Masters student Ms Kholosa Magudu at work in
the field.

UKZN Masters student Ms Kholosa Magudu was recently awarded the prestigious World Wildlife Fund’s Prince Bernhard Scholarship for Nature Conservation, one of only two South Africans to have received the international honour.

Magudu, currently working as a water health scientist with the Dusi uMngeni Conservation Trust (DUCT), was encouraged to apply for the scholarship earlier this year by colleagues. She says she was surprised when chosen because of the sheer number of applications the WWF receives every year from all over the world.

The scholarships are intended to support individuals from developing countries in the pursuit of formal studies or professional training in conservation. Since the award’s inception in 1991, over 330 scholarships have been awarded to individuals from more than 60 countries. In addition to covering part of Magudu’s masters’ tuition, the scholarship will enable her to attend conservation conferences.

‘Winning this award is a huge achievement for me because it means my work is recognised at international level,’ said Magudu.

Her masters’ research in Environmental Sciences is on the topic: “The Role of Naturally Functioning Ecosystems in Improving In-Stream Water Quality in Urban Areas”. According to Magudu, her project highlights the important role that naturally functioning riparian habitats play in cleaning water, and provides evidence-based results for restoring degraded rivers in urban areas.

Magudu, who is from Matatiele in the Eastern Cape, completed a BSc in Environmental Sciences with Honours in Ecological Sciences at UKZN in Pietermaritzburg. She credits her Honours supervisor Professor Colleen Downs with being a source of inspiration and support during her studies.

Her master’s research is being supervised by Professor Mathieu Rouget of the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences, who Magudu says has done a sterling job with academic guidance, creating more opportunities and offering financial and moral support when it’s most needed. Her co-supervisor is Dr Mark Graham of GroundTruth.

An internship with DUCT fuelled Magudu’s passion for aquatic ecology and freshwater science, inspiring her to pursue postgraduate studies in this area. She hopes that her study, which is being conducted for use by the eThekwini Municipality, will contribute to decision-making and inform riparian ecosystem management practices and the restoration of riparian ecosystems in urban areas.

After she completes her masters, Magudu plans to continue with her research to PhD level, especially so that she can produce more in-depth work on water health to inform policy and practice.