Environmental scientist in search of solutions to climate change

The 2012 flooding disaster in Nigeria saw rivers bursting their banks and submerging hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland between July and October that year. According to Nigeria's National Emergency Management Agency, these floods displaced 1.3 million people from their homes and claimed 431 lives.


Dr Eromose Ebhuoma

This natural disaster stimulated the curiosity of environmental scientist, Dr Eromose Ebhuoma, prompting him to look into how extreme weather events adversely affect the livelihoods of small-scale farmers and how they utilise their indigenous knowledge systems to minimise the hostile effects of severe weather conditions.

Ebhuoma's research expertise lies in climate change vulnerability and adaptation, climate communication, climate change policy and governance, indigenous knowledge systems and environmental sustainability.

"I decided to conduct research in this field because of the 2012 flood disaster, which was classified as the worst since Nigeria gained her independence in 1960," says Dr Ebhuoma, a Y-rated researcher.

From there, his research findings led to some unanswered questions, which, in turn, snowballed into several interrelated research topics, such as how framing climate change could trigger proactive behaviours.

As a Research Associate, Ebhuoma recently joined the Prairie Climate Center (PCC) at the University of Winnipeg in Canada. Before joining the PCC, he was a postdoctoral researcher in Unisa's Department of Environmental Sciences.

He obtained his PhD in Geography from the University of the Witwatersrand and has published over 20 peer-reviewed articles. He is currently co-supervising three master's and two doctoral candidates at Unisa.

Ebhuoma is also the lead editor of a book titled Indigenous knowledge systems and climate governance: Spotlight on sub-Saharan African perspectives, published by Springer in 2022.

Zeal to never quit

Although Ebhuoma has yet to witness any direct impact arising from his research – such as the formulation of new policies and the amendment of existing policies – this does not deter him from pushing the frontiers of science through his research.

Working with the rural poor, including indigenous peoples, has not only transformed him but has also changed his perception of them.

"Despite their limited resources, the indigenous people skilfully and systematically ensure that they engage in their livelihood activities. Consequently, in my research, I strive to ensure that a viable platform is given to rural households, including indigenous peoples, in policy and governance discourses."

The hardship that rural people have to contend with to obtain a livelihood has instilled in him the zeal to never give up on anything he pursues.

Why a Y rating matters

Ebhuoma's Y rating from the National Research Foundation means he is considered a young researcher with the potential to establish himself within five years. He has the following insights to share about his rating.

What motivated you to apply for an NRF rating?

A significant driver was the recognition that comes with the rating. Considering the years of hard work I have put into my research, I felt it would be nice to be recognised nationally for my contribution to advancing the frontiers of science. Also, I have two friends who informed me that they attained the Y rating in 2021 and encouraged me to apply to become an NRF-rated researcher.

How was the application process?

The application process was quite tedious for me because it was during the time my dad passed away. Dealing with the grief of a loved one and trying to concentrate to ensure that I completed the form accurately was extremely difficult. However, I am glad my dad's passing did not deter me from completing the application.

Why is it important to have an NRF rating?

One of the benefits of an NRF rating is that by providing an independent evaluation of accomplishment, free of internal political considerations and other hidden roadblocks, it has enormous value in ensuring that researchers worthy of a promotion or incentive in their respective institutions will not be victimised.

What are the benefits of being an NRF-rated researcher?

Firstly, there are funding opportunities that are meant exclusively for rated researchers. This allows them to further hone their skills in their respective research areas of expertise. Secondly, a rated researcher may be more likely to get a permanent lecturing job than someone who is not rated.

What advice would you give a researcher (especially a young academic) wanting to apply for an NRF rating?

Before applying for the rating in 2022, I had been nursing my ambition since 2017. That propelled me to stay active in research and build my publication portfolio. Thus, it would help if you had a set timeline defining when to apply and start building your publication profile as soon as possible.

Another advice is that the researcher should not wait until they are 40 years old before applying. They should instead have a first attempt at, say, 38 or 39 years of age. This way, if the institution's internal evaluation committee feels that the application is not strong enough because of low publication output, the researcher will have some time to grow their publications list.

Finally, I would advise that if you have a friend or colleague who is a Y-rated researcher, it may be worthwhile to consult with them during the application process as they may be able to guide the sort of information that needs to be included in specific sections of the application form.


* By Mpho Moloele, PR and Communications, Department of Research, Innovation and Commercialisation

Publish date: 2023/11/02

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