30 November 2022

Munyai, who is also part of the research team (HRATE) that has been appointed by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform: Land Claims Commission to investigate the Land claim across South Africa, wants to provide solutions and mitigation measures to environmental problems.

He has contributed to land claim research reports for provinces across the country as a GIS researcher, and is keen on academic research as he believes that research provides solutions to existing community challenges and drives sustainability within societies.

“The first solution to this is the need for a collective effort to stop and remediate the damage that has already been caused to the environment, and help in achieving the sustainable development goals,” he says.

Munyai is part of the Aquatic System Research Group (ASRG) which is a group formed by Dr Tatenda Dalu and is based at the University of Mpumalanga. The ASRG involves Dr Dalu’s postgraduate students and collaborators from various institutions

He was recently tasked by the ASRG to assist with training and assisting future scientists with different aquatic sampling techniques at the university reservoir/dam and spent half a day sampling plankton, macroinvertebrates, fish and macrophytes.

“This responsibility has given me a better environment to learn. Part of the responsibilities I do with the group is to assist postgraduate students by demonstrating the sampling procedure/methods during data collection in the field, teaching students’ data analysis methods and reviewing their manuscripts and dissertations before submission,” he says.

“These tasks have not only assisted students but also improved my capacity to become a good researcher. This has also given an opportunity to many students to stand tall, believe in themselves and have more interest in academic research.”

Munyai is currently pursuing his PhD final year at the University of Venda. His study focuses on: Biodiversity and trophic structure of ephemeral pan systems within the Makuleke Wetlands, Kruger National Park, under the supervision of Dr Dalu, Prof Ryan J Wasserman and Dr Lutendo Mugwedi with the Aquatic Systems Research Group (ASRG).

“My work looks at the dynamics and functioning of the floodplain pans with more focus on examining the water, sediments, macroinvertebrates and fish biodiversity, and trophic interactions among aquatic organisms within the wetland pans,” he adds.

“The rationale behind the study is to provide comprehensive baseline data for the Ramsar declared wetland systems to aid in better management and preservation of these systems. The complexity and degradation of our aquatic ecosystem is rapidly increasing, mostly from anthropogenic inputs and only a few people understand the importance of these ecosystem in providing services to human life.

From a biodiversity and climate change point of view, we therefore remain with the responsibility to conserve these fragile ecosystems from further degradation for the sake of the future." 

UMPMunyai has published seven research papers and one book chapter. 

Munyai is keen on the academic field as a young researcher. He has published seven research papers (in DHET Accredited journals) and one book chapter and has supervised 17 honours students to completion.

Born in the rural village of Mashau in Limpopo, Munyai actively participates in a community engagement activities.  In the Tshivhase area he is involved in a project aimed towards the establishment of a Village Concept Project to aid rainwater harvesting for communities without water for domestic use.

“I have been involved in many community engagement activities that have substantially improved the livelihoods of rural people. My target is to obtain my PhD qualification and continue to contribute to knowledge gaps that will assist our communities. In the next few years to come, I would like to see my research skills and knowledge contribute to global transformation and help in achieving the sustainable development goals," he adds.

"Furthermore, I strongly believe that being with the University of Mpumalanga will assist me to be a better mentor, supervisor, and a leader at various spatial scales, drawing all potential attributes from my superiors.”

His academic journey began in 2012 at the University of Venda where he obtained a BSc (2014), BSc Hons (2016) and MSc (2019) in Environmental Sciences. For his BSc Hons, his research focused on water quality assessment on aquatic ecosystems within the Thulamela area. His MSc research utilized remote sensing capabilities (Landsat 8-OLI) to determine harmful algae in water supply reservoirs found within the Vhembe District Municipality.

“My work contributed to a better understanding of remote sensing ability to detect phytoplankton biomass and cost-effective solutions to monitor and reduce algal blooms in reservoirs rather than traditional methods that are ineffective and time consuming,” he explains.

During his academic journey at the University of Venda for the past seven years, he became a student mentor, a tutor, senior mentor, writing consultant and a teaching assistant, until he was appointed as a lecturer in Environmental Sciences in August 2022 by the University of Mpumalanga where he is currently working.

@ Story by Lisa Thabethe. Pictures supplied.