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Southern African science textbook


Faculty and NSF-IGERT trainees from the University of Florida’s Water, Wetlands and Watersheds IGERT Program (AMw3) have teamed with faculty from University of Botswana’s Okavango Research Institute to write a textbook on resource management for undergraduate students at the University of Botswana (UB). The text is a collaborative effort that evolved directly from the research and community involvement of IGERT trainees and faculty in southern Africa, particularly in the countries of Botswana and Namibia, but also in Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

With funding from the National Science Foundation’s Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) Program, fourteen PhD students under the leadership of Dr. Mark Brown, professor of Environmental Engineering Sciences and Principal Investigator of the AMw3-IGERT at UF, conducted researched in southern Africa for 6 years. The team studied the response of ecosystems and human systems to the combined effects of climate change, population growth, and tourism development. Working primarily in the Okavango Delta and Kavango-Zambezi watersheds, trainees in the IGERT program not only conducted their individual research activities, but devoted time and energy during their in-country data collection to community involvement projects.

The textbook is an outgrowth of the AMw3-IGERT team’s involvement in community projects, especially with undergraduate students at the University of Botswana. While working with Okavango Research Institute faculty, the team recognized there was a real need for a comprehensive, systems oriented textbook on resource management since UB is developing an undergraduate program in environmental sciences and there are no texts written explicitly for southern Africa. The textbook is appropriate for any resource management course in southern Africa and will be freely available as a downloadable ebook. The first of it’s kind, the textbook provides real-world examples and case studies drawn from the southern African context thus providing students with a place-based text which showcases the latest interdisciplinary research findings regarding important resource management issues.

There is no question that the book project could not have been possible without the funding from the NSF interdisciplinary IGERT program. The Africa team that was responsible for its production was composed of students in, geography, geologic sciences, anthropology, communication sciences, economics, forestry, and ecology. While each worked on their independent research in southern Africa, they developed a close collaborative network and dedication to community service that eventually translated into a commitment to write this textbook as a way of ultimately giving back to the people and land that provided them with the raw material for their research.

Address Goals

This textbook was the collaborative effort of IGERT Trainees whose research was conducted in southern Africa. During the field data collection of the trainees, they also worked on community projects and worked with faculty at the University of Botswana where they learned of the need for an undergraduate textbook. Using their research as a springboard , the trainees developed an ebook to be used as an undergraduate text in resource management that is specific to southern Africa. While it does not advance the frontiers of knowledge, the text does expand scientific literacy and reports on the latest in scientific achievements regarding ecological and social change in a voice that average undergraduate students in southern Africa can relate to.