Two decades ago, as Dr Leocadia Zhou started her career as a teacher, she never imagined being a PhD graduate and a recipient of the National Research Fund (NRF)’s C-3 rating, bringing the number of newly-rated researchers at the University of Fort Hare (UFH) to ten. She says being a teacher has helped lay a solid foundation for her current academic successes.
Dr Zhou’s history
She started teaching Cambridge O and A-level geography as full-time teacher at Mandava High School in Zimbabwe from 1990 to 1997. Dr Zhou then enrolled for a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in geography at the University of Zimbabwe. In 2001, she moved to South Africa (SA) in 2001 and joined the UFH, enrolling for Honour’s degree in environmental science. The following year she started studying towards her masters and doctorate degrees in both geography and environmental studies at the same institution.
Investment in research
Currently, Dr Zhou is director of the UFH Risk and Vulnerability Science Centre (RVSC) under the aegis of the Faculty Science and Agriculture. The Centre was launched in 2011 by the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and the National Research Foundation (NRF) – one of five flagship entities as part of the Global Change Research Plan’s (GCRP) framework. The aim of this initiative is to direct global change research investments in SA.
Dr Zhou has held the following positions:
- Intern at UFH’s Govan Mbeki Research & Development Centre (GMRDC) from 2004 to 2009
- Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at Risk and Vulnerability Science Centre (RVSC) – 2010
- Manager of Risk and Vulnerability Science Centre (RVSC) from 2011 till 2014 and
- In 2015 she was appointed Director of RVSC.
Smart green technologies
Dr Zhou’s research interests are related to climate change management. She believes that global warming issues should be taken seriously and that a better future can only be secured and sustained through active implementation of mitigatory research interventions. She says that calamities and disasters can be averted through the adoption of smart green technologies.
Confronting the global warming challenges
Dr Zhou is passionate about turning the Earth into a planet promoting human development. It drives her research as the increasing incidents of extreme climate events pose major challenges and dangers to the world. She is a proponent of confronting and addressing these challenges by promoting the adoption and implementation of scientifically informed coping strategies. She believes that as a researcher, her calling is to identify gaps in her focus area and provide relevant and impactful solutions.
Areas of research
Her interest and passion for research lie in the following areas:
- Challenges undermining improved understanding of climate-change stressors and processes impacting on livelihoods of resource-poor communities;
- Societal responses to adverse effects of climate change with emphasis on water, energy and food security;
- Barriers to and enablers of climate change adaptation and;
- The formulation of implementable interventions to increase resilience of marginalised communities.
Dr Zhou is highly respected among fellow researchers having published over 50 peer-reviewed articles and four chapters in internationally renowned journals. She is proud for having recruited, supervised and co-supervised graduate students towards completion of their studies. Dr Zhou says she is also satisfied by the outputs, outcomes and impacts of her research contributions towards addressing global challenges.
Her hard work and commitment to community engagement earned her the vice-chancellor ‘Excellent Award on Community Engagement’ in 2016. She says this achievement is a culmination of hard work and team effort. “I now have a strong conviction that nothing beats teamwork. I take this award as a springboard to greater heights and I will continue to contribute to the enhancement of the scientists’ capacity to cope with the adverse effects of climate change,” Dr Zhou said during her acceptance speech of the award.