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Living With Thirst


Southern Africa is a region of arid and semi-arid environments that endures wide fluctuations in seasonal and annual precipitation. Proximity to perennial water sources is extremely important and influences nearly all facets of life, from drinking water to livelihood activities. The threat of climate change has important implications for both humans and wildlife in the region. Global climate models agree on warming trends across southern Africa, but models are inconsistent with regard to precipitation. While rainfall variability is a natural component of dryland environments, this constant variability, coupled with uncertainty about future trends, is cause for concern.

Graduate students in the Adaptive Management: Water, Wetlands and Watersheds (AMw3) IGERT program at the University of Florida (UF) have produced a video that explores how changes in climate variability may affect the strategies that people in southern Africa use to cope with drought. An outgrowth of their dissertation research, the video was submitted to the Ecological Society of America’s annual Millennium Conference on Water-Ecosystem Services, Drought, and Environmental Justice. Because of the length of the video, the YouTube version has two parts. The URLs for each part are as follows: Part 1 and Part 2

The National Science Foundation under their Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship program funds the AMw3 Program at UF. Dr. Mark T. Brown, professor of Environmental Engineering Sciences at UF, is the principal investigator of the AMw3 project, which has funded almost 30 PhD students, many of whom completed their dissertation research in southern Africa. The students who wrote, filmed and produced the video, Gregory Parent, Anna Cathey, Andrea Gaughan, Bill Kanapaux, Deborah Wojcik, came majored in a variety of disciplines including economics, water resources, geography, ecology, and communication sciences. This diversity of disciplines reflects the vision and focus of the NSF-IGERT program leading to a truly integrative experience for the students involved in the video.

Address Goals

This project expands the scientific literacy of all citizens related to the effects of global climate change on marginal ecosystems and the peoples that live there. While the video does not directly foster research that advances the frontiers of knowledge, it stems form important research on global climate change impacts and communicates research findings to a broader audience.