Dr Marc Humphries
School of Chemistry, University of the Witwatersrand

marcI am an environmental geochemist who has a particular interest in wetlands, lakes and estuaries. I have spent the last 10 years studying the geochemistry and geomorphological evolution of ecosystems in Maputaland. Much of this work has focused on processes linked to chemical cycling, nutrient accumulation and sedimentation in freshwater lake and wetland systems. I am currently exploring the chemical signatures preserved in a number of promising wetland and lacustrine records in an attempt to reconstruct the palaeoclimatic conditions that existed and have affected the long-term evolution of coastal ecosystems. I am also interested in the application of stable and radioactive isotopes in understanding aspects of hydrology and sedimentology. My work is multidisciplinary in nature and I collaborate closely with geologists, geographers, palaeoecologists and oceanographers.

I have spent many days walking through the Mkhuze wetlands, dodging hippos at Lake Sibaya, exploring coastal dunes and diving coral reefs at Sodwana Bay. I can think of nothing better! In my spare time I lecture environmental chemistry and run the Enviro Geochem Lab at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Dr Jemma Finch
School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences, UKZN

jemmaMy research looks at ecosystem change over time, with a focus on past vegetation dynamics and climate-human-environment interactions. I use palaeoecological techniques, such as fossilised plant remains to track environmental changes over thousands of years, to investigate the role of past climate change and human activity in shaping vegetation distribution patterns.

I completed my undergraduate and Honours degrees at the University of Natal with a focus on Biogeography and bioclimatic modelling. During my MSc, I was first introduced to the wonders of pollen analysis, and during this time completed a 50,000 year palaeoenvironmental reconstruction for the Maputaland Coastal Plain, by studying a sedimentary record from the Mfabeni Peatland. I pursued my interest in African palaeoecology by joining the York Institute for Tropical Ecosystem Dynamics (KITE) at the University of York (UK), where I completed my PhD. This research focussed on rainforest dynamics in the biodiverse Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania, and fieldwork took the form of a great trek through some of Africa’s oldest and most biologically fascinating montane rainforests, with some bogtrotting along the way. I returned to South Africa to undertake a postdoctoral research fellowship with Prof. Mike Meadows at the University of Cape Town. During this time I explored the palaeoecological potential of the southern end of the Afromontane archipelago, in the Drakensberg Mountains. In 2011, I rejoined the University of KwaZulu-Natal as a lecturer where I teach biogeography and continue to pursue my research interests in environmental change.

I am currently working on projects along the Maputaland Coastal Plain, Wild Coast, Drakensberg and Soutpansberg Mountains, and Mapungubwe National Park – some of the wildest and most pristine parts of the country. When not staring down a microscope, I can generally be found traipsing through swamps and wetlands with a team of like-minded field-experts.

Dr Andrew Green
School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences, UKZN

andrewEver since my introduction to the ocean at the age of five, I have made it my life’s quest to spend as much time as possible in and around it. It was a natural choice to pursue a career in coastal and marine geology (NOT to be confused with marine biology). I hold an MSc degree in coastal geomorphology and a PhD in marine geology.  My PhD investigated the evolution of submarine canyons on the northeastern South African continental shelf, the aim of which was to understand the formative evolution of the habitat of the South African coelacanth. As a senior lecturer, I currently lead several research projects that relate to coastal and marine geology.  Whenever possible, I will take the opportunity to spend at least two hours per day fully immersed in the Indian Ocean studying nearshore sandbar-wave interactions. I have also been known to enjoy a glass of brandy or two around the holidays.

My research interests include the geomorphology, sedimentology and stratigraphy of coastal and marine environments with particular focus on: submarine canyons, Holocene sea level and shelf stratigraphy, submerged shorelines, incised valley systems, extreme events and their record in coastal and marine sediments, sequence stratigraphy of continental shelves, estuarine and lagoonal geomorphology.