Forests are an important resource – economically, environmentally and culturally – for communities worldwide. In South Africa, Dr. Michael Wingfield has been working tirelessly to protect forest health for the past 30 years.
Recognized internationally for his research in forest biotechnology, Dr. Wingfield studies how pests and pathogens cause diseases that degrade timber and the value of trees. He also studies the origin and global movement of tree diseases. This pioneering work has led to the creation of new forest management options that help reduce losses to the industry.
Throughout his career Dr. Winfield has demonstrated a commitment to sharing his discoveries through popular articles, public lectures and outreach to foresters. In this way he has contributed substantially to socio-economic development in many parts of Africa.
Among his most significant accomplishments, Dr. Wingfield established the Tree Protection Cooperative Programme. Bringing together South Africa’s forestry companies, researchers and government organizations, the program aims to minimize the impact of tree diseases on the country’s forests. The initiative is responsible for all issues of forest protection in South Africa and has become the largest tree health project in the world.
Dr. Wingfield is also the founding director of the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute at the University of Pretoria. It is recognized as a centre of research excellence and attracts leading experts and students, many from disadvantaged backgrounds. Dr. Wingfield himself has been an advisor to more than 115 masters and doctorate students.
Dr. Wingfield’s work has extended well beyond the borders of South Africa. Members of the Tree Protection Cooperative Programme and the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute are involved in projects on almost every continent.
Madam Chancellor, for dedicating his career to forest health and for translating his research into knowledge that makes a real difference, I ask you to confer the degree of Doctor of Science honoris causa, upon Michael Wingfield.