UCT - UEA Newton PhD Partnership on Understanding the Climate system and Coping with Climate Change

Lead Research Organisation: University of East Anglia
Department Name: Tyndall Centre


The developing world is projected to suffer disproportionately from the effects of climate change. Many uncertainties remain in the likely conditions the world will experience, for example in local rainfall, and the effects of such changes on agriculture, fisheries, health and industrial development. It is today's early career researchers who will be tasked with tackling these challenges in future. To generate the skilled people necessary, we propose an international PhD partnering between the University of Cape Town (UCT) and the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the areas of (1) understanding the climate system, including the ocean and atmosphere, and (2) developing capacity to cope with a changing climate.

The proposed partnership will exchange PhD students in the fields of climate science (e.g. climate modelling, ocean science, atmospheric science), climate impacts (e.g. social science, international development, human health, agriculture, fisheries) and adaptation strategies. UEA and UCT are two universities with strong expertise in these disciplines. These strong and complementary centres and academics are brought here together in a formal arrangement for the first time.

The PhD researchers will benefit from strong expertise in both UEA and UCT in a range of key and modern methods. They will learn the skills needed to fully develop as researchers and operate in a global research environment in their field. Our partnership includes world experts in the measurements of ocean currents, marine biogeochemistry and ecology, fisheries survey, and atmospheric trace gases, as well as experts in conducting fieldwork on climate change adaptation and on epidemiology. We also have expertise in the synthesis and analysis of global datasets such as the global temperature (CRUTEM) and global ocean CO2 (SOCAT), and expertise in the modelling of physical climate, biogeochemistry, and integrated assessments of impacts and adaptation options. Importantly, many of our academic staff are experienced in working in interdisciplinary teams, a skill that is becoming increasingly important to address issues related to climate change using the best possible solution.

The exchange of 10 PhD students on each side will take place ideally in annual cohorts of 3-4 students, with an initial cohort of UEA students going to South Africa around February 2016, and an annual cohort of South African students coming to UEA around September. Students will be paired with someone of similar interests on both sides. This arrangement will create a support group for the students both for helping to quickly integrate socially and professionally and to be productive in advancing their knowledge, skills and connections quickly. Furthermore, at least three members of academic staff from each of UEA and UCT will also take part in the exchange, one each year. Additional exchanges are envisaged from projects that are already on going.

The group will benefit from international visibility through their integration with the Tyndall Centre at UEA and the African Climate and Development Initiative at UCT, contacts with the staff developing the international Future Earth platform, and connections with staff members that play key roles in international efforts, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the World Research Programme.

Planned Impact

The proposed UCT-UEA PhD student exchange partnership builds on existing interactions to work together to promote the economic development and welfare of South Africa and the surrounding nations. The exchanges will up-skill local early career scientists in the area of climate science and how to cope with climate change while enhancing livelihoods. At the same time it will build understanding amongst UK early-career scientists of climate change issues in South Africa, providing a foundation for their longer term engagement with South African researchers.

The main impact of the proposed partnership will benefit those managing sustainable development in Africa (local governments, aid agencies, leaders of industries such as agriculture and fishing). This is through better understanding of likely climate change and its effects on water supply, agriculture and food security, human health, fisheries and marine ecosystems, the uncertainties in such projections, and the techniques for mitigation, adaptation and alleviation.

This impact will be achieved through holding open workshops in South Africa to undertake knowledge exchange with local decision makers, and through ensuring that webinars and dissemination events are open and widely advertised.

The exchange will produce cohorts of PhD students trained in the advanced subject-specific and transferable skills necessary to address the issues of climate change in South Africa, and the wider developing world; these will benefit future employers. The project will build capacity in the use of new environmental observing systems, climate-relevant data analysis and modelling, adapting and finding solutions to a changing environment. The resulting trained cohorts of PhD students with experience of working overseas at the partner institution, linked to industry, will be better connected with international activities such as Future Earth and IPCC, leading to enhanced reach of research and enhanced capacity to operate in global research environment.


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Description We now see clear benefits to the UCT-UEA partnerships. The benefits are both for the individual projects the individuals taking part and for the wider consortium.

