UKZN showcases results of innovative, multidisciplinary and world-class research aimed at providing holistic solutions to very complex problems arising from changes in various earth systems at the upcoming national Conference on Global Change.
The conference is being hosted by UKZN from 5 to 8 December under the auspices of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the National Research Foundation (NRF).
‘We as an institution are encouraging our researchers to take a transdisciplinary approach towards solving some of the problems which affect our ability to pursue a sustainable future or tackle the very “wicked’ problems of global change research,’ said Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UKZN, Dr Albert van Jaarsveld.
The conference will feature a range of research by from various disciplines including Marine Biology, Atmospheric Sciences, Hydrology, Geography, Ecology, Economics and Applied Poverty Reduction.
Renowned hydrologist and researcher, Emeritus Professor Roland Schulze, will present on research done on the water-energy-food nexus.
‘When we wake up in the morning, we actually wake up in the future,’ said Schulze. ‘My research looks at the future decisions about how we need to sustain our world in terms of water, in terms of food, in terms of energy, because everything we plan at the moment is something that will come into fruition in the future.’
Atmospheric researchers in Physics at UKZN, led by Professor Sivakumar Venkataraman, will speak on atmospheric and climate data they have been measuring in Durban, including levels of air pollutants affecting the health of citizens. They are working towards improved tools to manage the environment and mitigate climate change.
Hydrological research presentations will include investigations into changing wildfire patterns; the development of satellite-based drought indices; land use impacts on water resources; models for assessing vegetative cover; improved rainfall estimations, and river flow and health.
Marine biologists will speak on results of research into coral health in intertidal pools in KZN as well as essential indicators of the health of estuaries, highly sensitive, productive and important ecosystems under stress due to human action.
Reports on Ecological research will focus on monitoring of freshwater resources, development of strategies to conserve vegetation under threat of climatic extinction, the investigation of forest regeneration, and diversity of insect and grass species in grasslands.
Meanwhile, geographers, who are using state-of-the-art geographic information system (GIS) and remote-sensing technologies, will speak on important research, including estimating urban surface temperatures.
There will also be reports on research into health concerns such as the spread of malaria under changing conditions, and how this could be modelled to control outbreaks.
With global changes set to affect the poorest most severely, a group of social scientists have also done research into poverty reduction and climate change mitigation in communities at risk in local municipalities, including work on education and policy recommendations.
The Global Change Conference is part of the Global Change Grand Challenge (GCGC), now in its 6th year of implementation.
The GCGC encourages the production of new knowledge and information in South Africa to face key grand challenges, including understanding a changing planet, reducing the human footprint, adapting the way we live, and innovation for sustainability.
Author: Christine Cuénod