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Meet the professor: David Gwenzi

David Gwenzi is this month’s professor profile. We talk about his culture, his academic achievements and his contribution at Humboldt State

David Gwenzi is an assistant professor of environmental science and management at Humboldt State University. He teaches remote sensing classes and geospatial science classes.Gwenzi is the content committee chairman for the geospatial science program, a program that floats between three departments and two colleges. Born and raised in Mutare, Zimbabwe, his values encourage him to be a role model for younger generations and to inspire success.

“Whatever you do as an adult, think of how it reflects on younger generations.”

David Gwenzi

“Whatever you do as an adult, think of how it reflects on younger generations,” Gwenzi said.

Gwenzi was raised in the Bantu culture, a culture made up of several hundred indigenous ethnic groups in sub-Saharan Africa, spread over a vast area from Central Africa across the African Great Lakes to Southern Africa. The culture encourages responsibility to the society rather than just the individual. Gwenzi became an educated man to prove to the people in his community that if they put in similar effort, they would be able to meet their goals and gain achievements as well.

Gwenzi began his college education at Bindura State University in Zimbabwe, where he researched environmental sciences to help the people of his home country better understand their landscape.

After two years of classroom education, Gwenzi spent a year researching local pine plantations. This was Gwenzi’s first opportunity to use spatial data for his plantation baboon bark stripping research project in July 2006.

“I researched baboons on pine plantations in Zimbabwe,”Gwenzi said. “The baboons stripped pine trees of their cambium layer and they chewed on it. There was sugar or sweet in that layer. It was a treat, but it would girdle the trees.”

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Professor Gwenzi rendering a map using interpolation, a process which estimates data obscured by clouds or corrupted data bands. | Photo by Colin Slavey

The nature of the project had Gwenzi surveying the movements of baboon troops on plantations in the eastern highlands using spotting scopes and topographic maps. Gwenzi would record the locations of stripped pine trees in pencil on topographic maps. He compiled the data by hand. His data gave him some idea of the range of each baboon troop on the plantation. It was a tedious process.

“When I was done with that, that was when I talked with the guy who was a GIS technician,” Gwenzi said. “He showed me you could make cool maps out of all these topo maps. Then the guy told me about how easy it could be digitize. I didn’t have to do it with pen and paper in the end.”

Gwenzi fell in love with the GIS process. He became familiar with the tools of the trade and focused his education around Geospatial Sciences. After receiving his bachelor’s in environmental sciences with a focus in forestry, Gwenzi moved to the Netherlands to receive his master’s in geoinformation science and earth observation from the University of Twente. He finally completed his education with a doctorate in spatial ecology from the University of Colorado.

At HSU, Gwenzi shares his passion with many students in the environmental sciences and management department, the forestry department and the geography department. He is renowned through the student body as a high quality professor.

Bente Jansen is a HSU junior ESM policy and planning major. He said that Gwenzi is a good teacher.

“He was always willing to work with me,” Jansen said.

Melanie Stephenson is a senior geospatial science and geology major who has taken some of Gwenzi’s classes.

“Gwenzi is such a ‘G.’ ‘G’ for Gwenzi,” Stephenson said.

Sam Wood is a HSU alumni of the geography program.

“Gwenzi is the best,” Wood said. “He is a genius. I wish he was here now hanging out with us.”

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