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Outstanding Young Geomorphologists from Africa

Date Released: Thu, 3 March 2011 12:15 +0200

Rhodes researchers, Benjamin van der Waal (Geography Department at Rhodes) and Rebecca Joubert (Environmental Science), were two of six “Outstanding Young Geomorphologists from Africa” selected by the International Association of Geomorphologists (IAG) for sponsorship to attend their Regional Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Before the conference itself Van der Waal and Joubert joined twelve other young researchers on a landslide mapping course centered on the town of Dessie, at the edge of the Rift Valley. The combination of practical and academic instruction by international landslide experts provided invaluable lessons on how to conduct field-based research, in a spectacular environment.

Both researchers presented papers at the conference. Van der Waal’s paper, co-authored by Prof Kate Rowntree, addressed the challenges of predicting morphological change in non-perennial rivers as a result of different water management scenarios.

Joubert’s paper, co-authored by Prof Fred Ellery, described the hydrogeomorphology of Wakkerstroom Wetland, Mpumalanga, emphasing the importance of geological and geomorphic controls.

Also attending the conference was Prof Rowntree of the Geography Department at Rhodes. She presented a paper on behalf of the research team working with herself and Prof Ellery in the Baviaanskloof. Her paper brought together the various strands of research under the theme of landscape connectivity.

The conference was attended by 150 delegates from over 30 countries. The many common interests among researchers raises the opportunity for fruitful future collaboration.

A strong focus on Ethiopian geomorphology gave participants a greater awareness of landscape evolution and more recent land degradation of this fascinating country. A number of papers on environmental change over the last 20 million years put modern concerns about climate change into perspective. The importance of investigating the complex geomorphic and geo-ecological response to climate change was stressed by a number of presenters.

The theme for the conference was “Geomorphology for Human Adaptation to Changing Tropical Environments”.

Picture from left to right: Rebecca Joubert and Benjamin van der Waal.