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Research Groups

The Faculty of Science, Technology & Environment (FSTE) is committed to internationally recognized research which meets the needs and aspirations of Pacific island communities. The Faculty has identified research priority areas which respond directly to the needs of the south Pacific in the areas of: 

  1. Biodiversity & Conservation
  2. Environment, Sustainable Development and Climate Change
  3. Information and Communication Technologies
  4. Natural Resources & Food Science
  5. Renewable Energy
  6. Open Research

 

Biodiversity & Conservation

Group Leader

Dr. Gilianne Brodie

 

Associate Professor

School of Biological & Chemical Sciences

+679 32 32876, brodie_g@usp.ac.fj

 

Deputy Leader 

Vacant

Description

The conservation of biological resources is a vital issue within the South Pacific region. Over-exploitation, habitat loss, and land degradation are all putting the region’s extraordinary biodiversity at risk. Conservation efforts to manage and conserve our regionally and globally significant biodiversity are a central focus of this research group. Priority research areas for the Faculty’s Biodiversity & Conservation research group include:

  • The management and conservation of rare and threatened species;
  • Community-led conservation for the sustainable development of biological resources;
  • Baseline monitoring of the region’s fauna and flora;
  •   Conservation of genetic diversity particularly in the context of food security;
  • Investigations of biodiversity in respect to ecosystem function and the provision of ecosystem services.
  • Biodiversity and conservation issues relating to agriculture, fisheries, human health, climate change for sustainable environments & livelihoods.
  • Taxonomic investigations of organisms identified as major gaps in Pacific Island biodiversity assessments.

 

 

Environmental & Climate Change Science

Group Leader

Dr Eberhard Webber (acting)

 

Senior Lecturer

 

School of Geography, Earth Science and Environment

 

+679 323 2222, weber_e@usp.ac.fj

Deputy Leader

Dr Johann Poinapen
Director, Institute of Applied Science
+679 32 32992, johann.poinapen@usp.ac.fj

 

Description


The aims of the group are to:

  • Improve the quality and quantity of research in these areas
  • Increase multidisciplinary research
  • Increase external funding
  • Facilitate sharing of research results and best practice
  • Build capacity of researchers
  • Determine special topic areas for priority research

 Research projects include:

  • Beach Erosion/Coastal Management
  • Effects of logging on Coral Reefs
  • Effects of Runoff on Coral Reefs
  • Effects of climate change on Coral Reefs
  • Heavy metal analysis methods
  • Investigation of River System Formation
  • Monitoring of POPs Pollutants
  • Atmospheric Deposition of Nutrients
  • Effects of aerosols on UV Radiation


 

Information & Communication Technologies

Group Leader

Prof. Peter Croll

 

Professor

 

School of Computing Science, School of Computing, Information & Mathematical Sciences

 

 +679 32 32289

Co-leader

Prof. Sushil Kumar

Professor

  School of Engineering and Physics

+679 32 32144, kumar_su@usp.ac.fj

Description

ICT has been identified as a critical component for development in the Pacific Region. Innovations for future networks and services promote multi-disciplinary research to develop future ICTs. The future research trends in ICT will focus on innovative technologies and their impact on the evolution of Internet architectures, services and applications. In addition future ICT impact on societal and economic challenges world-wide. The aim of ICT Research Group is to identify and develop information and communication technologies (ICTs) and successful products and services. The rise of mobile access and its possible integration with fiber optic networks promotes discussion on: 

  1. How could the cloud and grid computing models be integrated within the Internet?
  2. How should the future Internet architecture evolve to accommodate fixed-mobile integration and the demand of services and applications?
  3. What will be the impact of new ICT related technologies such as eHealth, eLeraning, eTransportation, eCommerce, etc., on society and economy in the Pacific region tomorrow?
  4. Innovations of future networks and services may challenge the fundamental networking design principles of the current Internet.

