Geology Cum Laude Graduate Explores Underwater Secrets of KZN Coast
Masters Geology graduate in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Ms Leslee Salzmann focused her cum laude thesis on the evolution of the continental shelf of KwaZulu-Natal between Durban and Kosi Bay.
Salzmann says the submerged shorelines comprise beaches and dune barriers formed about 12.7 to 11.6 thousand years ago across the east coast of South Africa when sea levels were lower than they are at present.
‘The shorelines seem to have all formed coevally (at the same time) and over a large area suggesting that the sea-level was standing still for the time in which they were developing. The sea-levels then appeared to have rapidly risen as glaciers in the northern hemisphere rapidly melted and as the climate warmed. This rapid rise in sea-level caused the shoreline to migrate rapidly up and over the shorelines and to preserve them in place upon the continental shelf,’ said Salzmann.
The rarity of submerged shoreline complexes allowed Salzmann to document how periods of sea level stasis, punctuated by rapid pulses of sea level rise, left indelible marks recorded in both the morphology and composition of the continental shelf.
‘Due to current fears about global warming and rising sea-levels, any study of shoreline behaviour under transgression (sea-level rise) is not only topical but vital. They add to our understanding of how current and future coastlines might behave if sea-levels were to continue rising,’ said Salzmann.
Dr Andrew Green, Senior Lecturer in Geological Sciences, said: ‘Ms Leslee Salzmann’s dissertation was particularly far reaching in its innovation; providing a model for how aspects of the continental shelf geology can be preserved in circumstances where global scientific thought considers this impossible.’
‘Ms Salzmann has published two papers in international peer-reviewed journals; the most recent of which was in the highly prestigious journal Geology,’ said Green.
One of the examiners said: ‘The results are a significant contribution, not only to our understanding of the postglacial sea level history of the region in question, but also of potential sea level signatures globally.’
Said Salzmann: ‘I would count anyone who pushes the boundaries of science and exploration as a role model and more especially Ms Sylvia Earle, who was one of the pioneering women in oceanography.
‘Studying for the Masters degree was a bit of a rollercoaster ride. I was lucky enough to have really good guidance and input from my supervisor Dr Andrew Green, who is passionate about what he does and about helping his students to succeed.’
Salzmann is doing her PhD at UKZN. ‘My PhD is a continuation as well as a broadening of my masters and aims to constrain the sea-level curve for eastern South Africa by dating a number of beachrocks at various depths.
Salzmann wants to get involved in oil and gas exploration projects happening off Mozambique and Tanzania. ‘If that fails, I am interested to test the waters in Australia where a lot of South Africa’s geologists seem to be drawn and a great deal of oceanographic research is done,’ she said.
- Leena Rajpal