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Scientists warn of increasing threats posed by invasive alien species warn of increasing threats posed by invasive alien speciesMedia & Communication, Faculty of Science<p>Invasive alien species have emerged as one of the top five threats to biodiversity and ecosystems globally, yet only a handful of countries regard biosecurity measures as a priority.<br></p><p>So warns a team of international researchers in a new global overview of environmental change due to invasive alien species. The article, published in the journal <a href=""><em>Biological Reviews</em></a> on 26 June 2020, forms part of the <a href=""><em>World scientists' warning to humanity: a second notice initiative</em></a>* which calls for an urgent change in our approach to stewardship of the earth and life on it.  </p><p>Professor David Richardson, Director of the <a href="">Centre for Invasion Biology</a> at <a href="/english/faculty/science/">Stellenbosch University</a> (SU), South Africa, and one of the lead authors of the article, says: “South Africa has invested heavily in a national programme to reduce the negative impacts of widespread invaders on ecosystem services, but much more action is needed. Urgent interventions are needed at both national and international levels to tackle the challenges more effectively."</p><p>Alien species are plants, animals and microbes that are introduced by people, accidentally or intentionally, to areas where they do not occur naturally. Many of them thrive, spread widely and have harmful effects on the environment, economy, or human health.</p><p>The study which was carried out by an international team of researchers from 13 countries across Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe, North and South America, states that the number of invasive alien species is increasing rapidly, with over 18,000 currently listed around the world.</p><p>In South Africa, a recent assessment listed 1 422 alien species that have become naturalised or invasive, with some having serious negative impacts on South African ecosystems, for example, 'thirsty' alien tree species that extract large quantities of water from catchments.</p><p>The team of researchers attribute the escalation in biological invasions to the increase in the number and variety of pathways along which species spread, and to the increasing volume of traffic associated with those pathways. They highlight the role of emerging pathways such as the online trade in unusual pets and plants for ornamental horticulture, and the transport of species across oceans on rafts of plastic pollution.</p><p>The study also shows how other drivers of global change, such as climate change, land-use change, alongside international trade are exacerbating the impacts of biological invasions. For example, species transported through shipping can now thrive in new regions, due to climate warming; and the permanent opening of the Arctic Ocean with global warming is allowing marine species to move between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.</p><p>The authors stress that biological invasions can be managed and their impacts mitigated. They point to approaches that are working around the world and make specific recommendations for improved management. For example, the introduction of more stringent border controls, including X-ray machines and detector dogs, has led to a progressive decline in the rate of fungal plant pathogens entering New Zealand.  </p><p>Professor Petr Pyšek of the Czech Academy of Sciences and Charles University in Prague and a research associate at the Centre for Invasion Biology at SU, first author of the paper, says: “As our knowledge about invasive alien species increases, the problems associated with biological invasions are becoming clearer. The threats posed by invasive alien species to our environment, our economies and our health are very serious, and are getting worse. Policy makers and the public need to prioritize actions to stem invasions and their impacts."</p><p><strong>On the photos, above:</strong></p><p>Pine invasions in the mountains of South Africa's Cape Floristic Region is dramatically reducing streamflow from water catchments. <em>Photo: Andrew Turner</em></p><p>The Harlequin ladybird, an invasive species native to Asia, cause damage to ecosystems by reducing the population sizes of native ladybird species. They are also a great nuisance causing economic losses by tainting wine with their bitter secretions, and by damaging fruit crops. <em>Photo: Ingrid Minnaar</em></p><p><strong>Read the paper in Biological reviews</strong><br></p><p>Pyšek P., Hulme P. E., Simberloff D., Bacher S., Blackburn T. M. Carlton J. T., Dawson W., Essl F., Foxcroft L. C., Genovesi P., Jeschke J. M., Kühn I., Liebhold A. M., Mandrak N. E., Meyerson L. A., Pauchard A., Pergl J., Roy H. E., Seebens H., van Kleunen M., Vilà M., Wingfield M. J. & Richardson D.M.: Scientists' warning on invasive alien species. <em>Biological Reviews</em> doi: 10.1111/brv.12627 - <a href=""></a></p><p><strong>Media interviews</strong></p><p>Professor Dave Richardson</p><p>Director, DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology, hosted at Stellenbosch University</p><p>Mobile: 082-7624201</p><p>E-mail: <a href="file:///C:/Users/science/AppData/Local/Microsoft/Windows/INetCache/Content.Outlook/KYXAK29K/"></a></p><p> </p><p><strong>* World scientists' warning to humanity</strong></p><p>The paper is a part of the <em>World scientists' warning to humanity: a second notice</em>, an initiative calling for urgent change in the management of the natural world.</p><p>In 1992, a community of eminent scientists from around the globe put their names to a document warning that humanity was on a collision course with the rest of the natural world (Union of Concerned Scientists, 1992). Twenty-five years later, Ripple et al. (2017) evaluated the human response and in a 'second warning' concluded that humanity had failed to make sufficient progress in dealing with the environmental challenges. Indeed, they found that most of these problems had worsened.</p><p>The original 1992 call was supported by more than 1,700 scientists, while in 2017 over 15,000 scientists added their signatures to the declaration.</p><p><strong>What is the scale of the problem?</strong></p><p>A recent analysis of global extinctions in the IUCN Red List database (IUCN, 2017) revealed that alien species contributed to 25 per cent of plant extinctions and 33 per cent of terrestrial and freshwater animal extinctions. Meanwhile, annual environmental losses caused by introduced species in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa, India and Brazil have been calculated at over US$100 billion.