Dr Christel Hansen, a lecturer in the Department of Geography, Geoinformatics and Meteorology at the University of Pretoria, and a professional geographic information science practitioner, was recently awarded the prestigious Society of South African Geographers (SSAG) Centenary Award for 2019.
This award is designed to recognise and invest in emerging academics in Geography in the country. Dr Hansen’s application for the Centenary Award centred on her work on her PhD project titled ‘On high-altitude and high-latitude diurnal frost environments’.
‘The Centenary Award is important to me because it recognises and supports research done by early career academics. It will allow me to further my research though a project titled “Comparing cold and warm arid and semi-arid environments with a specific focus on frost cycles/fluctuations below 0°C”. The Society of South African Geographers is incredibly supportive in enabling researchers such as myself, and I thank them for providing me with this opportunity.’
Dr Hansen’s research focuses on geomorphological research, specifically periglacial research, as well as the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in furthering this research. She explains: ‘I work on gaining a greater understanding on ground temperature and moisture dynamics and the thresholds that accompany these environments. Thresholds are important, as a warming climate alters these thresholds, and in colder environments, ground frost is integral to soil formation and cryoturbation.’
‘Furthermore, frost processes are not exclusively located in cold regions, but occur across the globe and across climatic zones. Therefore, I am now also investigating such processes in warmer and specifically warm and arid environments. I hope that my research will allow for better modelling of ground frost dynamics and their response to a warming climate. Recently, I have also started to focus more on the use of GIS and remote sensing applications in answering these questions, since my study sites (Antarctica, sub-Antarctic, high mountain areas) are often inaccessible and can only be reached once a year. Remote sensing resources and GIS, at minimal cost, contribute to existing research and databases.’
Dr Hansen is a member of the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists, the Geo-Information Society of South Africa, the Permafrost Young Researchers Network, the Royal Society of South Africa, the South African Society of Geomorphologists and the Society of South African Geographers.
Dr Hansen also finds time to be the website developer, content manager and administrator for the Southern African Association of Geomorphologists, the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists South Africa, Antarctic Permafrost, Soils and Periglacial Environments and Landscape Processes in Antarctic Ecosystems.