In the area of Communication Technologies, the group conducts research in

  • Satellite Communication: Space Weather
  • Digital Signal Processing
  • Sub-ionospheric ELF-VLF Communication
  • Atmospheric parameters affecting the radio waves used in communications.
  • Mobile Phone Based Intelligent Home
  • Analysis of Analog and Digital Systems using Numerical techniques
  • Modeling of Events and Systems

The group also conducts basic and applied research in software engineering and internet computing extending from the theoretical foundations supporting the field to system engineering issues.

Key topics include:

  • Web services and SOA
  • Distributed software engineering;
  • Software architecture, component-based systems;
  • E-commerce, mobile-commerce and micro-payment systems;
  • Web technologies;
  • Multimedia e-learning systems;
  • University Timetabling;
  • Building Distance Education computer network infrastructures.

 

 

Natural Resources & Food Science

Group Leader

Prof. Surendra Prasad

 

Professor

 

School of Biological & Chemical Sciences

 

+679 32 32416, prasad_su@usp.ac.fj

Description

Natural resources (land, air, water or raw materials) occur naturally within environments that exist relatively undisturbed by mankind i.e. in a natural form. They are potential forms of wealth supplied by nature or derived from the environment and are essential for our survival while many of them are used for satisfying our needs/wants. Food science is a study concerned with all technical aspects of food, beginning with harvesting, slaughtering, and ending with its cooking and consumption. The Natural Resources & Food Science (NR&FS) research group utilizes and study such resources available in the Pacific region. The activities of NR & FS research group food scientists include:

  • Analytical methods development for determination of contaminants. 
  • Analytical methods development heavy metals or contaminants removal using natural materials.
  • Trace elements removal using bio-adsorbants.
  • Use of resources for bio-fuel development.
  • Coconut oil-based hybrid fuels.
  • Study of natural products, kava lactone.
  • Investigation of biologically active natural products from marine and plant sources.
  • Study of sugarcane nematodes.
  • Choice of packaging materials, polymer and packaging materials.
  • Chitosan based hydrogels.
  • Risk assessment of shellfish.
  • Shelf-life studies of foods.
  • Sensory evaluation of the food products.
  • Microbiological and chemical testing of food.
  • Microbiological risk assessment,  
  • Study of chemistry of food.
  • Chemical analysis of food and food contaminants.
  • The development of new food products.
  • Design of processes to produce foods.
  • Pesticide research, analysis of pesticide residues from foods consumed in the Pacific region. 
  • Analysis of food nutrients & contaminants.
  • Intake and risk assessment of nitrate, nitrite and arsenic in Fiji’s or Pacific’s foods, beverages, vegetables, etc.

 

Renewable Energy

Group Leaders

Dr.  Rafiuddin Ahmed

 

Associate Professor

 

School of Engineering and Physics

 

+679 32 32042, ahmed_r@usp.ac.fj

 

 

 

Dr. Atul Raturi

 

Associate Professor

 

School  of Engineering & Physics

 

+679 32 32430, raturi_a@usp.ac.fj

Description

The triple challenges of lack of accesses to modern energy, imported fossil fuel dependence and global warming associated effects have made it imperative for the PICs to switch to non-conventional (renewable) sources of energy. 

The Renewable Energy group was established by the Faculty of Science, Technology and Environment with the aim of guiding the region towards ‘clean & green’ energy and preserving the natural environment. The activities of this large group include carrying out lab-based and field-based research in a number of areas relevant to the region and working with the energy departments of the governments to promote renewable energy in the region. The Renewable Energy Group members strive to find pathways to support these efforts by studying and assessing various suitable possibilities. The group members are also involved in assessing the renewable energy resources and their interests include wind, solar, biomass, ocean wave, tidal and ocean thermal energy resources. 

The main areas of research interest of this group are: 

  • Development and feasibility analysis of renewable energy based hybrid systems.
  • Dye sensitized solar cells fabrication using local plant dyes
  • Bio-fuels; Coconut oil based biodiesel   and ethanol derived from cassava- performance and environmental impacts.
  • Assessment of wind energy potential
  • Tidal, ocean thermal and wave energy potential assessment
  • Solar PV standalone systems: Performance analysis
  • Grid-connected PV systems

 

Another responsibility of the group is capacity-building in the region in this field.

