Professor Mike Savage Receives Inaugural SA Society for Atmospheric Sciences Medal
Professor Mike Savage of the Discipline of Agrometeorology in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES) is the first recipient of the South African Society for Atmospheric Science (SASAS) medal.
This medal was awarded to Savage, who is also the recipient of the Distinguished Teachers’ Award for 2014, in recognition of his research and educational and technical achievements in a field related to atmospheric science.
The award will be made from now on at every SASAS annual conference.
SASAS announced at the conference that Savage would be made an honorary member of the Society and he has been invited to deliver a keynote address at next year’s conference.
After receiving the award, Savage paid tribute to the many undergraduate and postgraduate students and colleagues that he says have assisted in shaping his career over 39 years. He said he was pleased that Agrometeorology, a scarce-skill discipline that spans the agricultural, atmospheric and environmental sciences, had been nationally recognised by the Society and its council.
Savage recently also received a Council of Higher Education (CHE)/Higher Education Learning and Teaching Association of South Africa (HELTASA) National Excellence in Teaching and Learning Award.
These honours and recognition by his peers demonstrate Savage’s commitment to the transfer of knowledge for the improvement of society in the area he works in.
Savage’s research focus over the last six years has been on topics such adverse weather, biometeorology, energy balance of various surfaces, micrometeorology and open water evaporation. He is renowned for the development of an Agrometeorological Instrumentation Mast (AIM) web-based data and information teaching, learning and research system for the agro-environmental sciences.
The AIM system, used by many undergraduates and postgraduates, formed the basis for research that earned two national awards from the South African Society for Crop Production. The site contains real-time data on a number of agrometeorological measurements, provided by several instruments set up around campus, which can be viewed and downloaded for use in research and as a visual teaching aid.
Savage also pioneered the creation of an isiZulu-English glossary of terms for Agrometeorology, given the language barrier to learning encountered by many second language English speakers entering university in South Africa. Savage emphasises the use of live data, visual literacy, technology and glossaries to stimulate growth in the isiZulu language’s capacity for scientific understanding. He believes that technology can play an important role in the learning, and mentions the importance of visual literacy or ‘iconic’ learning to transcend cultural and linguistic barriers.
Looking ahead to the future of his teaching and research, Savage said: ‘The (AIM) system we have needs to be expanded and developed further and requires support in many logistical areas and these are challenges. We will, however, persevere, and recognition such as the SASAS award makes us strive even harder. The UKZN Teaching and Learning Office now also have our work as a flagship project and this is starting to pay dividends in terms of IT support and support within the School.’