Vuwani Science Resource Centre under the School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences of the University of Venda, launched the first ever International Winter School on ‘Eddy Covariance Flux Measurements’. This winter school was launched and held at the Vuwani Science Resource Centre from 10-14 June 2019. The winter school provided various sessions with opportunities for technicians, students and early-career researchers such as MSc and PhD students as well as postdoctoral researchers to learn more about different aspects of greenhouse gas monitoring in Africa with emphasis on the Limpopo Region. 

First Class: Participants of Winter School attending their first class in the computer room 

The focus of this Winter school was on measurement techniques providing the students with theoretical background and hands-on sessions in setting up Eddy Covariance flux measurement instruments and processing its related data streams. The course aimed at supporting young researchers in initiating new research projects and taking better advantage of existing research infrastructures and environmental data sets. 

The Winter School was organized by partners and collaborators of the EMSAfrica project (Ecosystem Management Support for Climate Change in Southern Africa) and the EU Horizon 2020 project SEACRIFOG (Supporting EU-African Cooperation on Research Infrastructures for Food Security and Greenhouse Gas Observations). The course was led by Dr Christian Brümmer from the Thünen Institute of Climate-Smart Agriculture, Germany and Dr Gregor Feig from the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON). 

Dr Christian Brümmer (left) and Dr Gregor Feig (right) 

Dr Christian Brümmer said “the Vuwani Science Resource Centre of the University of Venda is successfully cooperating with partners from the EMSAfrica project and hosts one of the few flux towers measuring the land surface-atmosphere exchange of carbon dioxide and energy on the African continent”. He further said that Flux towers are part of a global observation system for greenhouse gases and help understand the local, regional and global carbon cycle. Furthermore, “these kinds of measurements are fundamental to understand the impact of climate change on the carbon dioxide exchange with the atmosphere on the longer term”, added Dr Christian Brümmer. 

The Eddy Covariances Flux tower at Vuwani Science Resource Centre 

The Winter School, in combination with the flux tower operation, is a landmark in the Centre’s engagement in bringing the next generation of leading scientists on track to tackle upcoming environmental challenges and for being involved in cutting-edge research collaboration on climate change related topics. 

The UNIVEN Department of Physics’s Niche research is based on renewable energy. So, this collaboration enhances our research skills. The winter school is crucial since it teaches our students and staff how the tower operates and how to use the data effectively. Continuous Eddy Covariance flux measurements will enable us to make a contribution to the understanding of the carbon cycle in typical Limpopo landscapes. This provides invaluable data for the estimation of terrestrial carbon budgets of Africa, which is lacking continental-scale observation networks of greenhouse gas measurements. The winter school enabled us as the Department to find collaborators such as EFTEON, SAEON, SASSCAL and others for the understanding of our ecological system. 

Effective use of the Eddy Covariance flux tower data needs the involvement of researchers from different schools of the University of Venda, like Agriculture, School of Enviromental Sciences and Mathematical and Natural Sciences. 

In addition to introductory lectures, several activities were done throughout the week like hands-on training on the operation and maintenance of the tower as well as various biometeorological measurements, ecological data analysis using R- Programming, etc. As one of the objectives of the Vuwani Science Resource Centre is to reach the public community, on Thursday 13 June 2019, there was an engagement with the community through Phalaphala FM. The importance of the tower to the community and the need of understanding climate change in South Africa context was discussed. 

During the Official Opening of the Eddy Covariance Flux Measurements Winter School, Dean of the School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences, Prof Natasha Potgieter thanked the attendees and the organisers of this Winter School. She further thanked sponsors from Germany and told them that UNIVEN values their visit and attendance. Prof Potgieter concluded her talk by encouraging the attendees to acquire as much knowledge as they can so that they can share with those who couldn‘t attend this winter school and the generations to come. 

Some of the team members which visited Phalaphala FM, from left Dr. Mari Bieri, (Thünen Institute of Climate-Smart Agriculture), Mr. Wonder Juniper (Phalaphala FM), Dr. Eric Maluta ( Vuwani Science Resource Centre), Dr. Johannes Beck (SASSCAL, Namibia), Mrs Humbelani Thenga (CSIR) 

Winter School attendees and UNIVEN staff members posing for a group photo at Vuwani Science Resource Centre outside the computer room 

Dr. Mari Bieri, project coordinator, Thünen Institute of Climate-Smart Agriculture 

Univen staff members and attendees of the Winter School listening to Prof Natasha Potgieter during the official opening ceremony 

Hands-on training during the winter school 

Hands-on training during the winter schools 

Issued by: 

Department of Communications & Marketing 

University of Venda 

Tel: (015) 962 8525 

Date: 18 June 2019 

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