CSU faculty, USGS researcher discuss solutions to sustainability challenges in Africa

Matthew Bailey

A panel held by the Africa Center at Colorado State University Tuesday evening brought together three panelists who talked about technological innovations and sustainability changes in Africa.

a woman moves her hands while talking
Susan van den Heever, a professor of atmospheric science, discusses environmental issues in Africa at a panel discussion hosted by CSU’s Africa Center on Feb. 20. (Ashley Potts | Collegian)



The panelists included Gabriel Senay, a research physical scientist from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Earth Resources Observation and Science Center; Susan C. van den Heever, a professor from the department of atmospheric science; and Michael Pante, an assistant professor from the anthropology department.

Kathy Galvin, the director of the Africa Center, hosted the panel, which kicks off a series of panels held by the Africa Center that focus on sustainability in Africa.

“This first panel is on technology and its uses in the continent,” Galvin said. “We have quite the spread of expertise of people who work in Africa.”

Pante was the first panelist to present. He talked about his involvement with the Olduvai Gorge Coring Project at the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania.

“This project is a little bit bigger scale in that we’re looking at trying to understand the Olduvai Basin in Tanzania from an environmental history perspective and its impact on human evolution,” Pante said.

The OGCP is an archeological and paleontological project with the objective of finding new information about human evolution specifically with recovered hominin remains from the Olduvai Basin.

Pante went on to talk about the confocal profilometer, a device he uses to examine the surfaces of hominid bone. Through examining these bone surfaces, scientists can find more information about evolution.

Van den Heever, the second panelist to speak, gave a short presentation on devices used to track weather and the distribution of water to land through the atmosphere.

“Cape Town is probably going to be the first major urban area to literally run out of water,” van den Heever said. “The frightening thing is that there’s nine other cities behind Cape Town waiting for this to happen.”

Van den Heever talked about how 3D-printed weather stations, cell phone towers and drones can all be used in forecasting weather.


Lastly, Senay talked about drought monitoring, specifically explaining how satellites can monitor areas for drought and create an early warning system.

Drought-monitoring satellites are already used in many countries, according to Senay, but combining this technology with other climate-tracking devices can create a more reliable system.

Two similar panels will take place soon, and Galvin encourages people to attend them.

“Next month, we’re going to have another panel on innovations out of Africa focused on African cities, and in April, we’re going to have another panel on issues of biodiversity and conservation, so stay tuned,” Galvin said.

Collegian reporter Matt Bailey can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @matnes1999.