For Jana Hofmann (UEA), the partnership has helped her and her supervisor to develop local knowledge to better understand the value of carbon offsets for the local economy. The partnership has helped to identify the main stakeholders for her research and to facilitate new skills like networking and generating new ideas for research collaborations. The partnership has been essential to her work and provided a great learning curve in terms of how non-UK institutions operate in the research environment. The initiative has been an essential stepping-stone to learn about different research methodologies academics use to assess carbon offset projects. For Rebecca (BeccI; UEA) Wright, the partnership has helped focus her work on jellyfish on the key species that affect the South African environment, which have repercussions globally. Rebecca is located in the Oceanography Department with close ties (especially socially) with the post grads in the lab of her supervisor which is in Biosciences. This is useful for facing and resolving the challenges of interdisciplinary work. For Kulthoum Omari (UCT), the partnership has helped to link teams between UEA and UCT who were working on the same large research project of the governance of climate change adaptation. This has allowed both the UEA and UCT teams to interact more than we otherwise would have been able to. This has also enabled the two groups to think more about our joint area of work - which they are pursuing in two different geographical regions. The student is hoping to write a co-authored paper, which would be of benefit to both groups. Interworking between the two universities has been good, in particular Kulthoum Omari attended the Tyndall Assembly where she played a very active part in a number of discussions relating to climate change research, relevant to both issues in the UK and in South Africa. Kulthoum also made over 100 other attendees aware of some of the issues that she felt were important and this had strong benefit in encouraging cultural understanding. Rebecca Wright reported that the placement of her with a local family was very helpful, particularly as there were troubles at the UCT university at that time.

For MB, The benefits for him have been in experience. Getting to see how another country can utilise the sources available, and put together such a multidisciplinary research program with great success given the obstacles. Getting to know other scientists, and their work was also beneficial for him.
For MA, she has benefited from the seminar presentations that she has attended thus far. It was a lesson to participate in the Tyndall assembly and observe the discussions on the Tyndall Strategy for the coming years. She and the other UT students have met some academics who are interested in their work and continue to strengthen networking for future collaboration.

For KAQ, from what he is experiencing at UEA, the goal of the partnership is being achieved. This is because he has been able to draw on the expertise and resources available at UEA to improve his research through one on one discussion, as well as partaking in seminars in his field of expertise. This has given him an immersive access to broader range of scientific expertise in my research area and also an opportunity to broaden his experiential knowledge.

For JG, as outlined initially for his application for funding, he has improved his optimisation and quality control of data processing from ocean gliders deployed in the Southern Ocean using Python programming. We now have a robust quality control in place to clear troublesome data and clarify the effect light has on the phytoplankton blooms and heating in the upper part of the ocean. This is key to understanding the air-sea interactions that influence South African climate. It has been beneficial for both parties to exchange knowledge in this field and he has certainly gained knowledge in sea glider data. There is enthusiasm from both his UEA and UCT supervisors to develop this area in oceanography, equally inputting new ideas and gaining a better understanding of the physical processes in the upper ocean. An unexpected benefit would be to receive an invitation to give a seminar at the end of his visit to other researchers in this field.