</p><p><strong>Action against invasive alien species</strong></p><p>The importance of taking action against invasive alien species globally has been widely recognized (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005). The recent global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services by the Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) ranked invasive alien species fifth among direct drivers of change in nature with the largest relative global impacts, after changes in land and sea use, direct exploitation of organisms, climate change, and pollution.</p><p><strong>About the Centre for Invasion Biology (</strong>C·I·B<strong>) </strong></p><p>The C·I·B is an inter-institutional research centre with its headquarters at Stellenbosch University. Its members undertake research on the consequences of biological invasions in South Africa's freshwater, marine and terrestrial ecosystems. The aims of the Centre's work are to reduce the rates and impacts of biological invasions by furthering scientific understanding and predictive capability, by developing research and management capacity through postgraduate student training.</p><p>In 2020 the produced an encyclopaedic assessment of the status of biological invasions in South Africa. The open-access book is available at: <a href=""></a></p><p>For information about the Centre for Invasion Biology, visit <a href=""></a> </p><p><br></p>
Development of SA’s first COVID-19 models of SA’s first COVID-19 modelsWiida Fourie-Basson<p>Giving officials something practical to work with, was one of the hardest challenges facing modelers in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa, says Prof Juliet Pulliam, director of the <a href="">South African Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis</a> (SACEMA), hosted at Stellenbosch University.</p><p>During an online <a href="">Science Café talk at Stellenbosch University</a> last week, she gave an overview of the thinking behind the development of the early models, starting on 28 February when the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NCID) requested her to provide “a rough estimate" of the potential health impact of the disease.<br></p><p>Prof Pulliam has more than 15 years of experience in the modelling of infectious diseases, often in resource-poor countries. Currently she is also a member of a consortium of modelers advising the NICD and the government on the handling of the pandemic.</p><p>“Working with decision makers, my biggest challenge was the need to be practical. You have to find ways of capturing the uncertainty inherent in the modelling process, particularly in a situation like this where so little is known about the disease, while also giving them something useful they can work with."<br></p><p>“With very limited data, the early models had to be simple and flexible, and able to explore the many uncertainties we were faced with. The first model was therefore aimed at providing a rough understanding of what the situation could look like if nothing was done," she explains. </p><p>So instead of asking “how many people will be infected", they reframed the question to “if a specified proportion of the population became infected, then how many would seek care, and how many would die?"</p><p>Following this approach, in a scenario with an infection rate of 10%, the fatality estimate was between 20 300 to 87 900 people. In the scenario with an infection rate of 40%, the fatality rate could be between 81 300 and 351 000 people.</p><p>But this first model did not make provision for a time scale, and by 13 March they were confronted with the next question: How much time do we have? How fast is the epidemic going to take-off in South Africa? When can we expect the first 1 000 or 10 000 cases?</p><p>“For these short-term projections we developed a stochastic model, based on no interventions and the assumption that half of the existing cases had been missed. According to this model, the number of cases would reach about 1 000 between 28 March and 2 April.</p><p>“On 28 March we stood at 1 070 cases detected. According to our model, without the lockdown, we were likely to reach 10 000 cases by 11 April. Instead, we reached a figure of 10 015 cases a month later, on 11 May."</p><p>By 23 March she became part of the South Africa COVID Modelling Consortium, brought together by the NCID to formally assist the Department of Health in modelling the pandemic. </p><p>She says as the pandemic progresses, different models are needed to answer new questions. Currently she is working on the National COVID-19 Epi Model, one of two models developed by the Consortium that is used by the Department of Health to assist with the planning of resources. </p><p>“The model is being used to address the question of how long we have before current ICU capacity is exceeded. The approach was to compare detected cases on June 1 with predictions under an optimistic and pessimistic scenario to assess the current trajectory. Based on the current trajectory and long-term projections, the model can be used to evaluate the likely time when capacity will be breached by province." </p><p>Prof Pulliam says their predictions thus far are consistent with what is happening on the ground, especially in the public sector: “The ICU capacity in the public sector has already been exceeded in the Western Cape, and they've been working hard to expand that capacity and work out ways to transfer patients to the private sector."</p><p>The Eastern Cape will breach its ICU capacity in mid-June, while the rest of the country's provinces will reach that point in mid-July or later. The latest projections, taking into account the impact of the lockdown since 27 March 2020, were released this week. They are available online at <a href=""></a><br></p><p><a href="">Science Café Stellenbosch</a> is an initiative of SU's Faculty of Science to promote the discussion of scientific issues in a language everyone can understand. Like us on <a href="">Facebook </a>or join our mailing list -<br></p><p><br></p>
