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African Centre for Climate and Earth System Science (ACCESS)

African Centre for Climate and Earth System Science (ACCESS)

2009-11 GC Seed Grant

This project seeks to integrate concern for the environment as a means to promote education, an urgent need in South Africa. The project has two components:

  1. The initiation of collaborative research projects with scientists from the region that focus on phenomena unique to Southern Africa as part of a mission to establish a climate center of excellence;
  2. The involvement of Princeton undergraduates spending a semester at the University of Cape Town as mentors to underprivileged South African students.

Two research projects have been established with a focus on the Southern Ocean. Michael Bender is collaborating with scientists at the University of Cape Town and the Council of Science and Industrial Research (CSIR) to study Southern Ocean biogeochemistry. The objectives are to:

  • Build a South African research infrastructure;
  • Help assess the role of the Southern Ocean in climate change; and
  • Gain information about marine living resources.

A second project led by Satish Myneni and collaborators from Stellenbosch University focuses on the nature of chemistry and mineralogy of Fe-particles transported into the Southern Ocean, and their impact on the ocean productivity.

field trip
Princeton and Cape Town high school field trip to the top of Table Mountain to measure the decrease in pressure (by means of balloons) and in temperature (by means of thermometers).

Educational Impacts

Annually some 20 Princeton undergraduates spend a semester (usually the spring) at the University of Cape Town (UCT) but interactions between Princeton students traveling abroad and African students are limited, and a lack of transportation limits opportunities to sample the spectacular land- and seascapes.

Grand Challenges resources supported a series of day long geological field trips involving study abroad students from Princeton and high school students from a low income Cape Town neighborhood.The model may be expanded to resemble an African version of “Teach for America." The Semester in Africa Program has been heavily impacted by this project.

Future Directions

Continuing research will involve more detailed studies aimed at understanding the structure and chemistry of Fe-oxide nanoparticles, their bioavailability, and their role in Southern Ocean biogeochemistry.

Participating Departments

Collaborating Institutions

Michael Bender, Professor, Geosciences

Satish Myneni, Associate Professor, Geosciences

George Philander, Professor, Geosciences

Bess Ward, Professor, Geosciences, Princeton Environmental Institute

Faculty personpersonpersonperson
Graduate personperson


Visiting Graduate Students

Bjorn Von der Heyden
Warren Joubert