Australia Alumni, Professor Opha Pauline Dube, awarded International Alumni of the Year

The University of Queensland’s annual Alumni Awards recognises leaders making exemplary contributions and creating change in various fields. The 2018 Awards includes the recognition of climate change research leader Professor Opha Pauline Dube (from Botswana), as the International Alumni of the Year.

Professor Dube is an environmental change scientist and an Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental Science at the University of Botswana, and she holds a PhD from the University of Queensland (UQ), 2000.

“I believe that the 2018 International Alumni of the Year Award will serve to strengthen my links with the Australia Science community further”, says Professor Dube regarding the award.

She has grown in her field to be a global environmental change scientist with teaching and research areas extending to social and biophysical aspects of the environment including climate change. She lectures and supervises students at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. Professor Dube is currently one of the Editors-in-Chief of the Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability journal. She has held research fellowships at the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) at Griffith University (2012) and the Environmental Change Institute, School of Geography and the Environment at University of Oxford (2018).

Professor Dube attributes the Australia Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) as playing a vital role in steering the course of her career. In the early 1990s the Environmental Science Department, University of Botswana collaborated with CSIRO to study land degradation on the western part of Okavango Delta in 1995. The study, funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), investigated remote sensing-based methods for range resources developed in Australia for assessing land degradation in Botswana. ACIAR also supported her PhD work done as a collaboration between CSIRO in Alice Springs, University of Queensland, and the University of Botswana.

She was able to draw comparisons between Australia and Botswana from learning about the drylands of Australia, the practice of range management (a commercial system) and indigenous Australians. Her PhD work has resulted in numerous spin-offs including joining the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment work and advancing research on wildlife fires.  The IPCC is the international body for assessing the science related to climate change. Dube has continued her links with Australian institutes. She currently serves as an associate editor in the CSIRO Rangeland Journal. An additional connection with Australia is with the retired professor, Professor Will Steffen, at Australian National University (ANU) on the emerging and highly debated concept of the Anthropocene, the recent human-influenced geologic period and its relevancy to IPCC assessments.

“It’s something I do out of passion and out of my own drive, and I realise when you do these things you create an environment that leads to the growth of education and hence contributing towards a knowledge economy,” she says.

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