Young postdoc in chemistry awarded prestigious EU fellowship postdoc in chemistry awarded prestigious EU fellowshipMedia & Communication, Faculty of Science<p>Dr Upenyu Muza, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Chemistry and Polymer Science at Stellenbosch University (SU), has received a <a href="">Marie Sklodowska-Curie Action individual fellowship</a> to conduct research at the <a href="">Leibniz-Institute for Polymer Research</a> in Dresden, Germany.</p><p>Awarded by the European Commission, these global fellowships are one of the most prestigious research grants in Europe for young and upcoming researchers from all over the world.</p><p>Dr Muza, originally from Zimbabwe, completed his PhD in December 2019 under the supervision of <a href="">Prof Harald Pasch</a>, distinguished professor at SU and SASOL Research Chair in Analytical Polymer Science. Muza says working with Prof Pasch broadened his scope of experience: “Prof Pasch works on world-class projects, and he was a phenomenal person to work with." </p><p>For his PhD, he developed a novel, advanced multidimensional analytical technique that can be used to harvest a wealth of information on the microstructure of complex polymers.  During 2019 he was also one of five postgraduate students in South Africa to receive a SASOL postgraduate medal of the South African Chemical Institute (SACI) for innovative, independent and enterprising research.</p><p>For the immediate future, he plans to work on the design, hybridisation and characterisation of biomedicinal molecules for potential application in targeted drug delivery in cancer therapy.</p><p>Dr Muza says he has always been mesmerized by chemistry, even during primary school doing elementary things such as titrations: “I regard chemistry as the central science – it is the convergence point for other scientific disciplines like Biology and Physics. Chemistry can be hard, but it can be likeable as well!"<br> As soon as the travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic are lifted, he will join Prof Albena Lederer's research group at the Institute for Polymer Research in Dresden. In the meantime, this young man is wasting no time in learning to speak, read and write German, in order to better prepare him for his research abroad.<br></p><p><br></p>
African violin sounds violin soundsProf Martina Meincken <p>​​​​​​​​​<br></p><p class="western" style="margin-bottom:0.28cm;line-height:108%;"> <font style="font-size:11pt;"><span lang="af">Wood used for musical instrument needs to meet certain physical and acoustical properties and not all wood species are suitable as tonewoods. While guitars are often made from various (indigenous) wood species, violins worldwide are made from imported Spruce for the front plate and Maple for the back plate. This wood tends to be slow grown, very old and is typically dried naturally for up to 50 years. In a research project of the past two years we characterised various indigenous (South) African wood species and determined how they fit into different classification schemes to determine the suitability of the wood to be used as tonewood.</span></font></p><p class="western" style="margin-bottom:0.28cm;line-height:108%;"><br> <font style="font-size:11pt;"><span lang="af"> Four species gave promising results: Yellowwood and Blackwood for the front and Sapele and Hardpear for the back. None of these were, however, several decades old, or dried. The wood was carefully handpicked and kiln dried to obtain the best possible raw material. The first violin was made from Yellowwood and Sapele by Hannes Jacobs in Pretoria - one of the best luthiers in South Africa - and the sound compares very well with his traditional instruments.</span></font></p><p class="western" style="margin-bottom:0.28cm;line-height:108%;"><br> <font style="font-size:11pt;"><span lang="af"> The process of making of the African violin and its </span></font><font style="font-size:11pt;"><span lang="af"><strong>sound can be seen / heard under:</strong></span></font><font style="font-size:11pt;"><span lang="af"> </span></font></p><div class="ms-rtestate-read ms-rte-embedcode ms-rte-embedil ms-rtestate-notify"><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0"></iframe> </div><p class="western" style="margin-bottom:0.28cm;line-height:108%;"><font style="font-size:11pt;"><span lang="af"><br></span></font></p><p class="western" style="margin-bottom:0.28cm;line-height:108%;"><a><font color="#0563c1"><span style="text-decoration:underline;"><font style="font-size:11pt;"><span lang="af">​​​​</span></font></span></font><br> </a><font style="font-size:11pt;"><span lang="af"> </span></font><br> <font style="font-size:11pt;"><span lang="af">The seco</span></font><font color="#000000"><font style="font-size:11pt;"><span lang="af">nd violin will be made in our Depar</span></font></font><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri, sans-serif"><font style="font-size:11pt;"><span lang="af">tment as part of various student projects and a local luthier will assist with the final finetuning and the assembly. For more information</span></font></font></font><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri, sans-serif"><font style="font-size:11pt;"><span lang="af"> contact </span></font></font></font><span><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri, sans-serif"><font style="font-size:11pt;"><span lang="af">Prof. Martina Meincken at <a href=""></a> at the </span></font></font></font></span><span><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri, sans-serif"><font style="font-size:11pt;"><span lang="af-ZA">Department of Forest and Wood Science </span></font></font></font></span><span><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri, sans-serif"><font style="font-size:11pt;"><span lang="af-ZA">or visit</span></font></font></font></span><span><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri, sans-serif"><font style="font-size:11pt;"><span lang="af-ZA">: </span></font></font></font></span><a href="/forestry"><span><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri, sans-serif"><font style="font-size:11pt;"><span lang="af-ZA"></span></font></font></font></span></a>​<br></p><p class="western" style="margin-bottom:0.28cm;line-height:108%;"><br></p><p class="western" style="margin-bottom:0.28cm;line-height:108%;"><br></p><p><br></p>
Take action to save our oceans action to save our oceansMolly Czachur<p>Monday (8 June) is World Oceans Day. In an article for Mail & Guardian (7 June), Molly Czachur from the Evolutionary Genomics Group writes that we must all do our bit to save our oceans.<br></p><ul><li>Read the complete article below or click <a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0" style="">here</strong></a> for the piece as published.</li></ul><p><strong>Molly Czachur*</strong><br></p><p>We have all found ourselves admiring the beauty of the oceans and their marine wildlife, whether it's with our own eyes or whilst watching our favourite documentary on television.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Healthy oceans are the lungs of our planet, providing most of the oxygen we breathe. They also provide a staggering economic contribution that's worth trillions of US dollars per year. They give us food, transportation and energy, and they even help to regulate our climate and provide us with important cultural services. It seems wise for us to reap these benefits but the question remains: how willing are people to return the favour, and to take action for their oceans?