 

Sustainable Development & Livelihoods

Group Leader

Dr. Eberhard Weber

 

Senior Lecturer

 

School of Geography, Earth Science and Environment

 

+679 32 32222, weber_e@usp.ac.fj

Description

A livelihood comprises the capabilities, assets (including both material and social resources) and activities required for a secure means of living. A livelihood is sustainable or secure when it can cope with and recover from stresses and shocks, maintain or enhance its capabilities and assets, while not undermining the natural resource base (adapted from Scoones 1998).

A secure livelihood has high resilience and low sensitivity to shocks and stress. Like vulnerability, livelihood security is defined by the risk of exposure to crises, stress and shocks, and by the capacity of actors to cope, adapt and to recover.

Concepts about sustainable livelihoods first became popular in the context of research on food insecurity. In order to integrate the aspect of sustainability, food security was closely connected with questions of environmental degradation and with the sum of activities, resources and chances people made use of to secure and protect their well-being. In the concept of vulnerability various analytic categories are combined in order to give justice to the complexity of development problems. Even more than the vulnerability perspective the livelihood security approach takes as it’s starting point the capacity of actors. Putting emphasis on micro-perspective research activities, it focuses in particular on the internal dimension of people’s vulnerability and livelihood security.

The research group on Sustainable Development and Livelihood Security will study all structures and processes that either put people’s livelihoods at risk or give them resilience to external pressures. The research group looks into both external and internal processes or factors that constitute either 1) risks, threats and pressures to people’s livelihoods and their abilities / capacities to cope, adapt and recover; or 2) opportunities or strategies that help the cope or maintain sustainable livelloods. Research activities are about:

  • The impacts of natural hazards on people’s livelihoods and their capacities to cope, adapt and recover.
  • Environmental, economic and social chance as creator of social and spatial vulnerability or resilience.
  • Institutional aspects of development and community-driven approaches
  • The constitution of social vulnerability and/or resilience in both rural and urban contexts.
  • Priorities that people define or perceive as their desired livelihood outcomes and what their perception of environmental change, livelihood security and such issues as “poverty” and vulnerability are
  • People’s access to social, human, physical, financial and natural capital or assets, and their ability to put these to productive use
  • People’s different strategies in pursuit of their livelihood priorities, especially under changing natural, economic and political environments.
  • The policies, institutions and processes that shape people’s access to assets and opportunities
  • The contexts in which people live, and the factors creating vulnerability or resilience to external shocks and stresses, such as environmental change, economic and political crisis and globalization.
  • Poverty and Social Vulnerability
  • The cultural dimension of resource access and use
  • Connecting the local to the global: how political processes at various levels of society have an impact on people’s lives and livelihoods.
  • The Political Ecology of resource use

 

 

Open Research

Group Leader

Dr. Robin Havea

 

Senior Lecturer

 

School of Computing, Information & Mathematical Sciences

 

+679 32 32607, robin.havea@usp.ac.fj

Description

Researchers in science fall into two categories; either a researcher is an empirical scientist, or a formal scientist. Empirical sciences and formal sciences have their own unique and identifiable research designs.  In the empirical sciences, knowledge or hypothesis must be based on observable phenomena and capable of being tested for its validity by other researchers working under the same conditions. This is a posteriori type of knowledge justifications or arguments dependent on experience or observation. Formal science does not attempt to hypothesize during a test, but only relies on the most objective factors of scientific method such as methodology and result. This is a priori type of knowledge justifications or arguments independent on experience or observation. 

The majority of research projects conducted at FSTE is by empirical scientists. A small group of scientists are formalists. They are the mathematicians, theoretical physicists, theoretical computer scientists, information system scientists and engineers dealing with formal systems. 

The Open Research Group caters mainly for the interests of the formal scientists.  However, if an empirical-based research does not fall within the other research domains, then the Open Research Group would also be willing to consider it.


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Page last updated: Wednesday, February 15, 2017
Research and Consultancy, Faculty of Science and Technology
The University of the South Pacific
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