Agrometeorology Professor Wins Award for Best Paper Published in 2013
Professor Michael Savage of the Agrometeorology Discipline in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences won the award for the best paper published in 2013 at the recent 2014 Combined Congress of Soil Science, Crop Science, Horticultural Science and Weed Science Societies in Grahamstown.
The award is administered by the Board of the South African Society of Crop Production.
The paper, titled: “Estimation of Frost Occurrence and Duration of Frost for a Short-Grass Surface”, was published in the South African Journal of Plant and Soil and utilises the web-based teaching and learning technology created by Savage. The web-based system made it possible for the research covered in the paper to use near real-time frost duration data and information displays and alerts.
This is the second consecutive year that Savage has received an award at the Combined Congress – last year he won the award for the best presentation at the Congress.
These awards acknowledge the immense success of the web-based teaching and learning system designed by Savage, who has just completed his MScAgric degree cum laude.
Savage, who started pursuing this degree in the late 1970s, was able to convert his Masters into a PhD after publishing his research in an international journal in 1979. He decided that he still wanted to achieve a Masters degree and submitted his thesis in October 2013. His research included educational, environmental and agrometeorological research which resulted from the development of his innovative web-based teaching and learning system, which has won the discipline much acclaim.
The discipline of Agrometeorology does not currently offer a major or programme; it offers two undergraduate modules as well as allowing Honours students to complete their projects, while based in other disciplines, with an Agrometeorology focus. The discipline has produced three cum laude Masters graduates over the last three years and has eight Masters and PhD students registered for 2014. The discipline’s undergraduate modules have grown from less than 20 students each year to around 80 students, showing the growth in interest in this field of study.
Savage has been particularly interested in how the web-based system has improved understanding across language divides using its particular representations of meteorological data. He recently distributed a questionnaire to students which found that three quarters of them did not mind being lectured in English and have found that Savage’s web-based system has improved their understanding of the field despite the language barrier. Even so, Savage has also initiated an effort to begin translating the English terms found in Agrometeorology into isiZulu with the collaboration of his students to improve the accessibility of the discipline.
The web-based teaching and learning system is also a flagship project for the University Teaching and Learning Office, which hosted a seminar given by Savage on the topic of using real-time/live data to enhance teaching and learning in higher education. The seminar took place at Main Campus, Pietermaritzburg, on Wednesday, 19 February.
- Christine Cuénod