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International recognition for research on penguins’ parasiteshttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=7552International recognition for research on penguins’ parasitesMedia & Communication, Faculty of Science<p>​Dr Marcela Espinaze, a postdoctoral fellow in biomathematics at Stellenbosch University, has been selected by Cambridge University Press' journal<em> Parasitology</em> for the 2020 <a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/parasitology/early-career-researcher-awards/early-career-research-awards-2020">Early Career Researcher award</a> for the best paper published in the journal during 2019.</p><p>The paper, entitled “<a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/blog/2019/03/26/parasite-diversity-associated-with-african-penguins-spheniscus-demersus-and-the-effect-of-host-and-environmental-factors/">Parasite diversity associated with African penguins (<em>Spheniscus demersus</em>) and the effect of host and environmental factors</a>", was the first of its kind to record parasites living both in and on African penguins from five different colonies. The findings indicated that parasites were particularly infesting chicks in high-density mainland colonies during spring-time, and have made a valuable contribution to colony management in the region.</p><p>The article formed part of Dr Espinaze's PhD project under supervision of Prof Sonja Matthee from the Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology, Prof Cang Hui from the Department of Mathematical Sciences, and Dr Lauren Waller, at the time from Cape Nature. The paper was also recognised as Paper of the Month by the journal in March 2019.</p><p>Dr Espinaze, who obtained her PhD in Conservation Ecology at Stellenbosch University in 2019, says she would like to keep working at the interface of disease ecology and wild life conservation: “I think it is crucial to understand the transmission of diseases in a holistic context, taking into account the pathogens, and the health of the host and the environment. With my work I hope to make a contribution to the conservation of endangered wildlife, as well as environmental education."</p><p>She also has an MSc in Conservation Biology from the University of Cape Town, and a degree in Veterinary Medicine from the Austral University of Chile. Before coming to South Africa, she worked as a conservation project coordinator in Patagonia.</p><p>With regards to the award, she says it is always very encouraging to have her work recognized: “It makes me feel that I am on the right path, and that people appreciate all the effort and love that we as a team have put into this research project."</p><p>The prize includes prize money of £1 000, three months' free access to the article, and social media exposure from Cambridge University Press.<br></p>
Top honours for SharkSafe Barrier http://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=7542Top honours for SharkSafe Barrier Media & Communication, Faculty of Science<p>Three researchers from Stellenbosch University walked away with top honours at the annual <a href="http://www.nstf.org.za/awards/about/"><strong>National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF)/ South32Awards</strong></a>. Dr Richard Walls and Profs Christine Lochner and Conrad Matthee were announced winners in their respective categories during a live-streamed gala event on Thursday, 30 July 2020.</p><p>The prestigious NSTF/South32 Awards recognise, celebrate and reward the outstanding contributions of individuals, teams and organisations to science, engineering and technology in South Africa.<br></p><p>The NSTF-Lewis Foundation Green Economy Award went to Matthee (Department of Botany and Zoology) and his team for inventing the first eco-friendly shark specific barrier <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ypqj7zraPc4&feature=emb_logo"><strong>SharkSafe</strong><strong><sup>TM</sup></strong></a>, which can protect beachgoers without harming the marine life. This innovative novel technology solves international problems associated with shark attacks including loss of lives, loss of income for local businesses, loss of recreational opportunities and loss of biodiversity in marine ecosystems. SharkSafe Barrier<sup>TM</sup> contributes to the preservation of a healthy ocean ecosystem while it also promotes sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth and in turn will improve livelihoods of local communities. Since patenting the locally manufactured SharkSafe Barrier<sup>TM</sup>, a privately owned company, SharkSafe PTY LTD, was created during 2014. This invention has also attracted international attention with interest coming from <a href="/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=6686"><strong>La Réunion Island</strong></a>, Australia and Saudi Arabia.<br></p><p>“The inventors of SharkSafe Barrier<sup>TM</sup> by name, Mike Rutzen, Dr Sara Andreotti, Dr Craig O'Connell and myself are indeed honoured to receive this award," said Matthee.