The CMR is actively involved in facilitating meetings, hosting conferences, and building capacity through training workshops. There are also several citizen science initiatives run by different research groups, which we encourage members of the public to participate in. The CMR also arranges an annual Research Symposium (see the 2017, 2018 and 2019 symposiums here), as well as various workshops, talks, and engagement events. From 2021, the CMR hosts quarterly seminars.




Mandela Uni home to Eastern Cape’s first functional hyperbaric chamber in years 


The first official operations of the new fully functional hyperbaric chamber platform at Mandela University’s Ocean Sciences Campus recently took place, when two separate 30m chamber orientation dives were carried out for six Class III and Class IV trainee commercial divers. 

“There has not been a functional hyperbaric chamber in the Eastern Cape for a number of years, which presented a significant risk to scientific, recreational and commercial diving in the region” says Sean Bailey, the Senior Technician at SAEON’s (South African Earth Observation Network) Elwandle Coastal Node.

The University’s Shallow Marine and Coastal Research Infrastructure (SMCRI) initiative, funded by the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), acquired the platform and installed in the H-Block wing of the Ocean Sciences Campus.  

This platform is to be used primarily for diving emergencies but also for scientific diver training (Class V and IV) by the research diver training school based at the University.  The chamber on campus is hosted as part of a strategic partnership between the University, the NRF (in particular SAEON) and the DSI. 

Aside from fulfilling its primary function as an emergency treatment facility for decompression sickness (DCS), the platform will also be used for recreational 50m introductory dives.  These dives, carried out by either qualified or trainee recreational or commercial divers, introduce the divers to the physiological effects of high pressure on the body, particularly regarding nitrogen narcosis and vocal effects at depth. 

Work-up dives can also be carried out by diving staff that have not dived for extended periods, where their bodies are able to become re-acclimatised to pressure in a safe and controlled environment and therefore better able to cope with depth on planned deep dives. 

Another feature is the effective pressure testing of equipment designed for underwater use.

More staff will soon be trained as operators and supervisors to ensure that the chamber can be sustainably maintained on a permanent standby basis and until such time as this training is done, the platform will remain available for diving emergencies provided that the limited operating staff are available.

Another potential future use of the facility may include Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) if an arrangement can be reached with a medical doctor willing to run the HBOT treatments.

Left, Sean Bailey, Senior Technician at SAEON and right, Imtiyaaz Malick, oceanographic technician and chamber operator. 



Mandela Uni professor awarded international Newton Prize


Reasons to be Proud - #R2bP: Nelson Mandela University’s Professor Mike Roberts who holds the Chair in Ocean Science and Food Security, has been awarded a 2020 Newton Prize recognising research and innovation projects between the UK selected partner countries.

The Newton Prize recognises excellent science, research and innovation in support of economic development and social welfare in Newton Fund international research partner countries which for 2020 are Egypt, Jordan, Kenya, South Africa and Turkey. 

One Newton Prize was awarded to each of the 2020 Newton Prize partner countries to the value of up to £200 000.  Prof Roberts’ research was one of five shortlisted candidates from South Africa.

Prof Roberts, who was awarded the Country Prize, holds a bilateral NRF/UK Newton Fund Chair and leads an important multidisciplinary research group that focusses on how climate change and a changing global ocean impacts the ecosystem of the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) and how this links to food security in the region. 

“Winning this Newton Prize is a tremendous boost to starting up the second five-year phase of my Chair research plan which focuses on the ocean and marine resources off Mozambique. In part, it will support five Mozambican postdoc and postgrad students who join us at Mandela University in 2021. These young scientists will form the core of a new, energetic cohort of marine scientists focused on marine food security in Mozambique.” said Prof Roberts.

The WIO Upwelling Research Initiative places great emphasis on service to society in the transference of research outputs into ocean governance and food security structures.

The project makes use of satellites, ocean models, marine robotics, and other of state-of-the-art technologies capable of studying complex and remote ecosystems.  It will use the ‘innovation bridge’ between world-class research institutions, develop local capacity, and encourage governments to protect these valuable yet vulnerable ecosystems.

“The ocean knows no national boundaries.  This project is a real game changer as it has a regional approach that involves local research institutions.  It builds state-of-the-art capacity in them – a legacy that will give WIO countries great independence and a stake in their destiny,” said Professor David Vousden, Director of the UN ASCLME (Agulhas and Somali Current Large Marine Ecosystem) project.

Dr Jiska de Groot in partnership with Dr Federico Caprotti from the University of Exeter was awarded the prestigious Chair Prize worth £500,000. The project entitled: "UMBANE: Powering innovative sustainable businesses with productive use appliances in South African informal settlements at the margins of the grid" addresses the key issue of how to use renewable energy technologies such as solar microgrids to power sustainable businesses in off-grid parts of South Africa. Dr de Groot is a Researcher at the Energy Research Centre, and a Senior Fellow at the African Climate and Development Institute (ACDI).

The Newton Prize was launched in 2016 to demonstrate how UK partnerships with Newton Partner countries address the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals.  The best research and innovation that addresses global challenges and promotes the economic development and social welfare of Newton partner countries receive annual awards.



Mandela SARChI Research Chair in Ocean Cultures and Heritage 


The National Research Foundation (NRF) has awarded Nelson Mandela University’s Professor Rose Boswell a new SARChI Research Chair in Ocean Cultures and Heritage.

The University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Internationalisation, Dr Thandi Mgwebi, received confirmation of the accolade earlier this week (20 October 2020).

