The Early Days

The tradition of ocean and coastal marine research at the Nelson Mandela University goes back to the early 1970s at the former University of Port Elizabeth. This grew from a few postgraduate students to staff from several disciplines, first initiated as the Institute for Coastal Research (ICR) at UPE 1983. Collaborative interdisciplinary work on the coast and ocean is therefore more than three decades old at the University. Starting as a forum to promote collaboration among three academic departments: Botany, Zoology and Earth Sciences, the ICR expanded its suite of activities in the 1980s to draw in the Department of Oceanography and to take on environmental consulting work. The initial funder was the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), followed by a variety of sources, most notably a major grant from South African Breweries (SAB), which underwrote ICR activities into the 1990s.


The Institute underwent a series of transformations up to 2007, changing name to the SAB Institute for Coastal Resource Management (ICRM) in 1997 and then to the SAB Institute for Environmental and Coastal Management (IECM) in 2002 and focusing mainly on commercial contracts for environmental consulting. A quiescent period ensued from 2007 until the Nelson Mandela Metropoliten University strategic decision in 2013 to develop a strong marine and maritime institutional theme. This was expounded as the University’s signature tune in the University’s Maritime and Marine Sciences Strategy for 2016-2020. It resulted in the establishment by the Faculty of Science of the Institute for Coastal and Marine Research (CMR), which was approved by Senate and Council in 2014. This emerged from recognition that marine and coastal ecosystems are threatened and the University must play a role in addressing this problem. However, the Institute remained dormant, pending the appointment of a Director.

CMR Today

Initially defined as an entity within the Faculty of Science, CMR has been elevated in 2016 to a university-wide institution reporting directly to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research & Engagement. The appointment of a Director at the start of 2016 has also contributed to starting the activities of the Institute, including reaching out to other Nelson Mandela University faculties and entities in addition to Science. January 2016 thus marked the initiation of the full range of activities of the CMR. The Institute now spans accross over 20 Departments from all seven Faculties, and includes members from entities external to the University. With its position at University’s new Ocean Sciences Campus, it will play a vital role in supporting the University’s drive for excellence in maritime and marine sciences.