Thursday, 13 October 2016, 6:00PM - 7:00PM
Barnard's Inn Hall

Scratching the Surface? Looking from Space at Human Impact on Earth

Professor Carolyn Roberts

Recent developments in space technology have allowed us to view the Earth in new ways, and to identify our impact on land, atmosphere, oceans and freshwater in astonishing detail. Our planet’s fragility as a life support system is being revealed today in ways that would not have been anticipated even twenty years ago. 

The lecture will explore some of the science behind these observations, show a range of the curious and beautiful imagery being generated, and ask questions about the opportunities and risks of this type of environmental surveillance.


No reservations are required for this lecture. It will be run on a ‘first come, first served’ basis.
Doors will open 30 minutes before the start of the lecture.

Professor Carolyn Roberts is the first Frank Jackson Professor of the Environment at Gresham College. She is also a Senior Scientist at the UK Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN), which links business and universities in order to promote research and innovation in environmental technologies.

Prior to taking up her role at KTN in March 2014, Professor Roberts was Director of the Environmental Sustainability Knowledge Transfer Network (ESKTN) based at the University of Oxford, which was one of the units from which the newly created KTN was formed. Before this she was was Co-Director of the Centre for Active Learning (CeAL), one of the UK’s national Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, at the University of Gloucestershire.

As a water resource management specialist, Professor Roberts’ main interests lie in the minimising of direct environmental impacts of development activity on the water environment, for example in mining, waste disposal, construction or similar activities. She has a long history of engagement in hydrological consultancy work for public and private agencies in this area, but most of all she enjoys introducing people to applied hydrological problems such as human impacts on the water environment.  Her work creates powerful links between ‘real world problems’ and learning.   The strangest research can generate the most fascinating material for learning in this area, such as the tracking of the movement of corpses in rivers (for the police) and advising local government on flood management (after the UK’s 2007 inundations), which have both proved notably motivating issues. Professor Roberts is also fascinated by the institutional change process in higher education, especially in relation to sustainable development, and teaching and learning policies.

As well as innumerable academic papers, Professor Roberts has authored, joint authored and edited four books with broadly pedagogic themes. She has spoken around the world on water management and sustainability-related projects undertaken in the UK, Europe, North and sub-Saharan Africa, and Bangladesh, and increasingly on the issues and challenges of science communication. She is national Chair of the Society for the Environment, Vice President of the Institution of Environmental Sciences, a Trustee of the Worshipful Company of Water Conservators, and was formerly Chair of the Higher Education Academy’s Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences Subject Centre Advisory Board.

In 2014 Professor Roberts became the first Frank Jackson Professor of the Environment at Gresham College, only the second time in which a new Professorship has been created at the College in over 400 years. In this role she wanted to deliver “an inspiring and challenging environmental lecture programme that will pull together audiences from different sectors, engage people, and stimulate genuine debate.” Her lectures' focussed on three main themes: the application of environmental science, innovation and collaboration.

In the 2016/15 academic year, Professor Roberts continues her professorship with a lecture series entitled A Bigger Picture: Global Scale Environmental Challenges.

Professor Roberts' previous lecture series are as follows:

2014/15 Green Complexity: Science, Innovation and Society
2015/16 Britain in Troubled Waters
2016/17 A Bigger Picture: Global Scale Environmental Challenges

All of Professor Roberts' past Gresham lectures can be accessed here.

Current Gresham Professor of Environment

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13 October 2016

Scratching the Surface? Looking from Space at Human Impact on Earth
Professor Carolyn Roberts

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