Setting the Science Agenda

18 August 2014

Science's new research focus has six areas of strategic impact - making the most of the faculty's research strengths and critical mass, in conjunction with our geographic advantage.

Faculty of Science

African Climate & Development

Africa occupies a critical global position for the study of large-scale climate and environmental processes. Straddling the tropical, subtropical and temperate climate systems, as well as the Indian, Atlantic and Southern Oceans, the continent is influenced by a wide variety of atmospheric and oceanic circulation systems, including the dominant Agulhas and Benguela currents. These systems affect much on the African continent; its changing climate, its biota and human development. As a developing continent, our location also provides us with a clear advantage in terms of science and technology applications to social development in Africa.

Biodiversity & the Cape Floristic Region

The Greater Cape Floristic Region includes two Mediterranean biomes; fynbos (which includes renosterveld) and the succulent karoo. The succulent karoo biome is the world's greatest arid hotspot and the fynbos biome diversity competes with that of the Amazon forest. Besides encompassing an enormous amount of plant biodiversity, the region includes high levels of animal biodiversity, archaeological diversity and important perspectives on landscape development, climate change and earth history.

Chemistry & Biology for Health in Africa

The major global medical need of the 21st century will be in Africa, given the high disease burden and scale of the populations. The clinical expertise at UCT, coupled with the wide ethnic diversity of patients, makes the Western Cape a good environment to conduct translational science and medicinal research relevant to Africa, and the Faculty of Science is well placed to play a major role in this regard. The Western Cape is arguably the biotech hub of Africa - enjoying strong support from the Department of Science and Technology and strong links with the pharmaceutical industry.

Marine Biology & the Southern Oceans

The marine environments around South Africa are among the most diverse anywhere in the world, and result from the meeting of the major Benguela and Agulhas currents associated with the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans, respectively, bounded to the south by the southern ocean. Furthermore, the interplay between these major currents and the southern ocean are central to African climate variability in the region, and diverse biology. The Faculty of Science has a long-standing international reputation for marine research, both biological and oceanographic, and is thus perfectly placed to be an international leader in this impact area.

Southern Skies & the Evolving Universe

The astronomical landscape in South Africa has changed dramatically over the last decade. This is due to the construction of the largest optical telescope in the southern hemisphere (SALT), the Karoo Array Telescope (KAT-7), and MeerKAT (to be completed in 2016), and with the successful SKA bid for southern Africa (due for completion in 2022). Given our geographic advantage (with access to the southern skies); close proximity to the South African Astronomical Observatory; the SKA South Africa project office and MeerKAT remote operations headquarters; in addition to our strengths in observational astronomy, multi-wavelength radio astronomy, high-energy particle physics, gravity and cosmology, the Faculty of Science has an unparalleled opportunity to become an international leader in the study of the southern skies and the early universe.

Human Evolution & the African Quaternary

The western and southern seaboards have archaeological and palaeontological sites of world importance, which shed light on human evolution and the behaviour of early modern humans. Our geographic position, and our 'living laboratories' of local resources, provide the Faculty of Science with special opportunities, particularly in the earth and life sciences, to make important contributions to questions of global scientific importance and establish ourselves as international leaders in the field. Moreover, our location provides faculty researchers with ready access to southern-hemisphere climatic and environmental records over the timespan of the Quaternary. These records are urgently needed for integration into conceptual and computer-based models of hemispheric and global climate change, and will contribute to an improved understanding of earth system dynamics.

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Monday Monthly

Volume 33 Edition 07

18 Aug 2014

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