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International Award for Biodiversity Living Lab Programme

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Living Lab

The University of Leeds has been recognised for its unique approach to transferability and interdisciplinary collaboration.

At the International Sustainable Campus Network (ISCN) Awards 2021 the Urban Biodiversity Monitoring Programme, part of the Leeds Living Lab, received the Partnerships for Progress Award.

The award recognises how the programme brings together an interdisciplinary group of staff and students from our University community to collaborate in addressing global issues at a local scale. The ISCN is an association of more than 80 colleges and universities from more than 30 countries, which aims to support the global higher education sector as a leader in sustainability.

Thom Cooper, Sustainability Manager at Leeds, said

Winning this award is fantastic recognition for our collaborative approach to addressing sustainability at the University. I’m particularly pleased that a project which has been driven so enthusiastically by our students, in collaboration with both academic and operational colleagues, has been so impactful.

The Urban Biodiversity Monitoring Programme seeks to understand how urban landscapes can be used innovatively to find solutions to problems and aid decision making for campus development. An interdisciplinary partnership was created between the Sustainability Service and the faculties of Environment and Biological Sciences as well as employing student ‘ambassadors’, to train volunteers.  The University is committed to becoming exemplars of urban biodiversity, recognising the important role of our cities in building resilience to the climate crisis.

The programme is completely transferable to any urban site. It engages with volunteers with any level of understanding of species so that they can actively play a part in urban planning whilst at the same time, build their own knowledge and understanding of the wildlife around them through research-led learning.

The work is already receiving international recognition from University partners in Japan and the USA as well as more locally with other Leeds institutions. It has been shared at the Club of Rome United Nations Youth Summit and will be presented at the ISCN conference later this year.

The key aims of the work are to:

  • Co-create and establish three survey transects on the city campus.
  • To provide students with the opportunity to engage with and influence the sustainable management of the campus.
  • Link activities to improved staff and student wellbeing.
  • Analyse and report periodically to the University’s biodiversity group to inform campus development plans.

Throughout 2019, this informed campus developments, such as access works on St. George’s Field, where data was used to protect and enhance key habitats, and through increased staff engagement where regular species reports have provided ongoing insight into progress.

Going forward, the plan is to integrate the Leeds Living Lab further into our sustainable research and teaching, and to work collaboratively with our internal and external community to address local and global sustainability challenges.

Leeds is no stranger to the ISCN Awards, having won in 2019 for the whole systems approach of the Leeds Sustainable Curriculum.


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United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

We use the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework to guide our activity. Our work on biodiversity is linked to all of the SDGs.

Find out more about our impact on the SDGs.