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IWC Africa Node hosts seminar series

The IWC Africa Node at Monash South Africa recently hosted a seminar series in conjunction with its Master of Philosophy in Integrated Water Management.

The seminar series was based on the concept of a masterclass,   which according to literature is “a session of tuition by an expert (typically a musician) for exceptional students, usually given in public”. The main idea behind these seminars was to give our Master of Integrated Water Management students exposure to some important cross cutting concepts.

We covered some hard-to-master concepts such as complexity, resilience, thresholds, social learning and adaptive management; and also spend time on mentoring, career development, and how to publish, present and review technical ideas and research findings.

Each day was facilitated by a different 'master' and some of our close collaborators were invited. We had visitors from four consulting firms, CSIR, an NGO, Rand Water and close-by universities. Our four ‘masters’ were Dr Jeanne Nel from CSIR, Natural Resources and Environment in Stellenbosch, Dr Dirk Roux, Africa Node Director, Dr Harry Biggs from South African National Parks and Dr Pete Ashton from CSIR Natural Resources and Environment Pretoria.

Dr Jeanne Nel provided an overview of the history of freshwater conservation and planning in South Africa leading up to the current concept of systematic freshwater conservation planning. She provided examples of how systematic freshwater conservation planning is being used within Integrated Water Management and highlighted some success stories in South Africa.

Dr Harry Biggs from South African National Parks presented on the concept of Adaptive Management as an effective/alternative approach to the management of natural resources in South Africa. This provided a wide platform for highly interactive discussions amongst participants on complexity, resilience and learning.

Dr Dirk Roux from the IWC Africa Node examined the ideas of social learning, learning organisations and the co-production of knowledge in a highly enjoyable manner, armed with stories of “fish is fish” and “Otto the sheep”.

The final day unpacked how to publish and present research findings. Dr Pete Ashton shared his wealth of experience (having published over 150 papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals and books, produced over 90 contract reports for external clients, and delivered over 80 invited presentations and addresses at local and internal conferences) on the matter and provided the students and participants with some very useful tricks of the trade.

Both students and participants reflected that the seminar series was useful, enjoyable, informative and thought provoking. With such a successful platform in place, the IWC Africa Node has plans for a bigger, more collaborative seminar series next year.

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