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16.10.06
Cornish brains come home to boost research at Tremough

The appointment of four top academics to the University of Exeter at the Tremough campus, Penryn, is making Cornwall a UK hot-spot for research in ecology and conservation.

Dr Jonathan Blount, who grew up in Newquay, Professor Richard Ffrench-Constant, from Truro, David Hosken, an Australian whose ancestors came from Gulval and Dr Tom Tregenza from Relubbus, near Penzance have all joined the University of Exeter's Biosciences team at Tremough during the last year.

"The department is going from strength to strength and is now one of the top ecology groups in Europe," says Centre Director Prof Matthew Evans. "We have received over £5m of new research grants in the last two years and our student numbers have gone up by 35% this year. Tremough is the perfect location for our research – we have fantastic new facilities and are also surrounded by some of the UK's most captivating and scientifically-important natural environments."

For Dr Tom Tregenza, whose family has lived in Mousehole for hundreds of years, the opportunity to return to his home county and join one of the UK's leading biology research centres was a dream come true. "I've lived all over the UK and in Australia, but as a Cornishman I only feel at home in Cornwall," says Dr Tregenza, who now lives in Falmouth. "It's very exciting to be part of the very strong intellectual tradition that Cornwall has enjoyed over the centuries by being part of this world-class research team at Tremough."

Dr David Hosken is enjoying his new life in Cornwall and treading on the footsteps of his Cornish ancestors, who left Gulval for Australia four generations ago.

Professor Ffrench-Constant has moved back to Feock where his house overlooks the home of his grandfather, Dr Charles Frederick Ffrench-Constant, who was the first radiographer at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro. "I lived in the USA for 13 years and never thought I would be able to come back to the village where I grew up while continuing my academic career," says Professor Ffrench-Constant. "The Tremough campus has made it possible for people like me to return to the region, as well as attracting expertise from all around the world and that can only be a good thing for Cornwall."

Dr Jonathan Blount is originally from Helford, but moved to Newquay and went to school there. After studying in Plymouth, Bangor and Glasgow, he worked in Mauritius and around the UK, including a four-year-stint at Newquay Zoo. "It's fantastic to be back in Cornwall, in such a superb setting for biological research and teaching. It's a real pleasure to teach biology here – it's impossible not to be inspired by the natural surroundings," he says. "Today Cornwall is a very exciting place to be, it's becoming more cosmopolitan and there are many more opportunities here now, but it has not lost its unique identity."

The Biosciences team at Tremough focuses its research into animal behaviour, ecology and conservation and evolutionary biology and its facilities include Cornwall's only molecular biology laboratory. Recent research projects have focused on tracking endangered marine turtles, 'de-coding' the genes that colour butterflies' wings and monitoring basking sharks off the south-west tip of Cornwall. Over the coming year, the department is expanding again and hopes to make several more new appointments in the next few months.

The £86.2 million Tremough campus is a Combined Universities in Cornwall initiative of which the University of Exeter and University College Falmouth are two of the founding partners. It is funded mainly by the European Union (Objective One), the South West Regional Development Agency and the Higher Education Funding Council for England, with support from Cornwall County Council. Set in 70 acres of countryside, but close to the waterside towns of Penryn and Falmouth, the campus offers a lively student community. The University of Exeter is expanding its courses available to include Politics, Law and History to existing degrees in Mining Engineering, Geology, Biology, Geography, English and Renewable Energy.

For more information please contact Sarah Hoyle at the University of Exeter on 01392 262062 or email: S.Hoyle@exeter.ac.uk.

The Objective One Programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has invested in the Combined Universities in Cornwall (CUC) project, both Phase 1 and Phase 2 through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF). The University of Exeter is a partner in the CUC.

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Editor's notes:

 

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Clare Morgan
Media Relations Manager
Objective One Partnership Office
Castle House
Pydar Street
Truro TR1 2UD
Mobile: 07973 813647
Telephone: 01872 223439

cmorgan@cornwall.gov.uk

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