The call of the sea has lured the manager of the first long-term environmental monitoring node in South Africa away from Phalaborwa. Dr Dave Balfour, manager of the Ndlovu Node of the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON), will be moving on at the end of this month to take up a new post as the head of scientific services for Eastern Cape Parks Board. Head of Saeon, Johan Pauw, said "Dave has done more than what we expected him to... without him we would not be as far down the road as we are already."
Pauw wished Balfour luck in his new post, but commented that because of the networking nature of Saeon they would continue to collaborate. "We have just planted another partner somewhere else." Looking back over his time at the Ndlovu Node, Balfour says he is pleased to have played a role in establishing a network and creating a presence for Saeon in the lowveld. As the node is managed in collaboration with Sanparks, Balfour says that he has "really enjoyed" getting to know the workings of Sanparks better.
One of the achievements that is close to his heart is "getting the environmental science outreach programme up and running in a meaningful fashion so that it can continue growing on a solid platform." This is echoed by Pauw who says that the programme, which is one of Saeon's core objectives, has gone from "strength to strength" under Balfour's guidance. In his new post Balfour will be responsible for leading research and monitoring activities in the 23 protected areas in the Eastern Cape, and providing ecological advice and input into decisionmaking at the highest level.
Three candidates have been shortlisted to replace Balfour at the Ndlovu Node, and the successful candidate is expected to be in place by October or November. In the meanwhile Joe Sibiya will be acting manager. The node is also hoping to appoint a database manager in the near future. Balfour lamented his inability to find someone for the post sooner, but was positive that the compilation of long-term ecological data for the savanna ecosystem would soon be underway.
By Melissa Wray