BSc Honours

Kyle Ridgeway
School of Agriculture, Earth and Environmental Sciences, UKZN

I am investigating the stratigraphy and flood history of the Mkhuze River delta near Lake St Lucia. The Mkhuze River Delta is a contemporary bayhead delta and is a prime entry point for muddy flocculants, occasional sandy sediment and anthropogenic heavy metals and wastes into the system. The delta is comprised of well-layered muddy succession punctuated by discrete layers of coarse sandy material, representing material discharged into the prodelta during flooding periods. As such the Mkhuze River Delta offers a high resolution archive for flood events of the adjoining catchment basin and is a unique example of a flood-driven bayhead delta that infills an incised valley system.

Craig Cordier
School of Agriculture, Earth and Environmental Sciences, UKZN

I am currently doing my Honours in Environmental Science at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, under the supervision of Dr Jemma Finch. My research focuses on quantifying the influence of environmental parameters on the distribution patterns of benthic foraminifera within Lake St Lucia. To observe these environmental controls, the project will focus on lake surface sediments, where high oxygen and nutrient concentrations promote the occurrence of abundant foraminifera. Foraminifera are characterised by specific environmental tolerance ranges in which they can survive, e.g. salinity, pH and temperature. By observing and quantifying these tolerances, fossil foraminifera can be used as biological indicators to understand past environmental changes in the lake system.

Camelot Radloff
School of Agriculture, Earth and Environmental Sciences, UKZN

I am doing my Honours in Geography and Environmental Management at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. My supervisor is Dr Jemma Finch, a palaeoecologist. My research focuses on palynostratigraphy and historical documents of human activity around the Lake St. Lucia region for the last 100 years. My objectives are to investigate whether the exotic pollen (Pine, Casuarina and Eucalyptus) can be identified in recent lake core sediments. By using the pollen proxy data alongside historical documents, these markers may be used to identify common stratigraphic horizons for sediment cores extracted from different parts of the lake (North Lake, Catalina Bay and False Bay). This research will filter into the greater project that aims at understanding the long-term natural functioning of the lake system prior to significant humans impacts and management interventions of the past century.

Megan Gomes
School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand

I am a Masters student in the field of environmental science at the University of Witwatersrand. My project aims at understanding palaeoclimate variations through the use of diatom analysis. This will be achieved by assessing how climatically-driven changes in the chemical, physical and biological processes in the lake are recorded in lake sediments. This research will provide a high-resolution reconstruction of Holocene environmental change using lake sediments from Lake St Lucia, South Africa.

Caldin Higgs
School of Chemistry, University of the Witwatersrand

I am an MSc student studying flood history and salinity changes in the Mkhuze River Delta. Using a combination of geochemical (trace metal and strontium isotopes) and sedimentological analyses, I hope to examine the evolution of the delta and provide information on flood frequency, sedimentation rates and changes in salinity linked to shifts in climate and sea level over the past ~6000 years.

Kirsty Spershott
School of Agriculture, Earth and Environmental Sciences, UKZN

I am a masters student in the field of Environmental Science at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. My project is under the supervision of Dr Jemma Finch and aims to reconstruct and understand the past fluctuations in lake water chemistry at Lake St Lucia. This will be achieved through the use of ostracods as the biological indicator for environmental change. Ostracods are preserved exceptionally well in sediment, they are small and abundant, and are particularly sensitive to environmental variables and are hence very useful and informative biological proxies for palaeoecological reconstructions. As St Lucia has a history of being a highly managed ecosystem, this project has the potential to provide insight into these changes, anthropogenically or naturally induced, and aid in relevant management strategies.

Kate Leigh Strachan
School of Agriculture, Earth and Environmental Sciences, UKZN

I am PhD environmental science student in the School of Agriculture, Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. I completed my MSc in 2012, which assessed the application of intertidal salt-marsh foraminifera as sensitive proxies to reconstruct late Holocene sea-level change at Kariega Estuary, South Africa under the supervision of Prof. Trevor Hill and Dr. Jemma Finch (UKZN) and in collaboration with Dr Rob Barnett, then based at Plymouth University (UK). Sea-level change remains understudied along the east coast of South Africa and in far-field southern hemisphere sites in general, thus there is a need for further research. My MSc was testimonial to the fact the salt-marsh foraminifera are precise indicators of relative sea-level change having successfully established vertical zonation of salt marsh foraminifera and applied transfer functions to reconstruct relative sea-level change at the Kariega site. With the enormous potential demonstrated by intertidal salt-marsh foraminifera for high-resolution reconstructions, my interest in the relationship between climate and sea-level change and my passion for the outdoors I commenced my PhD research in 2013 with the same research team, and with the addition of Prof. Peter Frenzel from the University of Jena (Germany). The focus of this research is to provide multiple high-resolution reconstructions of former sea levels from salt-marsh and lake sediments along the east and south coast of southern Africa. Further reconstructions along the coastline could aid in identifying past patterns and enhance our ability to predict changes in the future.

Nonkululeko Dladla
School of Agriculture, Earth and Environmental Sciences, UKZN

I am currently pursuing a PhD in marine geology under the supervision of Dr. A.N Green at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. I will be investigating the geomorphological and sedimentological evolution of Lake St. Lucia. My project will examine in detail the incised valley systems that underlie the lake, documenting its evolution from a number of fluvial systems to the current lacustrine water body it is today. This will involve using very high resolution seismic techniques to map out all of the channels and their associated fills. Once these are cored, these fills will reveal the manner in which the system has behaved over the last 18,000 years. Of special interest to our group, as a whole, are the archives of climate and sea level changes that exist in both the seismic and core records.

My previous experience as an MSc student focused on the evolution of complex incised valley networks of varying ages offshore Durban (Green, A.N., Dladla, N.N., Garlick, G.L., 2013. Spatial and temporal variations in incised valley systems from the Durban continental shelf, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Marine Geology  335, 148-161). I hope to extend this knowledge further by creating a general model for incised valleys from sub-tropical climates.

Post Doctoral Fellows

Dr. Ander Martinez De Lecea
School of Agriculture, Earth and Environmental Sciences, UKZN