Global Environmental Change Research Programme
The Global Environmental Change (GEC) Research Programme falls under the umbrella of the Durban Research Action Partnership (D’RAP), which has been established as a broad-based partnership between the University of KwaZulu-Natal and eThekwini Municipality. This new phase of the research programme follows on from a previous three-year research programme (2012 – 2014) which focused on the KwaZulu-Natal Sandstone Sourveld (KZN SS) ecosystem. The lead Principal Investigator (PI) from UKZN is SARChI Chair, Prof Colleen Downs with Dr Sean O’Donoghue leading from the Municipality.
The GEC has completed the first year of the funding period ending in June 2016. This first year was dedicated to programme planning and visioning for the GEC and the broader partnership. GEC-implementation meetings were conducted with the D’RAP Steering Committee. The MoA was signed by eThekwini Municipality and the University of KwaZulu-Natal in June 2016. Budget spending is on track with the majority of the budget going towards research equipment and student bursaries.
In the beginning of 2016 eight students (5 PhD and 3 MSc) registered at UKZN and are supported by the GEC programme. More students will join the programme as they register throughout the year. The highlight of the year was the student presentation day on the 22nd April 2016 where all new students presented their proposals, there was a very pleasing turnout with 34 students, supervisors, academics, municipal staff and representatives from Wildlands Conservation Trust attending the day. Students received valuable feedback and comments to help them develop their projects.
Since its inception the GEC has allowed for the information that was generated in the KZN SS Programme to be developed into knowledge products for EPCPD’s Sandstone Sourveld management practices. To date, two knowledge products are in draft form; a handbook synthesising research knowledge generated and presented in an accessible format for the municipality and secondly an information pamphlet for interested parties and the general public. Another success for the programme is the development of the KZN SS special issue to be published in the Journal of African Biodiversity and Conservation/Bothalia. Eleven research papers have been submitted for the special issue and address a range of topics relating to the KZN SS ecosystem. The issue is due to be published by the end of 2016.
Continuous evaluation, reflection and learning are important components of the research partnership, this allows an adaptive approach to research and management. Responses from the first evaluation activity has indicated a very positive start to the programme.