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The Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences

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The Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) is a world class research and education centre based at Aberystwyth University.

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The Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences  

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IBERS provides a unique research base that supports food security, bioenergy, and sustainable land use - all of which face a range of conflicting demands, both now and in a future of predicted climate change.

Following reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, the UK Government is committed to promoting multifunctional land and water use in order to drive economic growth, encourage sustainable food and energy production and consumption, and to protect the environment and support rural communities. IBERS' provides the research base to deliver these targets and facilitate the effective management of finite land and resources.

Gogerddan will be the location for IBERS’ new phenomics facility and the centrepiece of a new Institute for International Plant Breeding. Image: IBERS
Gogerddan will be the location for IBERS' new phenomics facility and the centrepiece of a new Institute for International Plant Breeding. Copyright: IBERS

IBERS represents a step change in the capacity and multidisciplinarity needed to provide answers to the important biological and environmental questions facing sustainable land use in the future. A distinctive feature of IBERS' work is the integration of research linking fundamental plant genomics and biology to plant breeding, the animals that consume the plant forages, the microbial populations within the gut that digest them, and the bioreactors that are used to transform plant products into useable fuels.

This 'whole systems' approach to sustainable land-use is founded on the synergy and crosspollination between three interrelated core research themes which aim to:

Genome diversity and plant breeding

  • Develop a predictive understanding of the mechanisms underlying variation in plant phenotype arising from changes to the structure and function of the genome
  • Use pre-existing forms of genetic diversity and inter-specific hybridisation to identify, characterise and utilise novel alleles for deployment in knowledge-based breeding programmes that address the needs of climate change mitigation and adaptation, and food security

Biorenewables and environmental change

  • Provide practical solutions for the mitigation of climate change including the development of dedicated, high-yield energy and industry crops as well as biofuel conversion technologies
  • To understand the impacts of environmental change on plants, including developing a mechanistic understanding of plant stress tolerance focusing on signalling dynamics, the impacts on plant interactions, and identifying predictive metabolite biomarkers for environmental stress

Animal and microbial biology

  • Improve our understanding of animal-microbial interactions and their environment in order to reduce the environmental impact of animal production systems and promote human health
  • Exploit recent advances in cell culture, genomic and post-genomic technologies to reveal factors that limit reproductive efficiency, and to develop strategies based on molecular markers to improve conventional livestock breeding programmes
  • Develop systems-based approaches to understand how individual microorganisms as well as complex microbial populations function in natural ecosystems
A new build at Penglais will be the focal point for research, teaching and a graduate school housed in a flagship facility. Image: IBERS
A new build at Penglais will be the focal point for research, teaching and a graduate school housed in a flagship facility. Copyright: IBERS

IBERS has a strong track record of collaborative working and recognises the importance of multidisciplinary approaches with both academic and industrial partners. A key distinctive feature of IBERS is the integration of research into commercially successful plant breeding programmes that have considerable impact on farms.

In order to support continued development, IBERS is undertaking a far reaching strategic capital investment programme which includes the development of new phenomics and translational genomics facilities. This investment will ensure that IBERS continues to make distinctive and important contributions to BBSRC priorities in food security, plant breeding and biorenewables.