The UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH) has provided scientific expertise and donated personal protective equipment (PPE) to support the emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The UK government considers real-time data on pollution to be essential to the ongoing evaluation of health risks during the pandemic because of the potential impact on respiratory illnesses, and UKCEH has provided emissions data and analysis as part of its National Capability programmes. Air pollution levels during the lockdown period also provide valuable evidence on how air quality might change as sources are reduced, for example as part of the UK’s transition to net zero greenhouse gas emissions.

UKCEH has responded to a call from the Air Quality Expert Group (AQEG), an advisory committee to Defra, for evidence on how air pollutant emissions and air quality have changed during the pandemic.

This has included providing data and analysis on ammonia concentrations from Auchencorth Moss atmospheric observatory near Edinburgh ­and other sites within the UK rural air quality monitoring networks that UKCEH coordinates for the Environment Agency. It has also provided evidence on changes in carbon dioxide and methane emissions in London, based on measurements from our observatory at the BT Tower.

Meanwhile, Professor Chris Huntingford, a climate change modeller at UKCEH, has contributed his mathematical expertise to a project, led by Oxford University, on modelling optimum strategies for releasing the population from the lockdown.

UKCEH has also submitted urgency grants to the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) for planned COVID-19 related research studies.

In addition to this expertise, UKCEH has donated thousands of items of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to NHS workers dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Our sites in Wallingford, Lancaster, Edinburgh and Bangor have given items to local frontline health workers, and UKCEH has also provided a DNA sequencing machine for use at a COVID-19 diagnostic testing centre in Milton Keynes. Several UKCEH scientists have signed up to voluntary laboratory support schemes, offering to help with testing.

We really cannot thank you enough for helping protect our crew during these unprecedented times - Samantha Collier of Thames Valley Air Ambulance

PPE donated includes face masks, several thousand pairs of gloves, plus spray suits, aprons, overshoe covers, disinfectant and bins for disposable sharp objects. Individual donations included 1,500 face masks, which were received from two partner institutes in China ­- Yunnan University and the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences. These were given to the Thames Valley Air Ambulance based at Benson, Oxfordshire. The other health centres to receive various PPE items from UKCEH were the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, Royal Lancaster Infirmary, Gwynedd Hospital in Bangor, Edinburgh University Medical School, and Goring and Woodcote GP Surgery.

Professor Mark Bailey, Executive Director of UKCEH, says: “I am delighted with the way our staff have responded to the COVID-19 emergency, both in terms of providing data and expert analysis in collaboration with partners, as well as donating vital protective equipment to frontline health workers.

“UKCEH has been keen to support and help protect the UK’s fantastic NHS staff, as well as their patients, during these extremely challenging times. We are particularly grateful to our friends at Yunnan University and the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences for their generous donations of face masks.”

In a note of thanks to UKCEH, Samantha Collier, Corporate Partnerships Manager at Thames Valley Air Ambulance, says: “We really cannot thank you enough for helping protect our crew during these unprecedented times. This PPE does not just mean that our crew are better protected, it also reduces the risks of transmission of the virus to the patients we are treating, as well as the families of crew, who they return home to.”