The inaugural recipient of the 2019 “Innovative Experience Award” was given by ASU Study Abroad Office to the Okavango Delta Study expedition initiated and supported by the PLuS Alliance. This study abroad experience incorporated the involvement of four universities; ASU, Kings College, London, UNSW Sydney and the University of Botswana. For the third year running, in June a group of staff and students headed to the Okavango Delta in Botswana as part of a river sustainability project, to investigate the socio-ecological challenges and opportunities of this unique river basin. Academics Professor Richard Kingsford - UNSW, Dr Naho Mirumachi - King's and Professor Dave White - ASU accompanied the students and facilitated the work that took place. Professor KIngsford commented that "the expedition is linked to the UN Sustainability development goals primarily SDG 6 - Sustainability of water resources including their management for equity. But we are also focused on SDG 15 related to biodiversity. Obviously access to water is a human right that it is also related to many of the other SDGs”
Anna Nohre, a MSc student reflected on her experience in this exceptional wetland environment, habitat to a range of incredible animals and plants.
“The trip was a treasure trove of information and has been highly informative for my dissertation. I made field observations throughout the week, including lecture notes on relevant topics. Furthermore, I was able to conduct interviews with water management experts who study the Okavango that will be part of my primary methodology.
It is safe to say I will never have another experience quite like it, and I am so thankful to all the professors who shared their expertise and enthusiasm for their subjects, as well as all the staff at the Elephants without Borders camp who hosted us.”
Hanna Chorbachi, MA student commented,
“I gained so much! I got to go to Botswana and see the Delta and Maun and travelled though the drought region. I gained practical fieldwork skills that I wouldn’t have got otherwise, as my masters is human geography based. I also gained contacts from other universities and Elephants without borders."
She added “my current job is in the international team at the UK Department for environment food and rural affairs (DEFRA) and I am working on conservation projects in the KAZA TFCA which is lucky as I know a lot about it now from my trip to Botswana and my master’s thesis! So, the trip has directly impacted my academic and professional development.”
The Innovative Experience Award was given because of the nominations made by students. One of the nominees observed,
“The collaboration of the four universities in addition to the non-profit organization, Elephants without Borders built an intensive, once-in-a-lifetime experience that incorporated applying hands-on laboratory research techniques and data collection in the Okavango Delta. In addition, lectures and talks that covered wildlife & water conservation, the impact of climate change and related transboundary governance issues added complexity and depth. This immersive experience was life-changing and has made an impact on myself that has already led to taking action to make a difference in this region of the world."
You can read more about the expedition and the student’s experiences on the Waterwords blog at https://blogs.kcl.ac.uk/water/ and read PLuS Alliance fellow Dr Naho Mirumachi's study of the MeKong River in the The Blue Peace Index launched in August 2019 by the Economist Intelligence Uni and the Swiss Agency for development and Cooperation #SDG6 #SDG15 #BluePeaceIndex
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