Placement Opportunities at the Environment Agency

Possible work experience topics – working with Environment Agency and Natural England in Horizon House, Bristol (Contact: Peter Bailey, Social Science Manager, Environment Agency)

All the following projects would be hosted in the Environment Agency’s Economic and Social Science team. Many of the team are based in Bristol. The day-to-day work would be topic dependant.  The work experience would also involve working with other staff in the Environment Agency in head office or operations (field staff) and/or staff in Natural England.

Recovery from flooding

What factors enable a place to recover successfully from a flood event? And what explains why other places may struggle? This work would examine this informed by recent academic & government work on community resilience. The scope could include case study field work in places that have flooded and working with Environment Agency field staff.

People living in places with a flood history

Despite repeated flood events, people often continue to live in towns and villages with high levels of flood risk. This work would explore peoples’ experiences of such places, why they continue to stay there or choose to move in. It would look at such issues as cultural and emotional attachment to place, public understanding of risk and perceptions of local property market factors including the cost and availability of property insurance.

Case studies on the natural, social & human capital benefits of water catchment working

What are the actual impacts in communities from efforts to improve natural environments in a collaborative way? Do people use these spaces more often? What are the impacts in terms of health and wellbeing, levels of community engagement and cultural activity? Catchment Partnerships as part of the Catchment Based Approach (CaBA) initiative have been working for several years towards these ends. Environment Agency needs write-ups of actual, detailed and measured data on these wider benefits post-project to support development of policy and practice on the catchment approach for water management.

Behaviours and action to improve water quality in one or more sectors

There is a social science evidence base about behaviours of farmers and landowners but other sectors that influence the water environment are less well understood from a social and behavioural perspective. This piece of work would look at a sector (or sectors) that is a stakeholder in planning and/or has an impact upon the water environment. It would develop a behavioural ‘profile’ for the sector including enablers and barriers to action. Potential sectors include local government, water companies, ports and anglers.

Changing regulation and potential deregulation of water management post-EU membership

Where are the opportunities for new regulatory or deregulatory approaches (e.g. more effective options, more efficient ways of working)? Or are there areas where it is worth keeping and developing the current regulatory approach to water management (e.g. when existing ways of working are effective). The work would involve developing options and analysing their effectiveness & efficiency for delivering public policy outcomes for the water environment.

Health benefits and NHS savings from improving access, use and management of the water environment

There is a large evidence base on health benefits of the environment. Building upon existing work inside and outside the Environment Agency, what does this mean in terms of NHS treatment costs (avoided)? The work could also examine the same issue (NHS treatment costs avoided) for flood risk management. Including in this work is how such evidence could help in decision-making in the EA.

Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment Survey (MENE)

Natural England’s MENE has been running since 2009/10 and collects information about the ways that people engage with the natural environment such as visiting the countryside, enjoying green spaces in towns and cities, watching wildlife and volunteering to help protect the natural environment. It has become a leading source of data about people and the natural environment and underpins new policy across the natural environment sector. We are about to start a formal review of our MENE survey – this includes the method (shifting from a face to face to online method), scope and governance arrangements. Two possible areas of work include inputting into the review of survey methods and undertaking a review about how we make better use of MENE data within Natural England.

Scoping programme of work on behaviour change in Natural England

Behaviour change is a relatively new area of work for Natural England and there is currently considerable interest in how we might use behavioural insights to inform strategy and delivery. This work will directly support Natural England’s new Conservation Strategy. We are interested in a range of behaviours including those of farmers or land managers, beneficiaries of ecosystem services, local communities, organisations and customers. A key task is to scope a programme of work on behaviour change.  The work is likely to involve undertaking evidence reviews, discussions with Area Teams and supporting the Senior Specialist to develop a programme of work on behaviour change.

Case studies to support the Conservation Strategy

Natural England published a new Conservation Strategy in 2016 – a key theme of the strategy is putting ‘People at the Heart’ of the natural environment. We are interested in developing a set of case studies to support the development of this strand – these could for both research and communication purposes. Key tasks are likely to involve developing guidance and templates on case studies, identifying potential case studies and undertaking research to populate. We’d also be interested in exploring how we can make better use of case studies from a research perspective, for example undertaking cross case analysis.