On Wednesday, 12 September 2018, the University of Venda (Univen), officially handed over the SARChI Museum and Research Centre to its SARChI (NRF-DST) Research Chair on Biodiversity Value and Change. The event took place at the Zoology Lab FF016 at the Life Sciences building.
Postdoctoral Fellow, SARChI Chair at Univen, Dr Natasha Constant whose topic was ‘Integrating diverse knowledge systems for ecological restoration action and planning: Implications for biocultural conservation and community Empowerment in South Africa’ spoke about Ecological Restoration (ER). She expressed that ER is a process of assisting recovery of an ecosystem that has been damaged degraded and/or destroyed over the past years.
Dr Constant worked closely with communities within Vhembe district including Lwamondo, Ha-Mashau, Duthuni, Vuvha and Tshidzivhe Tshiendeulu with the aim of integrating cultural values, perception and knowledge of these communities that perform and benefit from restoration.
The Director of the Afromontane Research Unit, Dr Ralph Clark of the University of the Free State spoke under the topic ‘Growing a Research Community of Practice for Southern African Mountains’. In his opening, he highlighted how mountains provide our most essential ecological good and services and how they are poorly misunderstood socio-ecological entities with very little inter, multi and trans-disciplinary solution-orientated research.
Dr Clark was visiting Univen to meet with Prof Taylor, Dr Segun Obadire of the International Relations Directorate and Prof Vhonani Netshandama of the Community Engagement Directorate in connection with a recent University Staff Development Programme (USDP) of DHET, in which staff members from both Univen and UFS were selected to participate in mentorship programmes to facilitate completion of their PHD degrees. Four Univen staff members have been selected to participate in the USDP and these four were recognised by Prof Ainamensa Mchau (representing the DVC Academic) during the programme proceedings.
One of the aims Dr Clark made mention of, was that there is a need for inter-disciplinary research and robust data and the desperate need to inform policy and practice for sustainability. This was after he made mention of the fact that in Southern Africa, mountains are largely peripheral to national policy and interest.
Prof Peter Taylor, who is the Chair-holder, SARChI Chair on Biodiversity Value and Change in the Vhembe Biosphere Reserve presented last and spoke under the title ‘Dreaming big: the next five years of Univen’s SARChi Chair’. He opened by sharing their 5-year (2014-2018) research plan, of which it is inclusive of them being global change drivers, opening the Museum and Research Centre and running a Biodiversity “virtual academy” that attracted more than 500 participants to various skills workshops, field schools and seminars by visiting scientists arranged by the Chair.
Prof Ainamensa Mchau (right) handing over the SARChI Museum and Research Centre plaque to Prof Taylor (Left)
Prof Ainamensa Mchau, Dean of the School of Agriculture handed over the SARChi Museum and Research Centre Plaque to Prof Peter Taylor.
Giving the vote of the thanks was the Dean of the School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences, Prof Natasha Potgieter. She thanked her colleagues, staff members and extended her gratitude to the senior management. She congratulated Prof Taylor on the success that he and his team have achieved in the past 5 years and wished them a success in the next five years.
Some photographs depicting the SARChI Museum in the Life Sciences building
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Date: 18 September 2018