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Partnership signals a new era of coastal and marine research

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This map of Algoa Bay and St Francis Bay shows the observation equipment run by multiple partners working towards a greater observatory footprint in the SAEON Algoa Bay Sentinel Site, making it the most extensively monitored bay in Africa. Source: Dr Tommy Bornman, SAEON Elwandle Node

Click to enlarge

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Algoa Bay is home to Bird Island with the world's largest Cape gannet colony

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The Alexandria Dune Field, spanning the western half of Algoa Bay, is one of the largest coastal dunefields in the world

By Penny Haworth, Manager: Communications & Governance, SAIAB

 

One of Nelson Mandela Bay's leading assets, Algoa Bay, is set to benefit from a partnership between three leading research and monitoring organisations.

On 26 August, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) formalised its working relationship with the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON) and the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB) in a wide range of initiatives to provide key research on Algoa Bay and surrounding coastline.

According to Dr Tommy Bornman, Manager of the SAEON Elwandle Node who has been instrumental in the negotiations, the signing of this memorandum of understanding (MoU) signals "the start of a new era of coastal and marine research" in the Eastern Cape and Southern Africa.

"It will give all involved a stronger platform from which to work in a number of areas," Dr Bornman said.

Both SAEON and SAIAB are entities of the National Research Foundation (NRF), which works closely with the university, and in this case, NMMU's Coastal and Marine Research Unit.

"We have always had a good working relationship with the two Grahamstown-based organisations. The MoU will allow us to further align our efforts," says NMMU's Science Faculty Dean, Prof. Andrew Leitch.

Algoa Bay

Algoa Bay, stretching from Cape Recife in the west to Cape Padrone in the east, is already acknowledged as one of the best researched bays in southern Africa and is often referred to as a health yardstick for bays nationally.

The Bay is home to Bird Island with the world's largest Cape gannet colony, the St Croix Island group, and 43% of the global population of African penguins. The Alexandria Dune Field, spanning the western half of Algoa Bay, is one of the largest coastal dunefields in the world.

Signing ceremony

The MoU signing at the university was attended by key stakeholders including the Chief Executive Officer of the NRF, Dr Albert van Jaarsveld, NMMU's Vice-Chancellor Prof. Derrick Swartz, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Engagement, Prof. Thoko Mayekiso, Dr Angus Paterson, Managing Director of SAIAB, Johan Pauw, Managing Director of SAEON, Dr Tommy Bornman, Manager of the SAEON Elwandle Node and Dr Juliet Hermes, Manager of the SAEON Egagasini Node.

NMMU researchers Dr Linda Harris of the Zoology Department and Coastal and Marine Research Unit and botany doctoral student Dimitri Veldkornet shared short presentations on the effects of climate change in South Africa at the signing. Dr Harris focused on how these changes impact on marine ecosystems.

Pooling resources

The Elwandle Node of SAEON, which focuses on long-term ecological research (LTER) in the coastal zone, and SAIAB with its particular bent towards long-standing research in estuaries and the coastal environment, will now formally pool their resources with NMMU in terms of knowledge, equipment and researchers.

This is further strengthened by the SAEON Egagasini Node's involvement in Algoa Bay through physical oceanography and data expertise. The Egagasini Node's Dr Wayne Goschen is an honorary research associate at NMMU and working with the university's Coastal and Marine Research Unit to set up postgraduate studies in oceanography.

"In terms of research platform provision, SAIAB has hosted the SAEON Elwandle Node for the last seven years and between us we have developed a range of research platforms such as the Algoa Bay Sentinel Site and the Remote Operated Vehicle Unit. We have been collaborating with NMMU researchers for many years," says SAIAB's Managing Director Dr Angus Paterson.

These researchers include Prof. Janine Adams, Prof. Tris Wooldridge, Dr Nadine Strydom, Dr Derek du Preez and the incumbent of NMMU's new Shallow Water Ecosystems research chair, Prof. Renzo Perissinotto.

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Signatories to the MoU are (standing from left): Prof. Andrew Leitch (Dean, Faculty of Science, NMMU), Prof. Thoko Mayekiso, (Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Engagement, NMMU), Dr Albert van Jaarsveld (Chief Executive Officer of the NRF), (seated from left) Mr Johan Pauw (Managing Director, SAEON), Prof. Derrick Swartz (Vice-Chancellor, NMMU), Dr Angus Paterson (Managing Director, SAIAB).

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