Geoinformatics expert appointed as Head of Geography, Geoinformatics and Meteorology
6 November 2018
Prof Serena Coetzee’s appointment as Professor and Head of the Department of Geography, Geoinformatics and Meteorology (GGM) in the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences became effective on 1 October 2018.
Her vision for the Department is to further position GGM as a department that has local impact, but is also internationally relevant.
According to Prof Coetzee, ’the Department of Geography, Geoinformatics and Meteorology is special due to the multi-disciplinary nature of its research and education. Geography seeks to understand the natural and human complexities of the earth, which are often closely related to the built environment. Research and education in the Department therefore lies at the interface of the natural and social sciences, but also draws on principles from engineering and information technology in the application of geoinformatics and remote sensing.’
She further explained that most of the Department’s work is directly related to one or more of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), for example the undergraduate module in sustainable development; the postgraduate programme in environmental management; the development of standards for measuring and reporting SDG indicators; seasonal forecasting in support of climate adaptation and food security; and research and community engagement towards achieving sustainable cities and protecting biodiversity. She added: ‘Due to the geographical nature of the field, our research and education is always directly related to a specific location, very often in proximity to our university, country, continent or hemisphere.’
Prof Coetzee has received a C1 rating from the NRF. Her research focuses on the ever-increasing volumes of geographic information and the challenges of making these available, accessible and usable. She chairs the International Cartographic Association’s Commission on SDI and Standards. As chairperson of the programme maintenance group of ISO/TC 211, Geographic Information/Geomatics, she coordinates international standards development to ensure the harmonisation of standards and alignment with changing requirements and technological developments. She helped initiate the development of a suite of international addressing standards and led the first part of the series (ISO 19160-1:2015). Prof Coetzee represents the Council on Higher Education on two South African statutory bodies, namely the Committee for Spatial Information (CSI) and the South African Geomatics Council (SAGC). Her research is interdisciplinary and is related to various United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This puts her in a favourable position to contribute to the realisation of the University’s Vision 2025 and the Faculty’s strategic priorities, and to take the Department to the next level.
Prof Coetzee started her career as a software engineer on the global software development teams of two desktop GIS products. Subsequently, as director and project manager at AfriGIS, she led a wide variety of GIS projects until 2006, when she joined the Department of Computer Science at the University of Pretoria. She was appointed in GGM in 2011 to coordinate the geoinformatics discipline and is also the Director of the Centre for Geoinformation Science. She has been serving as acting Head of Department since March 2018.
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