<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">On June 8 each year, people across the globe celebrate<strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0" style=""> </strong><a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0" style="">World Oceans Day</strong></a><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0" style=""> </strong>to highlight the importance of protecting our oceans and our marine wildlife. We will hear of the threats and challenges facing marine wildlife, and it's often overwhelming. Rather than getting lost in the numbers, an important next step is for all of us to take action to protect our oceans. When we really start to look, we can find many small seeds of hope in our everyday actions, and it is when we come together that these seeds are already growing bigger and stronger.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">All actions will help us to move closer to achieving the <a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0" style="">United Nation's 14th Sustainable Development Goal for “life below water"</strong></a>. This is a global effort to make sure that we are using our ocean resources sustainably.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">My own experience of 'taking action' starts with my career as a marine biologist. We use DNA-based tools to describe marine wildlife in Southern Africa. It's sometimes difficult to explain genetics, and I'm always telling people that it's not just a boring school subject! In my own personal mission to inspire people about genetics, <a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0" style="">I made a comic to illustrate my work</strong></a><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0" style=""> </strong>and I was blown away by the comics' reaction online. Hundreds of teachers contacted me from all corners of the world to request a copy for their classrooms, and it's since been translated into many different languages. This was a simple action with widespread impact. These teachers reinforced my notion that people take action (even for genetics) if they're given the right tools.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Now shift your gaze away from the classroom towards a place like the villages of Kenya, where coastal mangrove forests stretch across the country. When I first learned about mangroves, I thought they were magical  ̶  they are trees that can live and thrive in seawater. Below the surface, the intertwined mangrove roots provide an aquatic habitat for young marine animals, and above the water, the branches and leaves bask in the sun. Mangrove trees are magical but they're also under threat. Mangrove wood is a useful building material so it's often cut down for wood, or cleared for 'more desirable' coastal developments. In Kenya, 20% of mangroves have disappeared in the past 30 years.<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">I was lucky enough to once work for a community of forward-thinking Kenyans who have come together to protect their mangroves. Instead of cutting down trees, the villagers are protecting them in a community-led project known as Mikoko Pamoja, which translates to “mangroves together". The local people protect their mangrove forests from deforestation, and as the trees grow they safely store carbon in the forest biomass and surrounding mud. Mikoko Pamoja then generates an income from this carbon storage, by selling carbon credits in the carbon market (<a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0" style="">read my blog post about carbon offsetting here</strong></a>). The money that they generate is used to build water systems, school resources and benefit the local medical dispensary. Their actions have now led to multi-layered benefits: the local coastline is protected, and the people are developing their education, healthcare and water resources.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">This was just one example of how taking action can benefit the oceans and the people who depend on them, and there are seeds of hope everywhere. The most surprising thing I've found is that taking action looks different to everyone, and it always starts with you making the first move. Your unique voices, your creative thoughts and your actions will help us to spread the word about protecting our oceans. As the Kenyan villagers have shown, your actions can be beneficial for both people and the planet. <br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">If you're not sure how you can take action in your own life, take inspiration from the digital world – from a quick google you'll discover a world of positive actions that can benefit the oceans. The United Nations have even released “<a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0" style="">The Lazy Person's Guide to Saving The World</strong></a>". For the oceans, a great place to start is with the “reducing marine pollution" target. You can do anything – from something as small as pledging to reduce your plastic consumption, up to those on the front line making policy changes. There are beach cleans organised all over the world, and if you can't find one to join then you could organise one yourself or simply collect trash when you're visiting the coast. Not near a beach? You can campaign to reduce pollution, or write to your local government representatives and express your opinions. Push for the changes that you want to see, whether it's about the consumption of plastic in your local area, or it's related to marine pollution from industrial or residential chemicals. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">The world is urging you to join our “<a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0" style="">Decade of Action</strong></a>" as we move towards our 2030 targets. Whatever you do, your actions matter. Take an action today and see how far it will ripple.</p><ul><li>Share your ocean actions on social media to inspire others, using the hashtag #WorldOceansDay to connect with fellow marine wildlife lovers across the globe. Join the conversation with Molly on <a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0" style="">Twitter</strong></a><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0" style=""> </strong>and <a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0" style="">Facebook</strong></a><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0" style=""> </strong>(@zoologymolly), or visit <a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0" style=""></strong></a> for more resources.</li></ul><p><strong>*Molly Czachur is a</strong><strong> </strong><strong>PhD student in the Evolutionary Genomics Group in the Department of Botany and Zoology at Stellenbosch University.</strong></p><p><br></p>
