t usually sit in a board room, or design musical instruments and furniture, or run a company which produces kitchen tiles. But that is exactly what some of the unlikely heroes of the second world war did – before they turned their firms upside down and inside out to create wooden fighter-bombers, harbours, airfields and ocean pipelines for the Allied forces.


Five eye-catching graphic novels that define the genre

Even for English professor, David Brauner, who teaches about the graphic novel, compiling an all-time top five list is challenging. It’s not just the way that such a list is compiled, making agonising decisions over which favourites to exclude, but also because it raises tricky questions of definition. That the term refers not just to fiction but to life-writing, as in all manner of memoirs, diaries and so on, is accepted – but beyond that there is little consensus. Here he chooses five books that he regards as central to the graphic novel canon – that are both immediately arresting and also reward repeated re-reading.

Graphic novel, photo by Ginnerobot via flickr CC BY-SA 2.0


The whole idea of global value chains will be reconsidered after coronavirus

In 2015 the Cameron government struck an unprecedented deal with French and Chinese companies to build a nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset, south-west England. The deal now looks like the high point in the UK’s embrace of globalisation. Having begun more than a century ago, globalisation gathered pace in recent decades on the back of everything from freer trade to the reduced power of British trade unions.

Underlying this was the notion of the value chain, the idea that different companies add value to raw materials at each stage in the production process until they become finished goods. Generally speaking, each stage is more lucrative than the last and, in recent years, the stages have been spread across continents and countries. But this has been turned on its head by Covid-19, argues Economics professor, Uma Kambhampati.

Containers ready for shipping around the world. Image by Pexels via Pixabay


Tiger King: why can’t we just release America’s captive tigers into the wild?

The recent Netflix series Tiger King begins with a shocking statistic: the captive tiger population in the US of 7,000 or so is almost double the total wild population of around 3,900. With tigers now endangered and reduced to living in just a tiny fraction of their former habitat, why not relocate these captive animals to their natural home?

This might sound like a good solution, but the reality is not so clear cut. Zoologist, Tara Pirie who has both researched big cats in the wild and cared for them in (well-regulated) zoos, and argues that these tigers have minimal conservation value.

White Tiger in captivity, picture by SusuMa, Pixabay


How to discover the wildlife wonders of your own garden

Being stuck at home during lockdown could be a golden opportunity to reset your connection with nature say ecologists Mark Fellowes and Ian Rotherham. If you’re lucky, you’ll still have access to a garden. Over 85% of homes in the UK have one, but if you don’t, hopefully there’s a park nearby. Take time to just sit, watch and learn.

blue tit on feeder
Blue tit in feeder, Photo: Mark Fellowes


New websites to boost Collections-based research

New portal and collections websites have been launched that aim to transform research and teaching access to the University’s museums and collections. Developed out of recent University investment in supporting collections research, the new platforms highlight how these resources play an increasingly important part in many areas of research and in enriching teaching and learning for our students.

banner with images from collections


Coronavirus: the danger of latex gloves

In a recent post for The Conversation, Simon Clarke outlines why, in most cases, wearing latex gloves isn’t a good alternative to hand-washing. 

box of latex gloves


Fuller for longer? How appetite research is used – and misused

Has comfort eating become a pre-occupation for you during lockdown? Find out what we know about the science of our desire to eat and the myths around appetite-supressing foods in this article by Dr Miriam Clegg, Lecturer in Nutritional Sciences, and colleague Suzanne Zuremba (University of Dundee), first published in The Conversation.

There are plenty of adverts and websites that promise to share secrets on how to suppress appetite, or which foods will keep hunger at bay. Protein drinks are frequently sold with the promise of meeting these expectations. (more…)