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At a time when the environmental footprint of food production is of concern to many, Dr Lucey has dedicated her career to reducing the damaging effect that deforestation for commodities such as palm oil can have on biodiversity in the tropics.

An aerial view of deforestation

This research has provided scientifically rigorous tools, being used by industry, farmers and regulators to determine the minimum forest patch sizes that need to set aside in agricultural land to preserve biodiversity. Working with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), her NERC-funded research underpins the 'sustainable palm oil' trademark, helping consumers make informed choices and setting industry standards adopted by many of the world's largest producers, already applied across millions of hectares of land.

Dr Phil Heads, NERC's Director of Research & Innovation, who represented NERC on the Impact Awards 2018 judging panel, said: "The early-career finalists this year have both dedicated their careers to stemming the tide of worldwide deforestation and biodiversity loss, and are helping to tackle this at the largest of scales. This was a very closely contested category, and Dr Lucey's research was chosen as the winner in recognition of the large number of beneficiaries of her work, from NGOs to businesses, large and small, to individual consumers around the world. This research is also relevant to industries beyond palm oil, including pulp and paper."

Jen Lucey said: "I’m really excited to have received this award. It feels great to know that all my work with the palm oil sector has been effective in creating international impact for my research. The knowledge exchange process is a fascinating and rewarding experience, not only for ensuring that scientific evidence makes a real difference in solving the complex environmental issues we face, but also for opening up new and intriguing routes for scientific enquiry. I am delighted that my work at the science-policy interface has received this level of recognition."

Read more about Dr Jennifer Lucey's research in the Planet Earth article Protecting biodiversity in palm oil.

See a full report of the awards on the NERC website here.

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