“The awarding of this Chair to Nelson Mandela University comes at an opportune time when the world through the United Nations, notes the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021–2030 with the tagline ’the science we need for the ocean we want’.

“This Chair’s work resonates with the initiatives supported in the Decade – those that contribute to sustainability of the ocean and also in building partnerships with all stakeholders involved. The uniqueness in the Chair’s work is the focus on the influence of humans on ocean sustainability and oceans management, bringing an often disregarded approach in oceans research,” said Dr Mgwebi.

She said the transdisciplinary nature of the Chair would certainly offer added value and impetus to the growing transdisciplinary approaches within the university, providing opportunities for students in natural, human and social sciences.

“We congratulate Professor Boswell on this achievement. A Tier 1 Chair is a 15-year commitment by the DSI-NRF reviewed every five years. We look forward to the first five years of the Chair and a successful road ahead.”

In making the award, the NRF noted that Mandela University already had Chairs within oceans and coastal sciences, but none with a focus in the humanities. The new transdisciplinary Chair will be based on the Ocean Sciences Campus and support work that crosses and bridges the gap between the sciences and humanities.

For Prof Boswell, the former Executive Dean of the Faculty of Arts at the University, it is an opportunity to revitalise the humanities, which is one of the University’s strategic priorities, in a field that is traditionally focused on the natural sciences.

The anthropologist, NRF-rated researcher and poet is currently Professor of Ocean Cultures and Heritage at the University’s Ocean Sciences Campus.

Prof Boswell said she hoped that the new Chair would contribute to the strategic area of growing the Mandela University footprint on the African continent.

“Much of the research that has been done is focused elsewhere in continental Europe and also in Asia,” Prof Boswell said.

“In addition to wanting to emphasise Africa, I'm also keen to expand the role of the humanities in the oceans economy. Although the focus is often on the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities have a lot to say to policymakers and corporate funders in this field,” she said.

“If the humanities can be given a voice in that space, and there can be more transdisciplinary work, our graduate students can really contribute to Government’s Operation Phakisa.”

International collaborations

She hopes the Chair will expand knowledge of the maritime sector in Africa as well as enable the University to pursue regional and global collaborations.

In addition to her extensive academic credentials, Prof Boswell has also established an international network of colleagues, which the NRF panel referred to.

“Prof Boswell is recognised internationally by various colleagues and by her involvement in international research collaborations,” the NRF report said.

“Prof Boswell’s evident competency in her field of anthropology is recognised, and the application of this discipline to the focus area of Oceans’ Cultures and Heritage. Her ability to envisage this research project chair with numerous collaborative alliances and a number of interlinked sites with colleagues is also seen as a strength.”

These connections will be key to the new research drive of a greater role of the Humanities within the Oceans and Coastal Sciences, Prof Boswell believes.

“Working with global partners is very important because it expands the network of students and colleagues that you have access to. It also assists in advancing our cognitive understanding,” Prof Boswell said.

Her collaborative work includes serving as a co-investigator in the One Ocean Hub (an international programme for collaborative research for development based in the UK), on the committee for the Intercontinental Slavery Museum in Mauritius and a research programme leader in the Community of Practice, Oceans Account Framework project funded by NRF and led by Prof Patrick Vrancken at Nelson Mandela University. 

Prof Boswell also contributes to the global educational work of the Seychelles Blue Economy Institute and the work of UNESCO in its regional expert consultation series on racism and discrimination.

‘Great scientific merit’

The NRF highlighted the significance of the work ahead.

“The proposed research is of great scientific merit given that Oceans Culture and Heritage is a pioneering area.  Ethnography is brought to bear on sensitive and important subjects that touch on the environment, humanity, the sea as well as human relations and resource utilisation,” the review panel noted.



Prestigious science medal for Mandela Uni student


Reasons to be Proud - #R2bP: Masters student in Physical Oceanography from Mandela University's Institute for Coastal and Marine Research, Michael Hart-Davis, is the recipient of the prestigious S2A3 Masters Medal. 


Michael becomes the first Physical Oceanographic Masters student to win this award.

The S2A3 Masters’ Medals (bronze) have been awarded annually since 1981 by the Southern Africa Association for the Advancement of Science to outstanding research students in a scientific subject at South African universities. Founded in 1902, it is the oldest scientific organisation in South Africa.

Michael began his MSc thesis in January 2018 at Nelson Mandela University and submitted his final thesis in August 2019.  He completed two scientific publications as a result of his original research, with a further two publications currently in review. After graduation in late 2019, Michael accepted a PhD position at the Technical University of Munich in Germany where he continues to collaborate with South African colleagues.

Michael’s thesis was based on the development of a particle trajectory model for the use in several scientific applications in the Agulhas Current System. The scientific applications presented in his thesis included case studies advancing the understanding of surface ocean dynamics, studying the trajectories of sea turtles as well as juvenile lobster larvae and the development of search and rescue tools.

During his Masters’ studies, Michael spent time in Bergen, Norway where he collaborated with several scientists at the University of Bergen and The Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center (NERSC). His time in Bergen proved to be extremely beneficial and included presenting several seminars and attending lectures at the University which resulted in several international publications.

Michael would like to thank his supervisors Dr Bjorn Backeberg, Prof Juliet Hermes, A/Prof Mostafa Bakhoday-Paskyabi and Prof Johnny Johannessen as well as the Nelson Mandela University, Nansen-Tutu Center, SAEON and the NRF for the opportunities and contributions that they provided in allowing him to study and produce his MSc thesis.