River Basin Ecosystem Management course helping to conserve Okavango Delta
A new course offered by UNSW-GWI’s Centre for Ecosystem Science in the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences (BEES) is contributing to the conservation of one of the world’s most unique and precious ecosystems—the incredible Okavango Delta.
The third-year River Basin Ecosystem Management course is an intensive field-based course focused on Botswana’s Okavango Delta, one of the world’s hotspots of biodiversity and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The overall aim of the River Basin Ecosystem Management Course is to provide participants with experiences in tackling a global challenge in a developing country, learning the practical skills required in river basin management and developing a river basin ecological monitoring plan.
The Okavango Delta is comprised of extensive wetland systems and home to diverse waterbirds, the largest population of elephants in Africa and many large predators including lions and leopards. This extraordinary ecosystem lies at the end of one of the world’s last large free-flowing rivers – the Okavango River. The management and conservation of the Delta is dependent on international agreements and collaboration between Angola, Namibia and Botswana as the basin encompasses all three countries – making it an excellent case study and a worthy research focus.
Professor Richard Kingsford, Director of the UNSW Centre for Ecosystem Science and one of the course coordinators, says the benefits of the course are manifold:
“The course allows participants to gain skills in field methods, ecosystem scale landscape analyses and their application to human-wildlife interactions; and enables participants to learn about the international and trans-boundary issues associated with ecosystem conservation and management.”
this unique course was motivated by the need to offer practical courses that provide opportunities to apply theoretical concepts. while providing insight into the fascinating geopolitical landscape of managing truly global issues.
Prof Richard Kingsford, Director, UNSW Centre for Ecosystem Science
Participants work directly with academics, industry partners, local NGOs and local government, utilising new research initiatives developed in the School of BEES and the University of Botswana’s Okavango River Institute, as well as the Okavango River Basin Commission. This co-operative learning approach provides participants with valuable insight into the multi-faceted approach that river basin conservation, restoration and management requires.
Not only does the course help to build future capacity in the management of complex freshwater ecosystems, it also helps to assist with the ongoing sustainable management of the Delta by feeding vital information back to local basin stakeholders. Through their field work, participants contribute to the long-term collection of data on the river basin, which can influence decision-making and future planning.
This year, staff and students from Kings College London and Arizona State University, members of the collaborative PLuS Alliance, of which UNSW is also a member, are participating in the course—and it is hoped that students from other international institutions, including the University of Botswana, will continue to collaborate on this course.
Professor Kingsford says, “this unique course was motivated by the need to offer practical courses that provide opportunities to apply theoretical concepts, while providing insight into the fascinating geopolitical landscape of managing truly global issues.”
For more information on the course, please click here.