“Developing Science that Directly Contributes to the Health & Well-being of Communities in Need”


The IMAGINE Program has Moved to Colorado State University!! Stay tuned for more information.

Apply Now for IMAGINE’s 2018 Study Abroad Program:  Communities & Conservation, Now!
Head Over to our Facebook Page to see Photos of and Posts from our 2016 Program!

View our 2015 Student Projects

Read our 2015 Student Blogs

Featured Project: Think & Do in Two

By: Kat Selm

 Featured Project: Water Realities

By: Amron Lee

IMAGINE’s Mission:  
To establish a trans-disciplinary research and education program that contributes to the sustainability and resilience of the greater Kruger National Park social-ecological system. Through co-learning and benefit- sharing we will develop research that enhances the well- being of people living in the region. Our collaborative research network will expand our comparative understanding of complex social-ecological systems located along a rural-urban gradient.
Who are We?
An international and diverse team of academics, practitioners, stakeholders, and students that work together with underprivileged communities on their greatest natural resource challenges.  The partnership includes universities across the United States, South Africa, and Canada and a host of South African agencies and stakeholder groups, including South African National Parks, The Tshulu Trust, Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Reserve, and the Organization of Tropical Studies.  Our team represents a multitude of disciplinary strengths with in the fields of ecology, policy, phytoremediation, forestry, biotech, tourism, psychology, education, mathematics, hydrology, conservation, and cultural anthropology.
What We Do:  
We aim to answer questions that will lead to the creation of resilient communities and ecosystems, in the wake of challenges such as economic crises, environmental degradation, and climate change.  We do this through study and research abroad programs that engage students to participate fully in the development of interdisciplinary research.  To date, we have trained over 30 students from North Carolina State University, the University of Pretoria, and the University of the Witwatersrand.  Through our integrated research and education program we aim to establish new generation of sustainability scientists and practitioners, that are prepared to work across boundaries to establish globally relevant solutions. 
Our keystone pilot project is in HaMakuya, South Africa, where we have been working with the local community to conduct a long-term and integrated social-ecological analysis of water availability, reliability, and quality.   We strive to publish our results in scientific journals, while at the same time participate in activities where our information can increase the livelihoods of people in the region.  Locally our program contributes to capacity development and scientific training. With the establishment of regional catchment management agencies in South Africa, we hope to play an increasing positive role in the holistic management of water resources in Limpopo Province.  On a global scale, we aspire to have an impact on development of equitable and sustainable water policies.


Impactful papers:

McHale MR, Pickett STA, Bunn DN, Twine W.  2013.  Urban Ecology in a Developing World:  How Advanced Socio-Ecological Theory Needs Africa.  Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 11(10): 556-563.

McHale MR, Pickett STA, Barbosa O, Bunn DN, Cadenasso ML, Childers DL, Gartin M, Hess GR, Iwaniec DM, McPhearson T, Peterson MN, Poole AK, Rivers L III, Shutters ST, Zhou W. (2015). The New Global Urban Realm: Complex, Connected, Diffuse, and Diverse Social-Ecological Systems. Sustainability 2015, 7, 5211-5240.

Steelman T, Bradford L, Nichols E, James A, Ebersohn L, Omidire F, Scherman V, Bunn DB, McHale MR. (In Press).  A Framework for Systematic Learning for Sustainability Science.  Sustainability Science.

More Professional Products

Director: Melissa McHale (NCSU)

Key Collaborators: 

Liesel Ebersohn (UP), David Bunn (KHRD, UWits) Wayne Twine (UWits), Louise Swemmer (SAN Parks/SAEON), TerrieLitzenberger (NCSU), Eddie Riddell (SAN Parks), ThaboMohlala (SAN Parks/SAEON), Dan Childers (ASU), Steward Pickett (The Cary Institute), Mary Cadenasso (UC Davis), Louie Rivers (NCSU), Colleen Cluett (OTS), Scott Beck (NCSU),Shawn Shifflett (NCSU), April James (NU), Elizabeth Nichols (NCSU), Bram Buscher, Shaddy Hlatshwayo (OTS), LaurenceKruger (OTS ), Karen Vickers (OTS), Harry Biggs (SAN Parks),Rina Grant (SAN Parks), Toddi Steelman (NCSU), Jolanda Roux (UP), Mike Wingfield (UP), Larry Nielsen (NCSU), Paxie Chirwa(UP)

The Tshulu Trust, South African National ParksKruger to Canyons Biosphere Reserve, The Knowledge Hub for Rural Development are important partners.


2 thoughts on “IMAGINE:

  1. Sakh’ubuntu Youth Development is a community based organizations founded in Sobantu Township. We are working with youths in schools promoting Tourism and leadership programs. We are encouraged to learn effective ways to engage our communities and bring positive change. Please let us know how we can work together.


  2. 2016 Imagine Team students Megan Pendell and Malia Moscatello won award for submitting “South Africa’s Water Sustainability Balancing Act” Documentary to NC State’s 3rd Annual Multimedia Research Contest: “The Sustainability Balancing Act: Society, Economy, and Environment.”

    An illustration of the intricate balance of water sustainability in South Africa. Highlights the social, cultural and hard scientific research conducted by N.C. State University’s 2016 Imagine team. Emphasizes the value of transdisciplinary strategies to combat the global water crisis as it connects to Climate Change and community roots. A branching of factors are identified as contributors to the crisis in HaMakuya: poor infrastructure, inequitable distribution, insufficient communication and drought. Local water testing data reveals that particular parameters, E. Coli and salinity, correlate to the economic, social, cultural and environmental community. The purpose is to educate and spread awareness about the realities of the water crisis and Climate Change, and to inspire local action for global sustainability.
    Special thanks to all the beautiful humans of HaMakuya and Tshulu Trust, as well as the Imagine Team.

    Follow this link to watch and share the Documentary:


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