New book is treasure trove of information on invasive species book is treasure trove of information on invasive species Corporate Communication / Korporatiewe Kommunikasie [Alec Basson]<p>​​If you're concerned about invasive species or always wanted to know more about them, then a new book on all aspects of biological invasions in South Africa is definitely for you.<br></p><p>Published recently as an open access encyclopaedic book, <a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">Biological Invasions in South Africa</strong></a> provides the reader with information on 1 422 alien species including, among others, plants, birds, mammals, fish, terrestrial invertebrates, invasive marine organisms and disease-causing microorganisms that have naturalised or become invasive in the country. </p><p>Comprising 31 chapters, it covers themes such as the history of research in South Africa, detailed accounts of major groups of plants and animals, policy development, the development of a robust ecological theory about biological invasions, the effectiveness of management interventions and scenarios for the future regarding biological invasions in the country.</p><p>“There are very few, if any, books that give such a comprehensive coverage of this field at a national level, for any country in the world. While there are many books on biological invasions, most cover a particular aspect of the problem, or a particular group of species," says Prof Brian van Wilgen from the <a href=""><span class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0"><strong>Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology</strong></span></a> (CIB) and the Department of Botany and Zoology at Stellenbosch University. He co-edited the book with colleagues Profs John Measey and Dave Richardson as well as Prof John Wilson and Dr Tsungai Zengeya from the South African National Biodiversity Institute. Over 100 researchers, practitioners and post-graduate students working on different aspects of invasive species contributed to the book.</p><p>​Van Wilgen says they wanted to produce a comprehensive reference work that can be used as a teaching and research tool and a source of information for managers in the field. <br></p><p>“This book provides information on the known impacts of invasive species in the country.<br></p><p>For example, alien trees consume about 5% of our scarce water resources, reduce the carrying capacity of our natural rangelands and are a direct threat to the survival of almost half of 1 600 native species listed in South Africa's Red Data List.</p><p>“Particularly damaging species include American and European pine trees and Australian acacias that invade the fynbos and grasslands, reduce water runoff, threaten native species (some of which are only found in South Africa) and increase the severity of wildfires; American mesquite (<em>Prosopis</em>) trees that invade the arid Karoo and dry savannas, making livestock production almost impossible on some farms; and a new arrival, the invasive polyphagous shothole borer, a beetle set to wipe out plane trees, oaks, avocados and many other trees species across South Africa."</p><p>As to the reason behind the book, Van Wilgen says the last (and only) synthesis of this topic at a national level was published 34 years ago in 1986, and a new synthesis of this large and growing problem was needed. “Our government has invested a substantial amount into the establishment and running of the CIB over the past 15 years, so it was also necessary to review what we have learnt, and to provide a comprehensive synthesis for use by the next generation of researchers and managers."<br></p><p>He adds that their comprehensive coverage was possible for a number of reasons, including South Africa's long history as a leader in dealing with invasive species (both in research and in management) and generous funding made available for research, training and management over the past 20 years.<br></p><p>“South Africa has also emerged as a world-leading nation in this field, punching well above its weight in research, training and management. Since its inception in 2004, the CIB has published 1 750 research papers, and conferred master's and doctoral degrees on 129 and 67 candidates respectively. This is a significant contribution to capacity-building and transformation in this field."<br></p><p>The hope is that the book will remain a major reference work and teaching tool for many years to come – not only in South Africa, but also globally, says Van Wilgen.<br></p><p>“It will also doubtless be widely used beyond our borders, and we particularly hope that it will be useful for other countries in Africa."<br></p><ul><li><em>Biological Invasions in South Africa</em> can be downloaded for free at<strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0"> </strong><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0"><a href=""></a>.</strong></li></ul><p><strong>FOR MEDIA ENQUIRIES ONLY</strong></p><p>Prof Brian van Wilgen</p><p>Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology</p><p>Department of Botany and Zoology<br></p><p>Stellenbosch University</p><p>​Email: <a href=""><span class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0"><span><strong>b</strong></span><span><strong></strong></span></span></a> </p><p><strong>ISSUED BY</strong></p><p>Martin Viljoen</p><p>Manager: Media</p><p>Corporate Communication<br></p><p>Stellenbosch University</p><p>Email: <a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0"></strong></a> </p><p> </p><p> </p><p><br> </p>
Ten SU finalists compete for SA’s ‘Science Oscars’ SU finalists compete for SA’s ‘Science Oscars’ Corporate Communication / Korporatiewe Kommunikasie [Alec Basson]<p>​​Over the past few years, Stellenbosch University (SU) has featured prominently at the annual <a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF)/ South32Awards</strong></a>. This year is no different with 10 SU finalists competing for the 2019/2020 NSTF/South32 Awards at South Africa's “Science Oscars". As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the announcement of the winners will take place through a live-streamed Gala Event on Thursday, 30 July 2020.</p><p>Regarded as the most sought-after national accolades of their kind in the country, the NSTF/South32 Awards recognise, celebrate and reward the outstanding contributions of individuals, teams and organisations to science, engineering and technology (SET) in the country. Among the competitors are experienced scientists, engineers, innovators, science communicators, engineering capacity builders, organisational managers and leaders, as well as data and research managers.