PAST and present staff at the Monks Wood environmental research laboratory have held a grand farewell party ahead of the centre's closure next year. The facility, which is now part of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), has been in existence since 1963 but will close in December 2008 as part of a restructuring process. Around 350 staff members attended the farewell party, including Dr Norman Moore, one of the original staff members at the site. Dr Moore's wife, Janet, said: "Monks Wood started off in our spare bedroom in 1960 - and grew from there." Monks Wood has earned worldwide recognition for its studies into the environmental sciences, particularly relating to climate change. Organised by the workers themselves, former staff travelled from as far afield as Aberdeen, France and Switzerland to attend. Dr Alistair Dawson, senior scientist at Monks Wood, said: "Our strengths have been in research on biodiversity, the impacts of chemicals on wildlife and, currently, the study of climate change effects. "Unfortunately, much of this expertise will be lost with the decision to close." Some staff will move to other sites, though many are taking redundancy. Last month, MP for North West Cambridgeshire Shailesh Vara paid a farewell visit to the site. He said: "The research carried out at Monks Wood is respected throughout the world. "The closure is a great loss, not only for Cambridgeshire, but also for Britain's reputation in the field.