On the 27th of June 2019 representatives from the SRU; Clemson University in South Carolina, USA; South African National Parks (SANParks), scientific services; The Knysna Basin Project and the Independent Institution of Education Monash South Africa (IIE MSA) came together to learn about each other and to find synergies in their work.

Working with Professor Charles Breen from the ISAKA group, a university consortium operating as an African-centred community of practice for management of social ecological systems, the Sustainability Research Unit (SRU) hosted academics from various institutions to seek opportunity for collaboration.  

Prof Dirk Roux from SanParks orientated the group to the Garden Route National Park highlighting the parks unique features, key influences and mission of the organisation.  Prof Roux focused on the organisation’s responsible tourism objectives as well the role of embedded science within SanParks. Dr Bianca Currie, head of the SRU, introduced the philosophy behind the research unit at the Nelson Mandela University, highlighting the research, community engagement and teaching and learning activities undertaken by the unit.  In her role as the chairman of the Garden Route Biosphere Reserve, Bianca also orientated the group to the biosphere reserve highlighting its role as a mechanism to achieve the sustainable development goals.  Prof Robert Fincham, a research associate at the SRU spoke about sustainability challenges in the Garden Route and highlighted the research opportunities in the region during a time of rapid urbanization and climate change. 

Dr Louw Claassens from the Knysna Basin Project drew attention to the challenges of coastal and marine systems in particular and the work the foundation is doing in the Knysna area and beyond.  Her presentation was followed by an introduction to the IIE MSA Water Node given by Bimo Nkhata, the director and associate professor at the IIE MSA water Node.  He provided insight into the theoretical foundations guiding the work of the water node.  His presentation was followed by a talk by Linda Downsborough a lecturer and researcher in the node who highlighted the education programmes on offer at the institution.

Wayne Freimund, Professor and Chair at the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management (PRTM) at Clemson University spoke about their diverse range of under and post graduate programmes which include parks and conservation area management, community, sport and recreation including recreation theory, camp management, tourism and public administration.  His presentation was followed by a talk by Lori Dickes, Assistant Professor and Program Director of the Master programme in Public administration at Clemson who introduced the South Carolina Water Resource Centre which acts as a conduit for information necessary in the resource management decision-making and policy arenas of the state.

The engagement provided a space to make new friends while learning and sharing the work of the various institutions.  Synergies were brought to light which will be perused going forward.


From top left: Prof Dirk Roux, Samantha Mc Culloch, Dr Louw Claassens, Prof Charles Breen, Prof Robert Fincham, Prof Wayne Freimund; Bottom left: Dr Lori Dickie, Dr Bianca Currie, Linda Downsborough and Dr Bimo Nkhata.