The Phalaborwa-based Ndlovu Node of the South African Environmental Observation Network (Saeon) has recently gained an information manager in the form of Nicola Stevens, who will begin the important process of developing the GIS (Geographical Information Systems) database that is an integral component of Saeon's mandate to collect long-term environmental data. Stevens has a master's degree in evolutionary biology and ecology, and has worked for the CSIR and Global Vision International.
She attained her master's degree studying buffalo in the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve as part of the reserve's bovine tuberculosis research project. According to Saeon's head, Johan Pauw, among her first tasks will be sourcing digital maps that are pertinent to the node's savanna ecosystem in its focus area of the lowveld. Many digital maps of things like geology, landuse, infrastructure, demographics and other biological information already exist, but in many different locations.
As part of their mandate, Saeon will bring all these together into a single comprehensive database, and will make the information in the database available to policy makers as well as other interested parties. As Saeon has a strong networking focus, the data will be sourced from both private and governmental organisations, and Pauw is positive about the connections that Saeon has already developed, both in the lowveld and across the nation. A new manager for the Ndlovu node has yet to be appointed, after previous manager Dave Balfour left to take up the position of head of scientific services for Eastern Cape Parks.