Ms Nantale Nsibirwa, a masters candidate in UKZN’s Discipline of Hydrology, was awarded the prestigious KwaZulu-Natal Premier’s Award at the 6th annual Symposium of Contemporary Conservation Practice(SCCP) held on 9 November.

The purpose of this years’ Symposium was to explore the practice, science and value of nature conservation and to chart a renewed path towards addressing conservation challenges of the current era.

The Symposium is an initiative of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZNW) in partnership with WILDLANDS, the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), the Environmental Law Association, the University of KwaZulu-Nataland the University of Zululand. The SCCP aims to develop synergies between conservation implementation and research. This year’s edition saw the launch of a new marine programme, WILDOCEANS, in addition to its focus on the terrestrial environment.

The WILDLANDS-sponsored KZN Premier’s Award is conferred on a student from the province based on their oral presentation at the Symposium as well as a presentation made to a panel of judges before the event. The award involves financial assistance to attend any relevant international (winner) and national (runner up) conference in the next 12 months.

‘Winning the award came as a surprise to me and I am truly honoured, said Nsibirwa.

Nsibirwa’s research concerns identifying the source areas and transport pathways of diffuse pollution (pollution originating from the catchment land surface transported into rivers via runoff rather than a point source) in the uMngeni Catchment. She explained that this involves developing maps that aid efforts to conserve ecological infrastructure by identifying areas in the catchment with a high risk of contributing to the diffuse pollution problem.

Ms Samantha Hofmeyr, an Honours student from the School of Life Sciences, received the runner up prize for her work on the impacts of Scuba diver activity on the coral reefs of Sodwana Bay.

‘The standard of presentations this year were commended by the adjudication panel, but Nsibirwa’s  presentation was exceptional and therefore made her a well-deserving recipient,’ said Ms Nikara Mahadeo, WILDLANDS Deputy Director.

‘She delivered her presentation with confidence and a great understanding of her work,’ added Mahadeo. ‘Her research is also of significance to the practice of catchment management, particularly in the light of the pressures and constraints that our critical water resources are under.’

‘The real value of the award does not lie only in the opportunity for the winning student to attend an international conference, but in getting input from an extremely knowledgeable and respected panel,’ said Dr Roelie Kloppers, WILDLANDS Executive Director.

Kloppers thanked WILDLANDS patron Dr George Hughes, UKZN’s Dr Michelle Tedder and Mr Roger Porter for their assistance in judging the student presentations for the award.

Once she has completed her masters, Nsibirwa hopes to become involved in work that closely relates to water development issues. She acknowledged her supervisor, Professor Graham Jewitt, and her family and friends for their invaluable support.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photographs: Kirsten Oliver, WILDLANDS