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Congratulations to PCU Graduates December 2018

27 Feb 2019 - 14:30

Graduation this year encompassed a range of highlights. Firstly, the official robing of Vice Chancellor  Mamokgethi Phakeng by Chancellor Graça Machel on the 13th December 2018, and secondly, the renaming of the Jameson Memorial Hall to the Sarah Baartman Hall to reflect the history of the people of South Africa. Plant Conservation Unit (PCU) student Glynis Humphrey also graduated on the 14th December 2018 with her doctorate under the supervision of Associate Professor Gillson (PCU Deputy Director). Glynis was among 1885 graduates, 118 doctorates, and 780 Masters students who graduated from the University of Cape Town during six ceremonies this season.

Glynis’s thesis focused on understanding social-ecological fire regime and management dynamics in Bwabwata National Park (BNP) in north-east Namibia through analysis of satellite data and stakeholder interviews. Results from the satellite data suggest that where people utilize fire in a savanna landscape, the area affected by fire depends on the season of fire use, number of fires, fire sizes, and rainfall variability. Interviews with Namibian stakeholders showed that early dry season burning is culturally and ecologically significant to the Khwe (former hunter-gatherers) and Mbukushu (pastoralist) communities as well as being a key park management strategy used today. This interdisciplinary synthesis revealed that the communities are currently socially and ecological vulnerable to global environmental change given their dependence on fire for ecosystem services. Despite the complex social-ecological historical circumstances entrenched in the area, the shared interest in early season burning provides a point of confluence between diverse stakeholders in the park and a basis for fire management policies that benefit biodiversity as well as livelihoods.

Glynis said that “It has been extremely rewarding to have worked on such an interesting project in Namibia, and a great privilege to have interacted with Namibian people who largely contributed to my understanding of fire dynamics in the country. It was also extremely fulfilling to work under the supervision of Lindsey Gillson, and to interact with everyone based at the PCU, which offers a stimulating base to explore ones field of interest”.

Glynis has been awarded a postdoctoral research fellowship in 2019 at the PCU to work on a larger multidisciplinary project investigating the long-term vegetation and fire dynamics of Bwabwata National Park that builds on her PhD thesis in collaboration with Assoc. Prof Lindsey Gillson and the University of Witwatersrand (Wits).

(The pictures of the evening supplied by Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan and Glynis Humphrey.)