Dr Bronwyn Goble (right) with her supervisor Professor Trevor Hill.

PhD Thesis Examines Enhanced Integrated Coastal Management Decision Making

Senior scientist at the Oceanographic Research Institute (ORI), Dr Bronwyn Goble graduated with her PhD in Environmental Science for her study on alternative approaches to knowledge sharing and information storage for integrated coastal management (ICM) in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN).

Goble has spent the past 10 years working closely with the coastal management authorities through her work at ORI, where she manages the Coastal Zone portfolio. While working to provide information to support decision-making and assisting in capacity building, Goble realised that there was a significant gap in institutional knowledge. She began to consider the alternative methods that could be employed to develop a knowledge bank of accessible, reliable data to inform decision-making when it comes to the management of coastal zones.

Goble’s examination of KZN-specific barriers to ICM implementation found that these were in part linked to knowledge acquisition and retention, access to information for informed decision-making, and understanding of coastal issues and pressures. Some of her PhD research overlapped with her responsibilities at ORI.

She investigated the development of an information decision support portal, with in-built coastal data tools to bridge this gap. The resulting website provides the authorities with access to spatial and non-spatial data to inform decision-making, something she believes will make a significant contribution to coastal management within KZN.

‘The system offers easy access to information in a user-friendly format, on an open web-based platform and improves users’ capacity and understanding of coastal socio-ecology through the provision of spatial tools to support decision-making and management processes,’ explained Goble, who added that the platform also acts as an ‘institutional knowledge bank’ for KZN ICM.

Goble pointed out that alongside this portal, traditional capacity building or training sessions will continue to play an important role; she believes these complementary approaches will assist ICM implementation and knowledge in KZN.

Goble enrolled at UKZN, where one of her masters (and later PhD) supervisors Professor Trevor Hill is based, after completing her undergraduate, honours and master’s degrees at Rhodes University and beginning work at ORI. She said that her PhD experience enhanced her research and scientific writing skills, complementing the applied management activities she spends most of her daily work engaging in.

Goble thanked her supervisors, Hill and Professor Mike Phillips from the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David, for their support, saying that she could not have reached this milestone without them. She acknowledged ORI for financial support and ongoing encouragement and her friend and mentor Fiona Mackay for being a constant source of inspiration.

‘Most importantly, thank you to my husband, Geoff, for everything he does, and my two beautiful daughters, Charlotte and Emma who make my life complete,’ she said.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Ntokozo Dladla