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At a function held last night on South Africa’s flagship Antarctic research and supply vessel, the SA Agulhas, the scientific volume ‘The Prince Edward Islands. Land-Sea Interactions in a Changing Ecosystem’ was launched.

The book encapsulates a phenomenal body of work undertaken over the past sixty years by South African scientists and their colleagues at the Prince Edward Islands, and covers geology, oceanography, pelagic system functioning, terrestrial ecology and a socio-political history of South Africa’s research involvement at the islands. The islands are the most well-studied in the Southern Ocean and indeed among the most well-investigated globally. The research done there has provided a sophisticated and profound understanding of how ecosystems in the region function, and how human-induced changes, such as climate change and overexploitation, are affecting them.

At the launch function, the President of the National Research Foundation, Prof. Mzamo Mangaliso, highlighted the importance of research in the region to South Africa. He made clear how the South African National Antarctic Programme not only delivers excellent research and quality research capacity, in keeping with the NRF’s Vision 2015, but also how work in the region captures the spirit of Ubuntu.

Prof. Brian Huntley, previously CEO of the South African National Biodiversity Institute, and a member of the first biological and geological expedition to the islands (1965-66), emphasized that the volume illustrates the considerable benefits of the application of the scientific method to modern environmental and societal problems. In sharing his experiences as a team member in the 1960s, which were so different to those of modern expeditioners, he pointed out that the value of the early, careful biological observations, for understanding the impacts of modern climate change, had not been anticipated at the time.

Prof. Huntley’s enthusiasm for work at the islands is reflected by a stream of young researchers who have developed both scientifically and personally within the South African Antarctic Programme. Mawethu Nyakatya a graduate of the programme encouraged other young scientists to pursue a career in Antarctic Science. He reflected on how his time as a researcher on the island had not only developed his scientific skills, but had provided him with tremendous opportunities for personal growth.

In thanking the government agencies that fund much of South Africa’s research, C·I·B Director Prof. Steven Chown, and lead editor of the volume, argued that the book shows just how much societal benefit can be derived from a well-run, well-funded science system. He went on to note that the volume is a fitting commemoration of the 60th anniversary of South Africa’s annexation of the islands.

The Prince Edward Islands. Land-Sea Interactions in a Changing Ecosystem is available from AFRICAN SUN MeDIA for R300.00 VAT inclusive.

At the Prince Edward Islands book launch were (from left) Mr. Mawethu Nyakatya (Stellenbosch University), Prof. William Froneman (Rhodes University), Prof. Steven Chown (C·I·B Director, Stellenbosch University), Prof. Brian Huntley (DEAT) and Prof. Mzamo Mangaliso (NRF President).