College of Agriculture, Engineering
and Science (CAES)

School of Life Sciences Hosts BRICS Collaborative Project Workshop

School of Life Sciences Hosts BRICS Collaborative Project Workshop

The School of Life Sciences (SLS) at UKZN recently hosted a three-day initial inception workshop for a study awarded by the Joint Application Form (JAF) BRICS Multilateral Joint Science and Technology Research Collaboration, in which the Aquatic Ecosystem Research programme (AER) is the South African representative.

The three-year collaborative study, running from January 2019 to December 2021, comprises global and local water quality monitoring by multimodal sensor systems (GLOWSENS).

The main representatives undertaking the study are the AER in South Africa; the Department of Physics and Material Science at the University of São Paulo in Brazil; the laboratory of artificial sensory systems at ITMO University in St Petersburg, Russia; the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) in Kolkata, India; and the Institute of Medical Engineering at Xi’an Jiaotong University in China.

Participants in the study aim to develop a multimodal sensor-based water chemical analysis methodology for application in global environmental water quality monitoring. These methods as well as their associated tools and equipment will allow for integral water quality assessments with the potential for deployment on local and regional spatial scales.

The initial inception workshop took place at Fountainhill Estate in Wartburg and was attended by more than 22 participants, including 13 representatives from the BRICS countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China. The programme featured an introduction to the project and its terms of reference, and enabled teams from each country to present their work and developments, followed by engagement between representatives towards the project planning during workshop sessions.

The programme included field visits to UKZN facilities, the Darvill Waste Water Treatment Works, Midmar Dam and the uMngeni River Mouth in Durban. Participants also reviewed case studies from each partner country and planned the way forward for their contributions.

In the study, participants will develop and test water quality constituent monitoring sensors and gather data processed and accessed via an online data management system. They will develop methodology required for the project using detailed research on technologically advanced sensing materials and methods, test new sensors and sensor arrays of various types, and apply advanced methods of data processing and integration, including those applied on regional spatial scales for a range of aquatic ecosystems and associated management objectives.

The AER group will contribute to the development of the multimodal water quality sensor systems by sharing recent water quality and quantity monitoring developments achieved through the South African FISHTRAC study which monitors both the ecological response (ecological indicators) and changes in flow and water quality using radio telemetry systems.

Ultimately, it is anticipated that the study will promote the generation and use of large datasets, cloud-based databases and web based distributed networks for real-time or near real-time environmental water quality management.

Dr Daniel Correa of the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation noted the importance of this first workshop for the participating teams to meet and begin discussions regarding research strategies. He thanked the South African hosts for their hospitality and expressed confidence that the project would be beneficial to each partner country.

Professor Andrey Legin of Russia commended the organising team for their hospitality and efficiency. Professor Chunsheng Wu of the Chinese team thanked everyone for their kindness during the trip, saying the team was eager to begin what promised to be a fruitful collaboration.

Dr Nabarun Bhattacharyya and Mr Alokesh Ghosh of C-DAC said they enjoyed participating in the project and were eager to begin contributing in the domains of the Internet of Things, Cloud Computing, Big Data Analytics and Bio-Sensor developments.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Supplied by Linda Hulley