The prize is sponsored by the Anne French Memorial Trust, who have sponsored an annual Bishop’s Art Prize with the Norwich University of the Arts (NUA) in previous years. The trustees were keen to continue the arts award but also to have a prize with the University of East Anglia (UEA). The discipline of ecology was chosen because of Bishop Graham’s background and interest in the subject.
The UEA chose the recipient of the award from among the postgraduate students in their ecology department. The first recipient of the award, Benjamin Cole, was selected for his outstanding master’s dissertation. Benjamin is originally from Norfolk, got his undergraduate degree from Leicester, and then returned to do a master’s degree at the UEA.
Benjamin is researching the impact of heatwaves on insect reproduction – both pollinators and pests – and how they and we can adapt to the changes in insect population this causes from year to year. Through his research, he has been investigating how different species of insect are affected differently by the same or similar conditions. This kind of research could show the impact of global warming on ecosystems as well as influence agricultural practices in the future.
On receiving his award, Benjamin said: “I am so grateful for the award, so thank you very much for this. It means a lot to have the work recognised in this way and really fuels my enthusiasm for the subject and practical application for my research.”
Jenny Gill, Professor of Applied Ecology at UEA said: “It is truly wonderful to have ecology recognised like this, we are so grateful. We were also very pleased to be able to award the prize to the student with the strongest research project as the project is such a core part of what they do and really springboards them into the next phase of their research and career.”
The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham Usher, said: “I’m delighted to present the first Bishop of Norwich Ecology Prize to Benjamin Cole in recognition of his excellent dissertation in the applied conservation ecology area. Having originally trained as an ecologist I am all too aware that we need people to be researching and being passionate about exploring and protecting our single island planet home. As a Christian, I am called to live out a care for creation so I’m very happy to be encouraging endeavours such as this.”
This prize will be awarded annually to a student of ecology at the UEA with the hope that this will encourage future research.