</p><p>“We want to give credit to many role players who showed trust in our technology and assisted us in a long path to commercialization, specifically to Anita Nel and her team at Innovus, and Marius Ungerer from the SU Business School who assist with strategic planning, and also Laurie Barwell and Rory Bruins for endless product development and logistical support." </p><p>Through this award, we hope to make people aware that this technology has the potential to permanently solve the global conservation and socioeconomic tribulations associated with human-shark conflicts, added Matthee.<br></p><p>Walls (Fire Engineering Research Unit at Stellenbosch University or FireSUN) received the TW Kambule-NSTF Award in the Emerging Researcher Category for establishing FireSUN, a dynamic research group pursuing methods to improve informal settlement fire safety as well as structural fire design – both crucial to ensuring safety in our communities. A leading expert on fire safety engineering, Walls played a key role in the analysis of the Knysna fire disaster in 2017, in which almost 1 000 homes were destroyed, and has contributed to the United Nations “Global Assessment Repot on Disaster Risk Reduction" which looks at how to mitigate the effect of disasters on society. He has been involved with the roll-out of smoke alarms in informal settlements in South Africa. More than 5 000 smoke alarms have been installed in low-income homes, with the alarms typically being sponsored by industry or government. Walls also established the first fire safety engineering qualification in Africa.</p><p>Commenting on the award, Walls said “not only do we get paid a salary to burn stuff down, now our team is being recognised for advancing science and engineering. Our PhD & MEng students, postdocs and undergrads have worked extremely hard, and we hope we are making an impact. I appreciate that all of their contributions are being recognised in this award."<br></p><p>Lochner (South African Medical Research Council Unit on Risk and Resilience in Mental Disorders and the Department of Psychiatry) was honoured with a TW Kambule-NSTF Award in the Researcher Category for raising awareness about obsessive-compulsive disorder, a common and debilitating d condition that contributes to individual and societal suffering and massive economic costs. <br></p><p>Since 2001, Lochner has launched several awareness campaigns and comprehensively collected clinical and genetics data from almost 1 000 patients with these conditions and MRI data from a subset, culminating in an extensive database that has facilitated collaborations with leading scientists worldwide, and resulted in numerous publications. Her research contributes to current knowledge of these impairing conditions which may translate into increased accuracy of diagnosis and better care – of the individual as well as society. The burden of disease associated with these conditions – i.e. on a personal/emotional level, as well as the financial burden – is thus ultimately decreased by work of this nature and scale.<br></p><p><strong>Photo</strong>: Dr Richard Walls, Prof Christine Lochner and Prof Conrad Matthee with members of his team.<br></p>
New book on building knowledge in higher education in South Africahttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=7543New book on building knowledge in higher education in South AfricaWiida Fourie-Basson<p>What does it mean to decolonize the science curriculum at a higher education institution? How can lecturers help students to bridge the gap between abstract and applied knowledge of chemistry, specifically in the case of first year medicine and engineering students?<br></p><p>These are only two of the topics covered in a new book on <a href="https://www.routledge.com/Building-Knowledge-in-Higher-Education-Enhancing-Teaching-and-Learning/Winberg-McKenna-Wilmot/p/book/9780367463335"><em>Building Knowledge in Higher Education</em></a>, published by Routledge as part of a series on the use of <a href="https://legitimationcodetheory.com/theory/introducinglct/">Legitimation Code Theory</a> to enhance teaching and learning in higher education. Legitimation Code Theory (LCT) is a sophisticated framework, comprising several distinct tools, which enables scholars to shape their research and teaching practice within the context of social justice and knowledge-building.</p><p>Prof Ingrid Rewitzky, Vice-Dean for teaching and learning in the Faculty of Science, says since the establishment of the Faculty's teaching and learning hub in 2013, several lecturers have been engaging with Legitimation Code Theory and presenting their research at international LCT conferences.