PHD Research Provides New Insights into the Sustainable Management of Lake St Lucia
‘An intellectual marathon’, is how Dr Robynne Chrystal describes the accomplishment of successfully completing her PhD degree.
Supervised by the eThekwini Municipality Chair in Civil Engineering at UKZN, Professor Derek Stretch, and Dr Ursula Scharler of the School of Life Sciences, Chrystal’s dissertation examined the anthropogenic impacts and biophysical interactions in Lake St Lucia.
‘Lake St Lucia is part of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park World Heritage site,’ explained Stretch. ‘Like many wetlands worldwide it has experienced significant anthropogenic impacts over the past century that threaten its role as an important biodiversity resource. Chrystal’s study used a novel integrated analysis of biological and physical processes to bring new insights into the functioning of the system that have profound implications for the sustainable management of St Lucia.’
Chrystal said that the aim of her PhD was to improve the understanding of the biophysical interactions in the estuarine complex and to provide new knowledge to underpin the development of improved models for predicting the response of these systems to anthropogenic changes and changing climatic conditions.
Her examiners said her thesis was well researched, very well written, very clear and very honest. ‘The main outcome is a new, sound and science-process-based understanding of the workings of the whole estuary as an ecosystem driven by feedbacks between biology and physics.’ They all agreed the implications of the study on the management of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park were profound.
Chrystal enjoyed mathematics, science and the outdoors and she has always had an interest in the environment. ‘I wanted to pursue a career that would put me in a position to be able to make a difference.’
She says she does not have one role model but rather chooses to learn from a number of people. ‘There is not one person I aspire to but rather the traits and achievements of a number of people. I believe that you should strive to be the best you can be, because there is only one of you.’
‘A PhD is like entering an intellectual marathon, a very long race with lots of ups and downs. It was not possible without the help of my coaches and lots of encouragement. I was challenged on many levels, but I learnt a lot along the way. It was a very satisfying accomplishment.’
Chrystal aims to get involved in progressive research and interesting projects where she can make significant contributions.
- Prashina Kallideen