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20 July 2020 | Story Leonie Bolleurs | Photo Supplied
The view from one of the offices in the Marion Island research station, with fresh snowfall in the interior of the island in the background.

Liezel Rudolph, lecturer and researcher in the Department of Geography at the University of the Free State (UFS), is strongly convinced that the Southern Hemisphere’s past glacial cycles will provide valuable insights to help predict and prepare for future climate change. Climate is changing fast and the magnitude of change we have seen over the last 30 years has taken a hundred or several hundred years to occur in the past. 

It is not only temperatures that are rising, but changes in wind patterns, rain cycles, oceanic circulation, etc., are also observed. As we do not know how the earth will respond or adapt to such rapid and drastic changes in climatic patterns, this poses various threats.

Link between landscape responses and climate change

Rudolph focuses her research on reconstructing the past climate of Marion Island. 

She had the wonderful opportunity to visit the island for the past three years with study and project leaders, Profs Werner Nel from the University of Fort Hare and David Hedding from UNISA, she departed on a ship to Marion Island to conduct fieldwork.They published their research findings of fieldwork conducted in 2017 and 2018.  

According to Rudolph, research in Antarctica, the Southern Ocean, and islands such as Marion Island is very important. South Africa is the only African country with research stations that have the ability to explore these regions.

“Marion Island has many landforms that could only have been created by glacial erosional or depositional processes, with glaciers currently absent from the island. To determine when the island was last in a full glacial period, we date the formation ages of these landforms.”

“In the short time we have been visiting the island, it was impossible to notice any drastic changes in the island climate. That is why we use these very old landforms to tell us more about periods before humans visited the island,” she says. 

Rudolph believes that understanding the link between landscape responses and climate change of the past can help to better predict some of the climate change processes that are currently threatening the planet.

“There’s a principle in geography called ‘uniformitarianism’, whereby we assume that the earth-surface processes we observe today, are the same as those that have been active in the past,” says Rudolph.

As scientists, they thus look at evidence of past geomorphic processes (which remain in the landscape in various forms, e.g. residual landforms, stratigraphic sequences, etc.) to piece together what the past climate was like. In the same way, they also use this principle to predict how certain earth processes will change in the future, along with climate changes.

“In return, we understand how the climate and the earth’s surface interact, and we can better predict how the earth will respond to climate change,” Rudolph adds. 

Society to play its part in climate change

In the long run, we as the public should play our part in readying society for the effects of climate change. 

Rudolph says society can play a positive role in terms of climate change by educating themselves with unbiased, scientifically sound information on the true state of climate change and by responding within their own spheres of influence.

“Don’t leave everything up to politicians and policy. As the public, you can start to make progress by assessing the effects that climate change may have on your industry, business or society, and strategise on how to adapt your processes to deal with these changes.”

“Be responsible with our natural resources, reduce your waste, support local businesses that are sustainable, and volunteer at a local environmental protection/clean-up organisation. All the small efforts will eventually add up to substantial change,” she says. 

News Archive

UFS hosts the biggest HIV/AIDS event in its history
2007-10-05

The Chief Directorate: Community Service at the University of the Free State (UFS), in partnership with the Free State Department of Education, will host the biggest HIV/AIDS focus event in the history of the university.

The event will take place on Wednesday, 10 October 2007 on the Main Campus in Bloemfontein and the theme will be: Management of HIV/AIDS in the Workplace.

According to the Chief Director of Community Service at the UFS, the Rev Kiepie Jaftha, this event forms part of a wider role of his directorate to raise the level of awareness about the impact of HIV/AIDS within the university and the higher education sector in South Africa. It will also enhance the executive management’s buy-in and ownership of this role and incorporate the flow of HIV/AIDS information and activities into the core business of the UFS.

The focus will be on getting the executive management, middle management, aspiring managers and those who are affected by the decisions of the management, on board in the university’s endeavour to manage and create HIV/AIDS awareness in the workplace.

Most importantly, community members will also form an essential part of this event as the UFS strives to get them also involved in HIV/AIDS education and awareness.

“We hope to release the valve of denialism and stir the excitement amongst people, to encourage them to get involved in creating awareness within their workplaces, institutions and society,” said the Rev Jaftha.


To that effect, the Director of the Africa Centre for HIV/AIDS Management at the University of Stellenbosch, Prof. Jan du Toit, will deliver a keynote address. There will also be a mini-musical production called Lucky, the Hero, directed by the well-known stage performer and director of Educational Theatre and creative arts for the Africa Centre for HIV/AIDS Management, Prof. Jimmie Earl Perry.

The 25 tables for the event have been sold at a cost of R1 500 each and the beneficiaries thereof will be a local non-governmental organization (NGO), namely the Lebone Land Care Centre. The UFS has a long-standing relationship with the Lebone Land Care Centre, where students are sent as part of the implementation of their community service learning modules to enhance their practical skills. Now the university intends to formalise this partnership.

“I admire the holistic manner of approach the Lebone Land Care Centre uses towards caring for people who are infected and affected by HIV/AIDS and the way they make people realise that they can still live a meaningful life and add dignity and value to society,” enthused Rev Jaftha.

The NGO will also receive an award from Spar, one of the biggest supermarket groups in South Africa.

Media Release
Issued by: Mangaliso Radebe
Assistant Director: Media Liaison
Tel: 051 401 2828
Cell: 078 460 3320
E-mail: radebemt.stg@mail.ufs.ac.za
04 October 2007
 

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