</p><p>In the chapter “Decolonizing the science curriculum: When good intentions are not enough", Dr Mags Blackie, from the Department of Chemistry and Polymer Science, and Dr Hanelie Adendorff, senior adviser at SU's Centre for Teaching and Learning, investigate the “Sciencemustfall incident during the #Feesmustfall student protests in 2015. Using Legitimation Code Theory's concept of specialization codes, they show how current decolonization attempts might be perceived as perpetuating past injustices, despite every intention to respond positively and effectively: “We explore the relations between the actors, ideas and objects in the field of science to reveal what is at stake and what needs to be addressed," they write in the abstract to the chapter.</p><p>They argue that it is “almost impossible" to find common ground in this debate, and that to equate indigenous knowledge systems with scientific knowledge would be to “completely eviscerate science". They then suggest an alternative approach and rephrase the question in terms of autonomy. In other words, simply adding indigenous knowledge to the existing curriculum, as in bringing traditional beer making into the microbiology curriculum as an example of how it is practiced in Africa, still serves the purpose of science as a western concept. But when science is placed in the hands of students as a tool to explore their own lived circumstances, they argue, “it still has the feel of science, but a science that is starting to look beyond itself to some extent".</p><p>In the chapter “Missing the target? How semantics can reveal the (mis)alignments in assessments", Dr Blackie and Dr Ilse Rootman-le Grange, blended learning coordinator for the Faculty of Science, explored the gap between first year students' theoretical understanding of key concepts in chemistry and their ability to transfer that knowledge into other domains, such as medicine and engineering. </p><p>“Chemistry is a hidden science," they write, “As a subject in its own right, it took far longer to emerge than the closely related disciplines of physics and biology. This is precisely because the molecular and atomic understanding of matter is neither intuitive nor obvious to the casual observer. Precisely because of this profoundly abstract nature of the subject, students have no real life context, or frame of reference for Chemistry".</p><p>Using the semantics concept from Legitimation Code Theory, called LCT(Semantics), their assessment of the questions asked in the final chemistry exam for first year health science students showed that the questions primarily assessed students' grasp of the language of chemistry, but failed to adequately test the depth of their conceptual understanding of the subject.</p><p>Other chapters in the book from SU lecturers are “From principle to practice: enabling theory-practice bridging in engineering education" by Karin Wolff; “Building the knowledge base of blended learning: implications for educational technology and academic development" by J.P. Bosman and Sonja Strydom; and “Legitimate participation in program renewal: the role of academic development units" by Gert Young and Cecilia Jacobs. </p><p>Two more books in the series will feature authors from the Faculty of Science: <em>Decolonising knowledge and knowers: struggles for university transformation in South Africa</em> and <em>Enhancing Science Education:</em> <em>Exploring knowledge practices with Legitimation Code Theory</em>, to be published in 2021.<br></p>
Three SU researchers receive top honourshttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=7539Three SU researchers receive top honoursCorporate Communication / Korporatiewe Kommunikasie [Alec Basson]<p>​Three researchers from Stellenbosch University (SU) walked away with top honours at the annual <a href="http://www.nstf.org.za/awards/about/"><span class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0"><strong>National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF)/ South32Award</strong><span><strong>s</strong></span></span></a>. Dr Richard Walls and Profs Christine Lochner and Conrad Matthee were announced winners in their respective categories during a live-streamed gala event on Thursday, 30 July 2020.</p><p>The prestigious NSTF/South32 Awards recognise, celebrate and reward the outstanding contributions of individuals, teams and organisations to science, engineering and technology in South Africa.<br></p><p>Walls (Fire Engineering Research Unit at SU or FireSUN) received the TW Kambule-NSTF Award in the Emerging Researcher Category for establishing FireSUN, a dynamic research group pursuing methods to improve informal settlement fire safety as well as structural fire design – both crucial to ensuring safety in our communities. A leading expert on fire safety engineering, Walls played a key role in the analysis of the Knysna fire disaster in 2017, in which almost 1 000 homes were destroyed, and has contributed to the United Nations “Global Assessment Repot on Disaster Risk Reduction" which looks at how to mitigate the effect of disasters on society. He has been involved with the roll-out of smoke alarms in informal settlements in South Africa. More than 5 000 smoke alarms have been installed in low-income homes, with the alarms typically being sponsored by industry or government. Walls also established the first fire safety engineering qualification in Africa.