WINNER: Josefina Hamutoko CREDIT: BBC
TWENTY-SIX-year-old Namibian student Josefina Hamutoko has won the prestigious African Young Scientist of the Year award for her study of groundwater recharge in the parched aquifers of the Cuvelai-Etosa Basin. For her study, she used an isotope analysis machine provided by the IAEA in 2010.
“Without the machine, we would’ve had to send the sample to a lab in another country, which we could have afforded to do only once a year,” said the geology PhD student.
By contrast, she and her team can now do many measurements a year, accelerating their research. “Groundwater is dynamic and is affected by climate, space and time, so we need many samples to get the best results,” she said.
They study the isotopes in water to estimate, for example, the groundwater’s origin, interactions and evaporation processes. Their research so far indicates that the aquifer is recharged by rain water. Her results are expected to help policymakers protect the groundwater from pollution and improve overall access to safe drinking water.
“We need to understand how to manage water in a sustainable way, and we cannot do this if we don’t understand our groundwater systems,” Hamutoko said.
She won the award not only for her contributions to research in Namibia but for her ability to present her work in various parts of the world, including Vienna in May 2015, where she attended an IAEA international symposium on isotope hydrology.
"It really is exciting to win, I didn't expect it," said the young scientist. "It emphasises how important it is to understand what is going on."