School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences

An ecstatic Mr Simon Lake with his father, Andrew and mom, Bronwyn.

Summa Cum Laude Graduate Finds Forte in Hydrology Research

Despite matriculating without any distinctions to his name and requiring a re-mark of his exam papers to qualify to study towards a science degree, Mr Simon Lake’s discovery of an aptitude for hydrological research and hard work earned him a summa cum laude BSc Honours degree.

Lake has lived in Pietermaritzburg most of his life, attending Scottsville Primary School followed by Maritzburg College. The second of three sons, his parents always encouraged their boys to appreciate the natural environment while on family camping and hiking excursions.

Despite considering other universities, Lake chose UKZN as it is close to his home and boasts strong environmental science offerings. Initially enrolling for a Bachelor of Social Science in Geography and Environmental Management, the re-mark of his matric exams boosted his results enabling him to switch to a Bachelor of Science in his second year.

Interested in various aspects of the science of hydrology, Lake chose to develop his skills in the field -particularly in improving water quality. Persevering through the remote learning portion of his studies after the COVID-19 pandemic struck and being awarded his undergraduate degree cum laude, Lake initially found online learning enjoyable but has thrived being back on campus with more direct access to his supervisors, lecturers and advisers. He balances his academic rigours with making time for athletic pursuits, including running and cycling.

Continuing to an honours degree was a natural choice for Lake, who is exploring career options in research. The level of work and time management required were a step up from his undergraduate work but driven to achieve the best result he could and realising through his fascinating project topic that he had chosen the right study path, Lake was motivated to excel.

His honours project, supervised by Mr Richard Kunz, formed part of a Water Research Commission (WRC) venture on the water needs of indigenous root and tuber food crops. Lake focused on a novel approach to land suitability mapping for taro in South Africa, using the ArcGIS Geographic Information System (GIS) software. As a novel study, this provided useful research to contribute to the overarching project’s outcomes and open avenues for further research.

Lake is continuing his research having enrolled for a master’s degree with the focus on a new WRC project on developing a database and utility tool for underutilised indigenous crops for increased agricultural diversification in South Africa. This will enable him to continue some of the research he conceptualised in his honours work and pave the way for his quest to become a researcher and lecturer.

Lake thanked his parents and supervisors for the considerable support they gave him over the course of his studies.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Abhi Indrarajan