</p><p>Commenting on the award, Walls said “not only do we get paid a salary to burn stuff down, now our team is being recognised for advancing science and engineering. Our PhD & MEng students, postdocs and undergrads have worked extremely hard, and we hope we are making an impact. I appreciate that all of their contributions are being recognised in this award."<br></p><p>Lochner (South African Medical Research Council Unit on Risk and Resilience in Mental Disorders and the Department of Psychiatry) was honoured with a TW Kambule-NSTF Award in the Researcher Category for raising awareness about obsessive-compulsive disorder, a common and debilitating d condition that contributes to individual and societal suffering and massive economic costs. <br></p><p>Since 2001, Lochner has launched several awareness campaigns and comprehensively collected clinical and genetics data from almost 1 000 patients with these conditions and MRI data from a subset, culminating in an extensive database that has facilitated collaborations with leading scientists worldwide, and resulted in numerous publications. Her research contributes to current knowledge of these impairing conditions which may translate into increased accuracy of diagnosis and better care – of the individual as well as society. The burden of disease associated with these conditions – i.e. on a personal/emotional level, as well as the financial burden – is thus ultimately decreased by work of this nature and scale.<br></p><p>Locher said it was a lovely surprise to be the recipient of one of the so-called NSTF 'Science Oscars' of South Africa.</p><p>“I am thankful for the recognition and encouragement by this important forum.  It is a privilege and a blessing to have a career which I find meaningful and love, and be rewarded for it.  Contributing to efforts that highlight the importance of scientific research in the field of mental health and how this can benefit society, is a priority."  <br></p><p>The NSTF-Lewis Foundation Green Economy Award went to Matthee (Department of Botany and Zoology) and his team for inventing the first eco-friendly shark specific barrier <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ypqj7zraPc4&feature=emb_logo"><span class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0"><strong>SharkSafe</strong><sup><strong>TM</strong></sup></span></a>, which can protect beachgoers without harming the marine life. This innovative novel technology solves international problems associated with shark attacks including loss of lives, loss of income for local businesses, loss of recreational opportunities and loss of biodiversity in marine ecosystems. SharkSafe<sup>TM</sup> contributes to the preservation of a healthy ocean ecosystem while it also promotes sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth and in turn will improve livelihoods of local communities. Since patenting the locally manufactured SharkSafe<sup>TM</sup> barrier, a privately owned company, SharkSafe PTY LTD, was created during 2014. This invention has also attracted international attention with interest coming from <a href="/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=6686"><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">La Réunion Island</strong></a>, Australia and Saudi Arabia.<br></p><p>“The inventors of SharkSafe Barrier<sup>TM</sup> by name, Mike Rutzen, Dr Sara Andreotti, Dr Craig O'Connell and myself are indeed honoured to receive this award," said Matthee.<br></p><p>“We want to give credit to the many role players who showed trust in our technology and assisted us on the long path to commercialization, specifically to Anita Nel and her team at Innovus, and Marius Ungerer from SU's Business School for assistance with strategic planning, and Laurie Barwell and Rory Bruins for endless product development and logistical support."  <br></p><p>Through this award, we hope to make people aware that this technology has the potential to permanently solve the global conservation and socioeconomic tribulations associated with human-shark conflicts, added Matthee.<br></p><ul><li><strong>​Photo</strong>: Dr Richard Walls, Prof Christine Lochner, and Prof Conrad Matthee with members of his team.</li></ul><p> </p><p><br></p>