<br></p><p>According to the organisers, it is an extraordinary honour to be a finalist given the quality of the nominations received every year, the fierce competition that nominees face and growing interest from the SET community over the years.<br></p><p>The SU finalists (with department or environment) and the categories in which they will compete are as follows:<br></p><p><em>Lifetime Award:</em></p><ul><li><strong>Prof Leslie Swartz </strong>(Department of Psychology)</li></ul><p><em>TW Kambule-NSTF Award: Researcher:</em></p><ul><li><strong>Prof Christine Lochner</strong> (South African Medical Research Council (MRC) Unit on Risk and Resilience in Mental Disorders and Department of Psychiatry)</li></ul><p><em>TW Kambule-NSTF Award: Emerging Researcher:</em></p><ul><li><strong>Dr Wynand Goosen</strong> (Centre of Excellence for Biomedical TB Research, Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics, Department of Biomedical Sciences)</li><li><strong>Prof Richard Walls</strong> (Fire Engineering Research Unit)</li><li><strong>Dr Jacqueline Wormersley</strong> (Department of Psychiatry)</li></ul><p><em>​NSTF-Lewis Foundation Green Economy Award:</em></p><ul><li><strong>Prof Thinus Booysen</strong><em> </em>(Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering). He is also a finalist in the <em>NSTF-Water Research Commission Award</em> category.</li></ul><ul><li><strong>Prof Wikus van Niekerk</strong> (Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies)</li><li><strong>Sharksafe (Pty) Ltd</strong> with CEO and Co-Inventor Prof Conrad Matthee (Department of Botany and Zoology)</li></ul><p><em>Data for Research Award:</em></p><ul><li><strong>Stellenbosch University Computed Tomography Scanner Facility Team with Leader Prof Anton du Plessis </strong>(Department of Physics)</li></ul><p><em>Communication Award:</em></p><ul><li><strong>Dr Rehana Malgas-Enus</strong> (Department of Chemistry and Polymer Science)​<br></li></ul><p><br></p>
SU researchers, alumni honoured by SA Academy researchers, alumni honoured by SA AcademyCorporate Communication / Korporatiewe Kommunikasie [Alec Basson]<p>​Three researchers and two former postgraduate students from Stellenbosch University (SU) have been honoured by the South African Academy for Science and Arts for their contributions to science and the arts.<br></p><p>The award winners are Prof Matilda Burden of the SU Museum, Prof Jan van Vuuren of the Department of Industrial Engineering, Prof Andre Weideman of the Department of Mathematical Sciences, and alumni Theo Busschau and Ruhan Fourie.<br></p><p>Prof Matilda Burden, a cultural historian, receives an Honorary Award for the Advancement of History (Erepenning vir die Bevordering van Geskiedenis) for her outstanding contribution to the advancement of history or cultural history as disciplines in South Africa.<br></p><p>Burden says that even though she was completely taken by surprise, it is a great honour and she is deeply grateful for it.<br></p><p>“It is my privilege to be able to research and write about South African cultural history, and to train South Africans across all cultural boundaries in cultural history, heritage studies and museum science. It is, therefore, a special honour to be rewarded with an award that recognises a modest contribution. <br></p><p>“Receiving this award from the SA Academy for Science and Arts means a great deal to me, especially as it also recognises the field of cultural history," adds Burden.<br></p><p>The Douw Greeff Prize goes to Prof Jan van Vuuren for a research or review article of the highest scientific quality published in the <em>SA Journal of Natural Science and Technology</em> during the year preceding the award. </p><p>Van Vuuren says the prize was totally unexpected. “Recognition is not a researcher's driving force; rather, it is a fundamental curiosity that leads to a quest to answer open-ended questions. But it is nevertheless encouraging and enjoyable if one gets the kind of recognition that the South African Academy for Science and Arts gives." He also received this award in 2007 with Nicky Pantland.<br></p><p>The Havenga Prize for Physical Sciences was awarded to <span class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0"><a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">Prof André (J.A.C.) Weideman</strong></a><strong>,</strong></span> an applied mathematician who specialises in the design and improvement of computer algorithms for application in the natural sciences and engineering. The Havenga Prize is an annual award for original research in the natural sciences and can be awarded only once to an individual. </p><p>​Prof Weideman is <a href="/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=4819"><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">internationally acknowledged</strong></a> as one of the most creative figures in numerical analysis, specifically for his research on the interface between complex analysis and numerical algorithms in application fields such as differential equations, integral transforms and special functions. Over a career spanning more than thirty years, he has made a valuable contribution to the improvement of software by applying his theoretical knowledge to develop practical algorithms.</p><p>In reaction to the award, Prof Weideman said the award is special even more so as applied mathematicians' research contributions often remain invisible to the popular media: “Applied mathematics is a subject in the service of the rest of the sciences. For someone who spent his academic career on improving computer algorithms for effective use by other scientists, this award is extremely special."<br></p><p>The Junior Captain Scott Memorial Medal for the best MSc-thesis in Zoology was awarded to Mr <a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">Theo Busschau</strong></a>, for his thesis on the “Phylogeographic patterning of three co-distributed forest-dwelling reptile species along the east coast of South Africa". </p><p>Mr Busschau has been working on reptiles since his BScHons-degree, under the supervision of Prof Savel Daniels. Described as an exceptional student, he has already published five research articles in peer-reviewed journals, two of which as first author, with another article in press. In September, he will be off to the United States where he was granted a PhD fellowship in Biology at New York University.<br></p><p>Another SU alumnus, Ruhan Fourie, was honoured with the Protea Boekhuis Prize and the General Christaan de Wet scholarship for the best History dissertation in Afrikaans. His master's thesis was on the anti-apartheid activist Beyers Naudé.<br></p><ul><li><strong>Photo</strong>: Mr Theo Busschau and Profs Matilda Burden, André Weideman and Jan van Vuuren. </li></ul><p> </p><p>​ </p><p><br></p>
