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Change the world

07/09/2023

Reasons to be Proud #R2bP: PhD student in Geosciences Carla Dodd from Nelson Mandela University has recently received an NRF (National Research Foundation) Research Excellence Award for her pioneering research on groundwater resources.

Carla is one of seven recipients of the NRF Research Excellence Award for Next Generation Researchers in recognition of outstanding academic performance by final-year doctoral candidates.

“My research will help answer questions regarding where and when our coastal groundwater resources are replenished and whether anthropogenic activities (i.e., pollution) are affecting the groundwater quality.

“This has direct implications for sustainable groundwater development and management in Nelson Mandela Bay and the adjacent coastal areas, says Carla, whose dream job is “to continue with research - especially related to water quality, resource management and groundwater development in South Africa.”

Her research uncovers these dynamics by using cutting-edge methodology in collaboration with international scientists. Carla’s research is also the first to map and model the hydrological flowpaths linked to coastal microbialites, thereby providing a unique evolutionary window into the past.

Her multi-tracer study links catchment processes to coastal groundwater discharge - especially related to groundwater-dependent ecosystems, namely supratidal spring-fed living microbialite ecosystems (SSLiME), she says.

“A research niche more relevant to today’s society than Carla’s would be hard pressed to find”, said her supervisor Dr Gavin Rishworth.

She is engaged in the field of groundwater and hydrological cycle research with a view towards remediating drought conditions that are severely impacting the local socio-economy, further compounded by climate change.

Groundwater has been touted as a mitigation tool to alleviate society’s reliance on surface water. However, the groundwater cycle is poorly understood in terms of connectivity and recharge or replenishment.

Carla’s research is uncovering these dynamics in the Algoa Water Supply System that links to Nelson Mandela Bay using cutting edge methodology in collaboration with international scientists (e.g., the University of Oldenburg), Dr Rishworth says.

Her research is therefore at the forefront of societal, geoscience and geobiology research, which is both novel, relevant and innovative.

This has been recognised globally through, for example, at least seven international peer-reviewed publications, her invitation to international conferences (e.g., GeoHab, Reunion Island May 2023 and INQUA, Italy, July 2023), and participation in international student exchange (Oldenburg, Germany - June-September 2023) and training (International Association of Sedimentologists (IAS) Summer School in the Bahamas, May 2022).

Her co-super visors are Prof Gudrun Massmann of the University of Oldenburg and Dr Hayley Cawthra of the Council for Geoscience, and Research Associate at Mandela University’s African Centre for Coastal Palaeoscience.

She completed both her Honours and MSc in Geology cum laude at Mandela University.

“Carla is a hardworking and considerate student who uplifts her peers and brings joy to our research team. She is a role model to emerging researchers and an example of life-career balance.

“We are exceedingly proud of her having received this award and she deserves every accolade that has reached her which lays the platform for a promising future. She is due to submit her thesis for examination in December”, says Dr Rishworth.

Contact information
Ms Elma de Koker
Internal Communication Practitioner
Tel: 041-504 2160
elma.dekoker@mandela.ac.za