UCT held two Webinars, one by Associate Prof. Marcello Vichi in June 2017, oceanographer and climate scientist of the University of Cape Town. Prof Vichi is the Director of UCT' Marine Institute (Ma-Re). Marcello's webinar was titled "The Southern Ocean: current knowledge gaps and role of sea ice". Associate Gina Ziervogel on the 11th of October 2017 gave an interesting webinar on "The case for inclusive governance: Empowering the urban poor to adapt to climate variability". We did not only have webinars but we also but our collaborators from the UK also held a few seminars at UCT.
Prof Corinne Le Quéré, former director at Tyndall Centre(UEA) came on an exchange in June 2017 and gave a seminar titled "The Global Carbon Budget: Insights, impacts and lessons learnt" on the 27th of June 2017 which was well received. Recently, on the 7th of September 2017, Professor Karen Heywood from UEA gave a well attended seminar on "From Antarctica to the Sea of Oman ; Scientific Discoveries from Ocean Gliders". Both these seminars were held in the Environmental and Geographical Sciences building at the University of Cape Town. Dr Tokoloho Rampai of the Department of Chemical Engineering is now visiting UEA for two weeks to benefit from the UEA experience with an advanced sea-ice chamber. Mark Tebboth travelled to UCT in May 2019 to strengthen collaboration and exchange of knowledge with ACDI staff. During the trip Mark Tebboth hosted a seminar and delivered a presentation on invasive species; submitted a proposal to IDRC involving staff from ACDi (that was subsequently funded) and participated in a workshop that contributed to the development of a further proposal concerning Centres of Excellence funded under the African Research Universities Alliance. Mark Tebboth and Roger Few travelled to UCT in January 2020 to build on the existing collaborations and participate in a workshop on Climate Resilient Development Pathways involving researchers from the UK and South Africa. These interactions over the courses of multiple years have really served to build linkages that will remain in the long term, in particular through the continued support of the Tyndall Centre who has supported the Newton PhD partnership between UEA and UCT.
Exploitation Route Three large research grants have been developed between UCT and UEA, which stem directly from the interactions during the first year. Unfortunately none were funded, but nevertheless led to increased interactions between the two universities. These are: (1) a Global Challenge Research Fund on Growing research capability to meet the challenges faced by developing countries. Our large proposal (£8mi, 5 years) looked at responses to climate change in urban environments and tries to identify the economic benefits of low carbon development. It links the UEA School of International Development with the UCT African Climate & Development Initiative (ACDI) and the UCT African Centre for Cities. Our linkages strongly build on interactions between the UEA Tyndall Centre and UCT ACDI in the past year through this Newton Partnership. (2) a large-scale NERC project on the 'OCEANic release of Greenhouse gASes under Pressure from multiple stressors (OCEAN-GASP)' that will conduct field work in the Benguela region off the coast of South Africa. UCT's Marcello Vichi has agreed to be project partner and to help guide both the field and modelling work and to link with corresponding research at UCT. (3) A Global Challenge Research Fund Outline proposal for £20mi was submitted on the topic 'Overcoming Poverty via Climate Actions (OPiCA)', led by UEA and UCT (ACDI and the Energy Research Centre).
This further links UEA's School of Environmental Sciences, Centre for Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences (COAS) with UCT's School of Oceanography. Furthermore, we have been able to link additional researchers through opportunities that have arisen through the UEA and UCT connections with Future Earth. Through our partnership information was diffused more widely on international opportunities (e.g. for authorship of the important IPCC assessment reports and workshops). During the period of the placements communication surrounding the placements increased dramatically between the universities. There were a number of online seminars and presentations that were shared on the subject of climate change within the specialist areas of the students. The impact was clearly that digital communications could be achieved between the universities using the physical swap as a catalyst, it must also be said that there have been a number of technical issues relating to the software used to facilitate the exchange of presentations that has had to be overcome. We had repeated technical issues and cancellations, but even for those seminars that were streamed the attendance has been relatively low to these events in part because of their unusual nature.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Energy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice

Description This exchange has led to tremendous impact on the UEA-UCT partnership, which are as follows: 1) this partnership was the inspiration for the new Tyndall Centre research strand 'Overcoming poverty with climate actions', which is one of four research strands of the 2018-2022 research strategy; 2) UEA and UCT co-led the submission of a £20mi outline proposal in response to the call 'Interdisciplinary Research Hubs to Address Intractable Challenges faced by Developing Countries' (submitted 9 November 2017, unfunded). The proposal, led by UEA, has UCT/ACDI director Prof Mark New as co-director. It involves also the UCT Energy Research Centre (ERC). A follow up visits to UCT led to the resubmission of a smaller version of the proposal which was successfully funded by ACDi. 3) UEA and UCT conducted a joint workshop at UCT in 27 June on climate change and development, which included 2 people from UEA attending in person and several via Gotomeetings. In more detail, so far three large research grants have been developed between UCT and UEA, which stem directly from the interactions during the first year. Our linkages strongly build on interactions between the UEA Tyndall Centre and UCT ACDI in the past year through this Newton Partnership, including the workshop held at UCT in July 2017. We have been able to link additional researchers through opportunities that have arisen through the UEA and UCT connections with Future Earth. Through our partnership information was diffused more widely on international opportunities (e.g. for authorship of the important IPCC assessment reports and workshops). The programme so far has achieved the objectives of the Newton partnering call, it has facilitated active communication between UEA and UCT. It has helped in the development of communication between researchers in the two locations, such that we are confident that open communication will continue. The programme has set the groundwork for ongoing collaboration on climate research work. The partnership has developed sustainable, strategic links between UEA and UCT in two key areas: At the level of the individual students, it has improved understanding of the climate system on seasonal time scales through research on ocean processes. The exchange of PhD students between countries has allowed for field work, development of new models, and acquisition of new data and knowledge which will help to constrain climate variability and its drivers, including aspects of the global ocean carbon cycle. Students have had the opportunity to engage with new research programmes. The programme has helped in developing understanding of the options to deal with climate change through identifying and quantifying climate change risks, and the potential for implementing impact and adaptation options. Research has been conducted that will promote future South African well-being, the exchange has facilitated the gaining of multi-disciplinary scientific skills and Integration has been achieved in such a way that will make future inter-country working more likely.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Education,Energy,Environment
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

