SEAL Research in Southern Africa


 

Data collection Chobe National Park, BotswanaI fell in love with Africa on my very first trip to Botswana and Namibia during the summer of 2006, on our first National Science Foundation IGERT 7-week field course at the University of Florida. I decided that the region and its natural resources issues we were familiarizing ourselves with were extremely interesting to me and began pursuing funding to do my own research work. I was fortunate to work under the supervision of incredible and supportive people, like Dr. Mark Brown in Environmental Engineering and Dr. Michael Binford in Geography and two years later obtained funding from the NSF (Dissertation Improvement Grant) to look at the impact of different drivers of ecosystem change on socio-ecological resilience in a transboundary savanna watershed in southern Africa. Ever since, I have been interested in finding means to disentangle the influence of natural variability (in the form of precipitation, runoff and fire variability and seasonality) from land management decisions in the context of differentially-managed land units. This is a rather daunting task given the inherent complexity and inter-related human-natural dynamics in the semi-arid savannas of southern Africa and work that truly requires the establishment of collaborative research networks to fully address the issues at hand. I have published results from this work in various journal articles in the Journal of Environmental Management, Journal of Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, several book chapters or contributions to other reports.

My work in southern Africa has been one of the most difficult and yet rewarding research experiences of my life so far. From having initially pursued a couple different PhD dissertation topics and shifting focus with continued exposure to the region and the stakeholders’ needs, to having developed a project that aimed at being interdisciplinary as per the explicit focus of our IGERT program, to having performed fieldwork in challenging conditions that included hyena attacks, being charged by elephants, or stepping on Black Mamba snakes, it has been a learning experience that taught me much about not only research, but life more generally. I owe so much of my success at University of Florida to my beloved mentor Dr. Mark Brown who has unconditionally supported me through my changes of topics, advisors and the general intricacies of navigating being an international student and a graduate student with responsibilities to both the IGERT program and my home department in Geography. His leadership, brilliance, and kindness have taught me much about balancing being a visionary and being practical, as well as about an effective mentorship style which I am actively further developing and polishing.

Newly-funded research project: National Science Foundation Geography and Spatial Science (GSS): Land Systems Dynamics, Vulnerability and Adaptation in a Transfrontier Conservation Area. PI: Andrea Gaughan (U of Lousiville), Co-Is: Narcisa G. Pricope (UNCW), Forrest Stevens (U Louisville) and Joel Hartter (UC Boulder). $325,000 for May 2016 – May 2019.

To find out the latest information about the progress we are making on this project, please visit the project website: http://kazava.weebly.com/

And here is a link to a video summarizing our 2017 fieldwork season in Namibia and Botswana: UNCW: Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences - Home

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