At the Geography seminar are (from left) Dr John Odindi, Mr Brice Gijsbertsen, Mr Mark Thompson, Dr Debbie Jewitt and Dr Romano Lottering.

Geography Seminar Series Explores KZN Land-Cover Project

The Discipline of Geography in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES) recently hosted Mr Mark Thompson of GeoTerraImage at a seminar – the first in a series – on the topic of the most recent KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Provincial Land-Cover dataset generation.

The seminar series is being organised with GeoTerraImage, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and the Geography discipline through Dr Romano Lottering. More than 50 students, staff and researchers attended.

Opening the proceedings, Acting Dean and Head of SAEES Professor Onisimo Mutanga thanked the two contributing organisations for dedicating their time to the initiative which is intended to transfer knowledge to KwaZulu-Natal scientists and students as part of the 2017 KZN provincial land-cover mapping project. He expressed the hope that the transdisciplinary nature of the land-cover mapping project would contribute to the practical experience of students at UKZN while also aligning with the University’s strategic objectives.

Dr John Odindi, senior lecturer in Geography, indicated that the seminar series gave students an opportunity to establish a nexus between geo-information theory taught in class and its practical application in the field.

Thompson explained that land-cover was a landscape inventory, vegetation map, cultivation and crop-type map, and agricultural potential map, a map of settlement patterns and a map of current water resources. He presented the first lecture of the series, giving background to KZN land-cover mapping, while also touching on what is happening in the mapping and imaging industry. Mapping land-cover, he said, was important for reflecting a chosen aspect of reality. He gave examples of maps showing changing land-cover over almost 20 years in KwaZulu-Natal, illustrating how critical these records were to inform legislation. ‘Land-cover and land-use, if used correctly, are fantastic datasets to support many legislation drivers,’ he said. ‘KZN land-cover mapping is unique as the only long-term, standardised, updated provincial mapping programme which is also self-funded and represents unique insight and forward planning by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’, he added.

Thompson also covered the history of land-cover mapping in South Africa, discussed global and local land-cover classification schemes and emphasised the importance of standardised reporting.

The lecture series will continue over the coming months and will cover the history of satellite image-based land-cover mapping in South Africa and how this relates to the KZN provincial mapping. This will include the development and operational use of image mapping and classification techniques, from original desktop pixel-based classifiers to the latest cloud-deployed algorithms.

‘Hopefully by the end of the lecture series, you will get a wider picture of how we do our work from an industry perspective,’ said Thompson.

Words and photograph: Christine Cuénod