Description UCT-UEA Newton PhD partnership on Understanding the Climate System and Coping with Climate Change 
Organisation University of Cape Town
Country South Africa 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The University of East Anglia (UEA) and the University of Cape Town, South Africa (UCT) have builded a new partnership scheme supporting PhD students conducting research in the areas of 'improving understanding of the climate system - including the ocean and atmosphere' and 'developing capacity to cope with climate change'. The scheme is jointly funded by the Research Councils UK (RCUK) and the National Research Foundation in South Africa (NRF) under the Newton Fund RCUK-NRF International PhD Partnering Scheme. UEA hosted the first cohort of first PhD from UCT in mid-2016.
Collaborator Contribution Both UCT and UEA hosted 5/6 PhD students for periods of 3 (mostly) to 6 months. UCT hosted also two members of the UEA academic staff. The next call for exchanges is out with application deadline in May.
Impact The collaboration is nicely evolving and we have had a growing numbers of activities together, including a workshop in July 2017 and three submitted proposals (1 funded). We have multiple outcomes, the main ones are (initials refer to PhD students who did the internships): MA (UCT), the most benefit she continues to receive is the support system from the Library, the School and Faculty where she sits. There is support for all areas where she needs to develop her research and academic writing skills. In particular, using NVIVO, handling and analysing qualitative data, critical thinking and academic writing skills are some of the critical areas that are valuable for her. For KAQ, one of remarkable experience has been the availability and free access to experts at UEA. He is also benefiting from being at a leading climate research group, in that, he gets to experience first-hand how climate research is being undertaken as well as have access to Climatic Research Unit (CRU) climate data and how it was developed. Through this, he is intellectually developing and also getting a sense of direction on his future career path. For TE, says that there is an awesome cooperation and motherly care from both the Tyndall Director and his host supervisor, Prof. Corinne Le Quere and Rachael Warren respectively as well as the Tyndall and CRU staffs. They are really good academics to work with and always interested in creating opportunities for ones career. For JG, there has been clear benefits to his intellectual development. The improvements to his optimisation of ocean glider data here at UCT could then be applied to ocean glider data in the Indian Ocean, plus other related oceanographic platforms like ARGO float data in the region. This will aid important understanding of air-sea interactions that influence the South-Asian monsoon, one of the biggest climate systems on the globe. He has access to CSIR and has come into contact with individuals in that centre. He had the opportunity to access the facility where the department's ocean gliders are kept and maintained. The facility is called Sea Technology Services located at V&A Waterfront. He had the chance to physically measure the exact same glider used to collect the data he is currently working on, plus also see the oceanographic platforms and instruments available. For MB, given the right access to funds, the department of Oceanography (at UCT) has a great potential to become a world leader in this area as there exists the right forms of leadership in place, as well as motivation, forward thinking, and plenty of energy. It was a privilege to spend time there he concluded.
Start Year 2015
Description Workshop on building resilient cities in a changing climate 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact We held a workshop to review the initial results of the U-RES project, strengthen the links among partners and collaborators (private, NGO and academia), and develop a short list of follow-up projects that could be taken forward. The three sessions discussed were: (1) How can cities grow to be resilient to extreme weather in a changing climate? (2) How and where do new cities emerge? (3) What are the opportunities for influencing their design?
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description Workshop organised by the project in Norwich UK 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Workshop between researchers from South Africa and from the UK, over the topic of reducing poverty with climate actions. Discussions led to joint submitted proposals.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017