Dr Gina Ziervogel wins Distinguished Young Women Researcher Award

19 Aug 2015 - 12:00

Dr Gina Ziervogel, who is a senior lecturer in the Department of Environmental & Geographical Science at UCT and a research fellow in the African Climate and Development Initiative,  was the 2015 winner of the Distinguished Young Women Researcher Award.

Dr Ziervogel's research has always been focused on those most exposed and vulnerable to climate change and variability, from households to villages and at municipal levels. As the potential of climate change to compound and aggravate poverty becomes increasingly clear, her work has a crucial role to play in finding ways to respond to the impact of climate change, particularly in the context of African poverty alleviation and development.

"Almost by default, Gina's work has social impact," said Professor Mark New, pro vice-chancellor and director of the African Climate and Development Initiative (ACDI), who nominated her for the award. "Her research projects are generally done 'with' rather than 'on' people and communities, focused on practical issues." This is evident in one of her current projects, called 'Flow': Fostering Local Wellbeing, a trans-disciplinary research project led by the ACDI. The project supports a group of Flow Ambassadors – unemployed youth who play an awareness-raising role in adapting to climate change, mapping local resources and making videos of municipal services, local businesses and other stories to engender interest in the richness of their local towns.

Alongside this is the development of a community currency – a regionally based money initiative that supplements the national currency system, matching unmet local needs with unused local resources.

Ziervogel commented: "To me this is a really exciting project because it brings together the local community, the informal economy and the local municipality, to look at how they are developing and supporting adaptation to climate change."

In the next five years, she sees herself developing her engaged scholarship by working collaboratively with these different groups to find innovative solutions.

"One of the things we need to do in addressing the goals of environmental sustainability and reducing poverty and inequality is looking at transformation. What are new ways we can do things? What are new ways we can challenge the status quo and the current policies and ways that we work so we can be more collaborative and inclusive and address risks more holistically?"

She was an exceptional scientist, said Professor Susan Parnell, producing world-leading high-impact research with African as well as South African reach, as evidenced by her P rating from the NRF.

"Specifically, her work lies at the core of the global development agenda and brings science to bear on issues of eradicating extreme hunger, ensuring environmental sustainability and developing a global partnership for development. Ziervogel has carved a position as a strong leader in an important and growing field.

"The applied nature of her work means she has a powerful public profile. Policy makers and practitioners know her globally as a careful and systematic researcher who is making a major contribution to our understanding of how climate science is used. Given this year's theme of 'science for a sustainable future', I cannot think of anyone better deserving of this award."