Participants at the British Council Researcher Links Workshop on ecosystem-based management of estuaries and coasts.

Building Research Capacity for Sustainable Ecosystem-Based Management

The South African Association for Marine Biological Research (SAAMBR) Oceanographic Research Institute (ORI) recently played host to a three-day British Council Researcher Links Workshop funded by the UK Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and National Research Foundation and managed by the British Council.

The workshop aimed to build research capacity for sustainable ecosystem-based management (EBM) of estuaries and coasts.

The workshop was co-ordinated by Professor Trevor Hill of UKZN, Ms Bronwyn Goble of the ORI, Dr Luciana Esteves of Bournemouth University, and Dr Katie Smyth of the University of Hull’s Institute for Estuarine and Coastal Studies (IECS).

The purpose of Researcher Links workshops is to bring Early Career Researchers (ECRs) together with seasoned researchers to provide mentorship opportunities and create long-term collaborations. The programme included an opportunity for participants to introduce themselves, with ECRs presenting a poster summarising their current research. Workshop co-ordinators emphasised efforts to bridge the gap between science and governance.

More than 40 ECRs and established researchers took part in the workshop, with postgraduate students and lecturers coming from six South African universities and 12 British universities.

Representatives attended from the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB); Sharks Board, the Department of Environmental AffairsKwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental AffairsCouncil for Scientific and Industrial ResearcheThekwini MunicipalityWestern Cape GovernmentWILDOCEANS and the UK’s Marine Management Organisation.

Professor Mike Elliott, IECS Director, addressed participants about research needed to support EBM of estuaries and coasts, Professor Alan Whitfield of SAIAB spoke about challenges and opportunities for the implementation of EBM in these systems, and Professor Andrew Cooper of Ulster University laid the foundations for developing research collaborations. UKZN’s Professor Ursula Scharler gave a presentation covering the South African Network for Coastal and Oceanic Research (SANCOR) and the importance of international networks for promoting long-term links and collaboration as well as tools for the implementation of EBM.

Presentations fed into panel discussions and participants formed working groups to aid ECRs in their career development and long-term research and cross-sectoral collaborations which included development of an action plan. Participants also had the opportunity to visit the uShaka Marine World aquarium.

Dr Esteves, who visited KwaZulu-Natal in 2016 to speak about coastal management and conservation, gave a one-day workshop preceding the Researcher Links workshop for 45 members of local provincial government; addressing the importance of EBM. The interactive workshop included discussion of understanding risk and vulnerability in coastal systems, explored perceptions of coastal management and introduced principles of EMB from a broad, integrated outlook.

This workshop emphasised the importance of dedicating attention to coastal management at local government and municipal level and provided an international perspective on the challenges and issues encountered in coastal management. Goble indicated that to aid this, plans are in motion to embed an introduction to coastal management into Geography courses at universities, covering topics including EBM, policy development and legislation, in order to prepare future environmental managers for the task.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Bronwyn Goble