The University of Pretoria congratulates Serena Coetzee on her appointment as Professor and Head of the Department of Geography, Geoinformatics and Meteorology (GGM) in the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences. She had served as acting Head of Department since March 2018.
Prof Coetzee’s vision is to position the GGM as a department that has local impact as well as one that is internationally relevant. “The Department of Geography, Geoinformatics and Meteorology is special because of the multi-disciplinary nature of its research and education,” she says. “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.”
Prof Coetzee began her career as a software engineer on the global software development teams of two desktop geographic information system (GIS) products. Subsequently, as director and project manager at AfriGIS, she led a variety of GIS projects until 2006, when she joined the Department of Computer Science at UP. She was appointed to the GGM in 2011 to coordinate the geoinformatics discipline and is also the Director of the Centre for Geoinformation Science.
Most of the department’s work is directly related to one or more of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Prof Coetzee says. This includes 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. “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,” she adds.
Prof Coetzee has received a C1 rating from the National Research Foundation. Her research focuses on the challenges of making the ever-increasing volume of geographic information 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 also 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: the Committee for Spatial Information and the South African Geomatics Council.
Her interdisciplinary research is related to various SDGs, which puts her in a favourable position to contribute to the realisation of the university’s Vision 2025 as well as the Faculty’s strategic priorities, and to take the Department to the next level.