Stellenbosch University’s BioCODE first recipient of UTF funding University’s BioCODE first recipient of UTF fundingInnovus <p>​​While you read this article, there will be at least 4 500 cancer fatalities and 8 000 from cardiovascular disease, according to the World Health Organisation. These statistics are exacerbated by the circumstances and lack of health care for many of these victims in developing countries.<br></p><p>Prof Resia Pretorius, head of Stellenbosch University's Physiological Sciences Department in the Faculty of Science, and her team of researchers, engineers and scientists hope to address these needs with the patenting and development of the BioCODE 2-in-1 nanosensor to determine disease risk in patients.</p><p>Pretorius says cancer and cardiovascular diseases are often characterised by type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart attack and thrombosis, and the golden thread that links all of these conditions is systemic inflammation. “This inflammation is the result of increased circulating inflammatory biomarkers, including serum amyloid A, P-selectin and abnormal blood protein folding. These biomarkers are the cause of sticky blood and their presence greatly increase the possibility of getting a stroke, a heart attack or deep vein thrombosis."</p><p>Introduced by Anita Nel, Chief Director of Innovation and Business Development, who heads up <a href="">Innovus</a>, SU's technology transfer office for the commercialisation of the Institution's assets, Pretorius, Prof Anna-Mart Engelbrecht a cancer researcher, also from the department of Physiological Sciences, and Prof Willie Perold from SU's Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, developed a protocol for a small portable and cost effective nanosensor. The BioCODE team was the first recipients of funding from the newly established University Technology Fund (UTF).</p><p>Innovus was instrumental in working with the researchers to secure funding for the first stages of the development work of the BioCODE, the patenting thereof and the establishment of a company that is currently being incubated at SU's LaunchLab.</p><p>The sensor will be relatively cheap to produce and small enough to be used by a medical practitioner in his or her rooms and for nurses in mobile clinics. A second part of the sensor detects spontaneously formed sticky blood clotlets in circulation, using smartphone based technology. Perold says it is very exciting to be part of this multidisciplinary team of experts. “I do believe that many of the solutions of current day problems lie in this approach."</p><p>Pretorius said the BioCODE detects inflammatory biomarker levels from a drop of blood. “The serum amyloid A and P-selectin molecules in a person's circulation are upregulated when you have a risk for cancer or cardiovascular disease. To measure these molecules, we use antibodies which we immobilise on a test strip for the BioCODE," said Pretorius who, in 2018, already received funding to produce the antibodies in alpacas. They are now in the process to compare the antibodies to commercial ones.</p><p>In practice, a medical practitioner would usually send blood away to pathology laboratories for biomarker analysis. With the 2-in-1 nanosensor, the practitioner no longer has to send the blood samples away. Putting drops of a patient's blood on strips with serum amyloid A and P-selectin, will enable a practitioner to determine levels of the biomarkers in the patient. “Although one cannot determine what kind of cancer a patient might have per se, if serum amyloid A is greatly increased in circulation, it could suggest that a type of cancer is prevalent, and further testing can be done. “For instance, if the serum amyloid A levels are very high in a male patient, one can test for prostate cancer or in the case of a female patient, for breast cancer". These biomarkers are also significantly upregulated in cardiovascular disease.  The clinician still would need to make the final diagnoses, based on the usual clinical diagnostic processes.</p><p>“Our aim is to constantly improve the sensors to finally being able to detect specific cancers. We are currently also working on a sensor for the early detection of pancreatic cancer; since it is usually detected at a very late stage with a poor prognosis for these patients. This sensor will enable us to detect this cancer at a much earlier stage which will make 'n huge difference to the life expectancy of these patients with a current life expectancy of only 3-6 months," says Prof Engelbrecht.</p><p>Pretorius said the nanosensor could even be used to predict increased cytokine activity that is characteristic of the cytokine storm during COVID-19.</p><p>The prototype of the electronic part of the nanosensor is currently being finalised. BioCODE's first employee, Este Burger, who recently graduated from SU as an engineer, is working on the development of the smartphone-sensor for the company.</p><p>Dr Andre du Toit (post-doc researcher) and Greta de Waal (PhD student), both from the Department of Physiological Sciences, assist the team in the immobilisation of the antibodies onto the test strips.</p><p>Also part of the BioCODE team is SU's Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Wim de Villiers, (who is a gastroenterologist, with a special interest in serum amyloid A in colorectal cancer) who, together with Prof Pretorius, Prof Engelbrecht and Prof Perold, holds the patent for the BioCODE and shares the supervision of a PhD-student with Pretorius.</p><p>“BioCODE is the right product for the right time in South Africa today," says De Villiers. “Not only is it cost effective to produce, but it will enable medical practitioners to give people in our rural areas access to valuable medical screening which is currently not possible to do. For me it is an honour to be part of a young and dedicated team that is creating a home-grown product that will be used by the medical practitioners around the globe."</p><p>Pretorius expresses her thanks to the UTF for funding the research. It will enable the team to successfully reach the milestones which will provide leverage for further funding. “We will need to produce ten of the BioCODE 2-in-1 sensors and pull in an independent company which will draw blood and do tests on the BioCODE to determine if it will give consistent and comparable gold standard results. This will eventually lead to prototrials towards the end of milestone three at the end of 2020, which could put BioCODE on a path towards becoming a commercially viable product."</p><p>Stocks and Strauss, who was appointed as fund managers for the UTF fund, believes that BioCODE is an unique investment opportunity, says partner Wayne Stocks. “It is our opinion that the science is novel, the market is an exciting one, and the BioCODE team has the expertise, experience and passion to achieve the milestones identified to prove and commercialise the technology on a global scale."