STRATEGIC PLAN – 2012/13

STRATEGIC PLAN – 2012/13

1 INTRODUCTION

The Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine (BAHCM) was created in August 2010 as a result of the University's restructure.   It comprises staff from the former Faculty of Biomedical Life Sciences and Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.   The main research themes are:

  • Infectious diseases
  • Responses to environmental change
  • Animal health, welfare, food security
  • Evolutionary analysis

The Institute is part of the College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences.


2 VISION/MISSION

The mission of the Institute is to contribute to the University's aim of enhancing its position as one of the world's great, broad based, research intensive universities.   The Institute will do this by delivering excellence in research and teaching, developing research leaders of the future and providing high quality facilities for research and teaching.


3 NARRATIVE

This is a multidisciplinary Institute that integrates Glasgow's substantial research expertise in animal biology and ecology with that in comparative and veterinary medicine.  Research will span studies from the genomic and cellular levels to individuals, populations, species and ecosystems. The need for a holistic approach such as this has never been more pressing, given the threat posed by rapid environmental change and human population increase. We need to understand the interdependence among animal and human populations, ecosystems and the environment, and the nature of, and consequences for, disease pathogenesis and transmission, food security, and species and habitat conservation. This is a unique Research Institute within the UK that will link research on animal diseases, production and welfare with ecological and evolutionary approaches. It is driven by the need to create multidisciplinary teams to address some of the major research challenges in relation to environmental change, emerging diseases and the conservation of biodiversity.  This Institute meets national and global agendas linking environmental change, food security, infectious diseases, and animal and ecosystem health. It closely fits the research priorities of major funders such as the Research Councils (BBSRC, NERC and MRC), DEFRA and the Wellcome Trust.


4 RESEARCH THEMES
 
The Institute has adopted four complementary research priorities (see below) that will integrate researchers across the Institute, and link to other research activities within the College and the wider University. Staff will contribute to more than one theme.

4.1 Infectious Diseases 
The Institute will occupy a unique niche in the UK in a holistic programme of fundamental research on infectious diseases of animals.  Activities will benefit from strategic alliances that have already been established with government-funded institutions focused on animal infectious diseases such as the Institute for Animal Health, the MRC National Institute for Medical Research and the Moredun Research Institute. It will also link to researchers within and outwith the College (eg bio-mathematicians and engineering). 

4.2 Responses to Environmental Change
Climate change, habitat loss, renewable energy developments, increasing natural hazards, pollution and over-exploitation of natural resources are having profound effects on biodiversity and human and animal health. This programme of work will integrate studies at mechanistic and functional levels.   We will capitalise and develop our laboratory and field research on the effects of environmental variability on growth and reproductive strategies.   This is complemented by work on physiological and molecular processes that underpin life history variation. This theme can extend into the College of Science and Engineering through the Sustainability Network.

4.3 Animal Health, Welfare and Food Security
We will integrate research in genetics, animal physiology, and reproduction with the safe and sustainable production of foodstuffs taking account of animal health and welfare.  This programme will extend existing collaborations with the Veterinary School and with government agencies (DEFRA), external institutes (eg The James Hutton and Moredun Research Institute) and commercial companies involved in animal food production and safety.

4.4 Evolutionary Analysis
We will exploit recent rapid advances in sequencing technology to expand research that used to be focused on individual genes to the whole genome scale. Building on our existing strengths, we will develop research programmes directed at understanding the basis of adaptation to changing abiotic and biotic environments, resistance evolution, mating systems, and the implications of assessing biodiversity and population genetics across whole genomes. We will work with researchers in other areas of the University including the Glasgow Polyomics Facility in particular to develop quantitative tools and human resources necessary to handle and visualise the large amounts of data inherent to this scale of approach and will continue to develop new computer programmes and phyloinformatic tools to facilitate data analysis.  

4.5 We will initiate new programmes and further develop existing research activities in all of these areas with a particular focus on locally-based research assets and opportunities, for example The University Field Station (Scottish Centre for Ecology and the Natural Environment), the research farm (at Cochno) and the marine biological station at Millport.  We will also be growing our science with collaborators in other parts of the University (particularly the medically oriented schools and institutes) and other universities and organisations in and around Glasgow.   We will prioritise the allocation of internally available resources (for example studentships, equipment funding) in order to develop this science and create environments attractive to research fellows, mindful of the need to 'pump-prime' and strengthen track record prior to seeking larger-scale funding.


5 INTERACTIONS WITH OTHER INSTITUTES/CENTRES/COLLEGES

This Institute will have a strong comparative perspective that is very complementary to institutes in the College focused primarily on human medicine, but will develop a strategy to grow links with the medical community (to match the powerful axis already in place with veterinary medicine) within and around the University. Being more "organismal" in focus will complement the biological/molecular/ cell-based studies in Integrative and Systems Biology.   Staff will be actively engaged with other institutes through multi-institute centres such as the Centre for Virology, the Boyd Orr Centre, the Wellcome Centre for Molecular Parasitology and the Glasgow Polyomics Facility. It is anticipated that we will develop further links with other colleges within the University via the Sustainability Network.   We will enhance collaborations outwith the University both locally (eg Strathclyde University) in the areas of environmental and fisheries modelling, and internationally (e.g. through our partnership in the Wellcome Trusts African Institutes Initiative), and our many research programmes based in sub-Saharan Africa.


6 POST GRADUATE TEACHING

In addition to the existing five Masters programmes offered by the combined staff, we have created two new MSc programmes in Quantitative methods in Biodiversity, Conservation and Epidemiology and Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law. Post-graduate training programmes will be used to cement the activities of the Institute. The BBSRC 4-Year PhD Programme in Comparative Medicine will fit this Institute perfectly, with its focus on Animal Infectious Diseases, Pathology and Epidemiology/Mathematical modelling. The Institute will also be strongly positioned to contribute to the new DTP recently awarded by the BBSRC.  We have already negotiated with BBSRC to be designated as a "Training Centre in Comparative Medicine" and the initial response was very favourable. We envisage similar initiatives in the areas of quantitative ecology and epidemiology areas.

We are part of a joint EU project with the Loughs Agency in Derry and Queen's University in Belfast on 'Integrated Resource Management between Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland'.  This four year, £6m project will deliver an extensive package of research training to PhD (12) and masters level (24).   Seven of the PhD students and 14 Masters students will be based at this Institute.


7 INTERNATIONALISATION

The Institute is in a strong position to contribute to the University's internationalisation agenda, primarily through our track record in capacity building and the development of long-term sustainable research partnerships with institutions in sub-Saharan Africa and Tanzania in particular.  We view these (mostly Tier 2 and 3) partnerships as real investment opportunities as the downstream returns are (and will continue to be) excellent research opportunities in a particularly well-funded sector.  The recent establishment of The Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology in Arusha offers the Institute a high-profile opportunity to develop potentially Tier 1 partnership that will be explored over the next two years.