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City varsity welcomes first post-doctoral fellow

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SOL PLAATJE University in Kimberley has its first post-doctoral fellow, Dr Zingfa Wala.

Dr Wala joined the university’s School of Natural and Applied Sciences on July 1 this year. 

“The School of Natural and Applied Sciences is excited on this momentous occasion to welcome the very first post-doctoral fellow at SPU,” Head of School Professor Aifheli Gelebe said.

“This plays a significant role towards the development of post-doctoral fellowship for the institution. The school is committed to increasing its research outputs by being research active within our key focus areas. The importance of this externally funded post-doctoral fellow is prudent to the continued success of the school as it not only enhances the school’s research capacity but has also established a base for a research partnership between the school and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI),” Gelebe said .

Wala is a doctoral graduate from the University of Cape Town where he analysed Gauteng birds, using citizen-science data from the Southern African Bird Atlas Projects investigating the changes in occurrence and abundance in the region, and the linkages with urban habitat and human population change.

His post-doctoral research will focus on biodiversity informatics curricula linked to data science applications. 

This is a SANBI-funded position that ties in with their Foundational Biodiversity Information Science division and links to the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF).

This SANBI-GBIF initiative aims to develop the capacity and skills base of biodiversity informatics professionals and practitioners in the country through the mobilisation, analysis, usage and publication of data.

Wala will be based in the department of Biological and Agricultural Sciences, under the supervision of Dr Doug Harebottle who is the head of department. 

“As the department’s first post-doctoral fellow, Dr Wala will be working on biodiversity informatics, which is a developing yet important field in the biodiversity conservation sciences. He will focus on how data science applications can assist in biodiversity big data analyses and visualisation, and incorporate these into developing appropriate post-graduate curricula. This showcases the inter-departmental and inter-disciplinary nature of Dr Wala’s work as he’ll be working with staff members from both the department of Biological and Agricultural Sciences and the department of Computer Science and Information Technology. His research and teaching experience will contribute immensely to the departments,” Harebottle said.

The School of Natural and Applied Sciences has welcomed Wala as part of the team in this “dynamic and innovative post-doctoral position”. 

Under the current Covid-19 conditions he will work remotely.

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