<br><br></p><p> </p><p><strong><em>About Innovus</em></strong></p><p><em>Innovus is a division of Stellenbosch University responsible for technology transfer, entrepreneurial support and development, and innovation at the university. Innovus manages the commercialisation of the University's innovation and intellectual property portfolio through patenting, licensing and the formation of spin-out companies.</em></p><p><em>Through our LaunchLab business incubator, Innovus offers various services to and opportunities for entrepreneurs. In addition to this their equity holding in the Innovus group of companies is a valuable asset for the university.</em></p><p><em>Innovus's website ( profiles an impressive portfolio of patents and provides tools and advice for inventors wishing to commercialise their ideas, and investors who want to help turn great ideas into reality.</em></p><p><strong><em>About Innovus and the UTF</em></strong></p><p><em>Stellenbosch University (SU) and the University of Cape Town co-invested in the newly established R150-million University Technology Fund (UTF) (a first for the continent of Africa) that was set up by the SA SME Fund in its endeavour to partner with South African universities to commercialise the technologies and business ideas that arise from these universities.</em><em> </em></p><p><em>For a few years now, Anita Nel, </em><em>Chief Director of Innovation and Business Development</em><em> at Innovus, and her team have been working on developing a funding model for early seed capital for universities' inventions and to gain support for it.</em><em>  </em><em>Such funding is crucial for the initial development phase of early stage technologies and to set up start-up ventures. Funds focusing solely on investing in university technologies are mushrooming abroad, but the UTF is the first investment fund in Africa dedicated for university inventions.</em><em>  </em><em>It has a unique model that makes provision for a pre-seed funding allocation that empowers institutions' technology transfer offices to support early stage technology development, building a solid pipeline of investable technologies for the UTF.</em><em> </em></p><p><br></p>
Climate warming could bring challenging times for invasive ladybirds warming could bring challenging times for invasive ladybirdsMedia & Communication, Faculty of Science<p>In South Africa, the invasive <a href="">harlequin ladybird</a> may ultimately not be able to adapt to <a href="">climate change</a>, despite the fact that it has successfully invaded four continents over the last two decades.<br></p><p>This is the finding from a unique breeding experiment with over 400 harlequin ladybirds (<em>Harmonia axyridis</em>) undertaken by researchers from the <a href="">Department of Botany and Zoology</a> at Stellenbosch University (SU).</p><p>In this experiment, Drs<a href=""> Mike Logan</a> and <a href="">Ingrid Minnaa</a>r raised three generations of ladybeetles, creating more than 50 families with known parents and grandparents. This allowed them to create a family tree of 400 offspring. The goal of constructing such a large family tree was to disentangle the sources of variation of the traits measured. For example, the authors were able to determine if the variation of walking speed and temperature tolerance across beetles was explained mostly by genetic factors, maternal effects or the environment. </p><p>Dr Minnaar explains: “We were particularly interested to find out if specific performance traits of the beetle, such as the temperature at which peak performance occurs or the extreme temperatures at which performance ceases, have the potential to evolve or whether they are constrained. If we found evidence for the former, it would mean that the beetle has the capacity to adapt to climate change-related temperature<strong> </strong>shifts while the latter would suggest that the beetle may not perform well in warming scenarios." </p><p>The results of this study have recently been published in the journal <em>Evolution</em>, in an article entitled “<a href="">The evolutionary potential of an insect invader under climate change</a>". </p><p>The study found that the beetles have the potential to respond to shifts in temperature extremes, more so than to changes in mean temperature conditions. In addition, the highest and lowest temperatures tolerated by the beetles were found to not shift independently from each other – and results hint to what ecologists call a “specialist-generalist trade-off". This is when an increase in performance of one trait comes at the expense of another trait, and therefore, the peak performance for both traits cannot evolve simultaneously.</p><p>In other words, beetles that are able to withstand a heat wave are unlikely to also withstand a cold snap, limiting this species' capacity to adapt to climate change, explains <a href="">Prof. Susana Clusella-Trullas</a>, co-author on the paper and principal investigator of the <a href="">Climate and Invasions: mechanisms in ectotherms lab</a> (CL.I.M.E lab) at SU.</p><p>She says the harlequin beetle's lack of evolutionary potential could be due to the unique history of this species' introduction to South Africa; “It could be that the initial gene pool was small, or perhaps there was strong selection for specific traits in the first few generations after its introduction to South Africa. There are however other possibilities as well. For example, this species may have low potential to adapt to changes in temperature but high capacity to buffer this variation by taking refuge, or shift its behaviour temporarily."</p><p>In the meantime, research on this species is ongoing, and focuses on gaining a better understanding of how it uses its microhabitat, and the <a href="">plasticity of its response to changes in temperature</a>.</p><p>"The goal is to increase our knowledge of <a href="">the population genetic structure of the species</a> and of its potential impacts on native ladybirds and other insects in South Africa, as the species is now well established and broadly distributed across the country. Our study shows that the evolutionary potential of invasive species cannot be assumed and both native and invasive species' performance need to be assessed to determine winners and losers in a warming world," she concludes.</p><ul><li>The research was supported by a grant from the <a href="">DSI/NRF Center of Excellence for Invasion Biology</a> (CIB), based at Stellenbosch University.<br></li></ul><div><em>Photo: Ingrid Minnaar</em><br></div><div><br></div><p><strong>Media enquiries</strong></p><p>Prof Susanna Clusella-Trullas</p><p>E-mail:<br></p><p><br></p>