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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

FF Plus court case against UFS withdrawn
2007-10-23

The University of the Free State (UFS) is pleased to announce that a Supreme Court application to have the racial integration of its student residences set aside has been withdrawn unconditionally by the Freedom Front Plus (FF+). The political party has offered to pay the assessed costs of the UFS.

The Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the UFS, Prof. Frederick Fourie, welcomed this decision by the FF+, saying all energy should now be focused on making a success of this very important nation-building initiative in the student residences. “We have been convinced all the time that we had followed a fair and inclusive consultation process which led to a thorough and well-considered decision by the Council,” he said.

The decision to integrate student residences as from January 2008 was approved by the UFS Council on 8 June 2007. This last decision was confirmed by the Council – which is the highest decision making body at the UFS -  on 14 September 2007 with an overwhelming majority, with only one vote against.

“There is now no legal obstacle to student participation in the work being done to implement Council’s decision. In fact I want to urge all students in our residences to play an active role in implementing Council’s decision,” he said.

According to Prof. Fourie much work has been done in preparation for the intake of first-years into the residences in January 2008.

Since the initial decision of 8 June 2007, the Vice-Rector: Student Affairs, Dr Ezekiel Moraka, has been leading a team of staff members and student representatives who are doing work in various sub-task teams.

“One of the main reasons for working in this way through sub-task teams, is to ensure the widest possible participation of the affected students in the implementation of the Council’s decision,” said Prof. Fourie.

These sub-task teams are working on aspects of residence life in order to make the racial integration of residences as successful as possible. These aspects of residence life include, among others:
 

  • governance structures
  • traditions and character of residences
  • diversity education and training
  • security
  • placement and recruitment

“This list is not exhaustive, but merely to illustrate the kinds of areas being looked into. I would like to encourage all students in residences to make an input into the work of these sub-task teams through the primes, the Student Representative Council (SRC) or through the offices of the Dean or the Deputy Dean of Student Affairs.

“We have already begun to implement an interpreting service at the house meetings of three ladies residences, namely Emily Hobhouse, Roosmaryn and Vergeet-my-nie. From next year this service will be extended to other residences on the Main Campus,” said Prof. Fourie.  

“In the light of withdrawal of the court case, I am appealing to all students in our residences, to join hands with fellow students and with management in creating a campus of respect and appreciation for all languages, cultures and backgrounds,” he said.

“We want our students to assist the UFS in successfully managing the rich diversity on this campus, particularly in its student residences, and in so doing become an example to South Africa of a truly non-racial, multi-cultural and multi-lingual campus, where students are appropriately educated for the workplace,” Prof. Fourie said.


Media release issued by:        
Lacea Loader
Assistant Director: Media Liaison  
Tel:  051 401 2584
Cell:  083 645 2454
E-mail:  loaderl.stg@ufs.ac.za

23 October 2007

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