UKZN’s College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science has won three of the acclaimed National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF)-South32 Awards for the 2022-2023 cycle.
Announced on 13 July at a glittering ceremony held concurrently in Johannesburg and Cape Town, the awards are dubbed the Science Oscars of South Africa.
The three awards went to Professor Onisimo Mutanga, Professor Andrew Green and the Centre for Water Resources Research (CWRR) headed by Professor Jeff Smithers. All three winners hail from the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences.
Professor Onisimo Mutanga won one of the two Engineering Research Capacity Development Awards sponsored by Eskom. Mutanga is the DSI/NRF/Nedbank SARChI Chair in Land Use Planning and Management and Professor of Remote Sensing at UKZN. Mutanga was recognised for developing research capacity through the use of remote sensing techniques to support land use management focusing on the development of the science and the application of these techniques for terrestrial ecosystems.
Mutanga’s expertise lies in vegetation (including agricultural crops) state analysis in the face of global change using remote sensing. He integrates ecology, biodiversity conservation and remote sensing to model the impact of forest fragmentation, pests and diseases and invasive species on agricultural and natural ecosystems.
UKZN’s Centre for Water Resources Research under the directorship of Professor Jeff Smithers, who holds the Umgeni Water Chair in Water Resources Management, Innovation and Research in UKZN’s School of Engineering, won the NSTF Water Research Commission Award. The CWRR received recognition for providing a centre of excellence for cutting edge applied and interdisciplinary research and postgraduate training in water resources related research and capacity building.
Research themes at the Centre include hydrological process studies, hydrological model development, agricultural water management, land and water research, and measuring and modelling. The Centre also houses the uMngeni School of Water Governance.
Finally, Professor Andrew Green, who is a Professor of Marine Geology at UKZN and Visiting Professor at the University of Ulster, Northern Ireland, won the Special Annual Theme Award: Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. Green was recognised for excellence in marine geoscience research, which forms the key to unlocking the blue economies of the world’s oceans and protecting our coastlines from the effects of climate change.
Green’s research interests focus on marine geophysics, geomorphology, sedimentology and stratigraphy of coastal and marine environments.
Initiated in 1998, the NSTF-South32 Awards recognise outstanding contributions to Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) and innovation in South Africa for researchers and other Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) related professionals.
The institution of the South32 Awards is part of the NSTF’s vision to work towards a transformed country where SET and innovation contribute to a higher quality of life for all South Africans, and where the profiles of SET professionals are representative of the population and where the education system, particularly for SET and innovation, is effective.
On behalf of UKZN and the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science, we congratulate this outstanding achievement by our academics, which places UKZN at the forefront of cutting-edge and socially relevant SET research and capacity development within South Africa.