Participants at the annual D’RAP Symposium at the Paradise Valley Nature Reserve.

Research Symposium Promotes Biodiversity Conservation and Management

The annual Durban Research Action Partnership (D’RAP) Research Symposium presented an opportunity for students conducting research as part of the partnership between eThekwini Municipality (EM) and UKZN to present their work and to hear from invited guests about climate change and biodiversity in a management context.

D’RAP bridges the science-action gap and advances knowledge in biodiversity conservation and management within the context of global environmental change. It generates knowledge to assist managers in EM to make biodiversity and conservation decisions, and builds capacity by supporting student research activities at UKZN.

The presentations focused on the third phase of EM’s Global Environmental Change (GEC) programme – Rivers: source to sea, and its previous phase – the Durban Metropolitan Open Space System (D’MOSS).

Climate protection scientist at EM Mr Smiso Bhengu welcomed guests, saying, ‘We are trying to expand this partnership, and move towards policy being influenced by the research being done, which is important for the sustainability of D’RAP.’ He added that science should play a role in service delivery for entities like the municipality.

The programme included a presentation of Dr Manqoba Zungu’s research on the linkages between biodiversity, ecosystem services and human well-being in urban green spaces in EM.

Postdoctoral researcher at UKZN, Dr Lulu van Rooyen spoke about an ongoing social science research project that is investigating the transformative adaptation potential of urban stream management, and highlighted the potential of transformative climate adaptation.

Dr Angela James from UKZN’s School of Education gave a presentation on service learning, a teaching method that links the classroom experience and community service, and biodiversity projects that engage the community.

Students from Development Studies at UKZN, Ms Mbali Mtshali and Ms Zinhle Ndebele, spoke about the Educational Partnership for Innovative Communities (EPIC) initiative run between UKZN and EM, in which students engage with relevant content in a module at UKZN as well as directly with communities through internships with the Municipality’s Environmental Planning and Climate Protection Department.

UKZN’s Professor Rob Slotow highlighted the importance of Communities of Practice (COP), using the example of the multi- and inter-disciplinary Department of Science and Technology and National Research Foundation COP in Functional Biodiversity project at UKZN.

Student work presented included research on eco-estate biodiversity and management; ecological risk assessment in the uMngeni catchment; the presence of antibiotic resistant bacteria in water treatment plants and hospital sewers; gender and climate change adaptation; the feeding behaviour of invasive rose-ringed parakeets, and the sale of exotic mammal pets in South Africa.

Mr Matthew Burnett from the School of Life Sciences received the award for the best presentation for his contribution on assessing the home range and habitat use of yellowfish in response to flow changes in the uMngeni River. Ms Maqsooda Mahomed from the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences received the runner up award for her presentation on the development of a near real-time environmental early warning system towards increasing climate resilience and adaptive capacity in South Africa.

Poster awards went to postgraduate students in the School of Life Sciences. MSc candidate Ms Jennifer Cele received the best poster award for her research on the roost sites, habitat use and feeding habits of egrets. PhD candidate Mr Mfundo Maseko received the runner-up award for his poster on his master’s research on the effects of fragmentation, habitat conversion and habitat characteristics on the presence or absence of forest birds and their diversity in Durban.

Words and Photograph: Christine Cuénod