Maties computer science students ace Investec hackathonhttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=7533Maties computer science students ace Investec hackathonMedia & Communication, Faculty of Science<p>​A team of computer science students from Stellenbosch University walked away with the first place in <a href="https://www.investec.com/en_za/welcome-to-investec/Careers/grads/exposure-programme/it-explore.html">Investec's Programmable Banking hackathon</a>, which took place from 23 to 24 July.</p><p>The team of BScHons students, consisting of Jaco Swart, Hendrik van Heerden, Marie-Louise Steenkamp, Annika Nel en Aidan Elias, competed against four other teams. The challenge was to add new features to an existing banking card and banking platform. </p><p>“Our approach was to try and incorporate Investec's existing insurance service with their online payments to automatically prompt users for if they want insurance when they make certain purchases, for example to offer travel insurance when they purchase plane tickets," explains Jaco Swart.</p><p>Each team had to present their solution to the other teams and to a panel from Investec.<br></p><p>Mr Leonard Mahlangu, from Investec Limited's people, organisation and careers division, says the panel was impressed with the SU team's resilience and ability to understand the company: “As this was the first virtual hackathon we hosted, there were countless glitches along the way which made the task even more challenging. This team, however, wasn't fazed by it at all. I believe their success formula, other than their resilience, was taking the time to understand the company and the products we offered as well as the technology landscape they were dealing with. This formed the pillar on which their winning solution was built, using technology to advance the business offering whilst improving client experience. This is the cornerstone of what we do hence their solution resonated with the judging panel."<br></p><p>He says Investec manages these hackathons under the “IT explore" banner: “It is an opportunity for students to explore the real world and simulate what their jobs might look like after leaving university. For us, as an organisation, the hackathons provide an opportunity to build a relationship with students as they may become part of our Tech Grad Programme after their studies, or even to come and work for us."<br></p><p>Prof Bernd Fischer, head of <a href="http://www.cs.sun.ac.za/">SU's Computer Science Division</a>, says hackathons such as those organised by Investec provide students with invaluable exposure to the industry: “We appreciate Investec for providing this opportunity, as it complements our academic education and shows that we are preparing our students for the work place."</p><p>For their efforts, the winning team received a pair of Beoplay H9 Generation 3 headphones each, and a participation goodie bag with snacks.<br></p>
New water and soil facility opening soon http://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=7535New water and soil facility opening soon Dr J Colling<h4 style="text-align:left;"><span class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-3-4" style="font-size:15pt;">​A new national facility for water and soil analysis is currently being set up at Stellenbosch University.  The new facility will form one of the nodes of BIOGRIP,  a national research infrastructure platform hosted by UCT and with nodes at several South African institutions. The Stellenbosch BIOGRIP Node for Water and Soil Biogeochemistry will focus on the interdisciplinary study of the chemical, physical, geological and biological processes that influence the environment.</span><br></h4><div style="text-align:justify;"><br></div><div style="text-align:justify;">The BIOGeochemistry Research Infrastructure Platform (BIOGRIP) is a new initiative to promote South Africa’s biogeochemistry research by providing access to world class analytical facilities, various training opportunities and generating meaningful datasets by monitoring various biogeochemical environmental variables. BIOGRIP will consist of four nodes based at four universities across South Africa.  Each node will focus on a different aspect of biogeochemistry including Stellenbosch University (Water and Soil Node), University of the Free State (Mineral Node), North-West University (Atmospheric Node) and the University of Cape Town (Isotope Node).<br></div><div style="text-align:justify;"><br></div><div style="text-align:justify;">Funding for this initiative was provided by the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) as part of the South African Research Infrastructure Roadmap (SARIR). The main goal of SARIR is to support the development of advanced infrastructure and cutting-edge analytical facilities to promote high quality and innovative research. BIOGRIP will enable researchers to gain a deeper insight into how human activities in the past have impacted the environment and will also enable us to evaluate the impact of current practices on these areas, in the future. The study of earth and the environment was listed as one of the national research priorities and strategic goals for SARIR. Prof Sarah Fawcett (Department of Oceanography) at UCT and Prof Jodie Miller (Department of Earth Science) at SU were the co-champions of the BIOGRIP proposal. The BIOGRIP hub, which will coordinate and manage the platform, will be based at UCT with Prof Judith Sealy as the Director.</div><div style="text-align:justify;"><br></div><div style="text-align:justify;"><strong>Expanding Analytical Services </strong></div><div style="text-align:justify;"><br></div><div style="text-align:justify;">Currently, a selection of water and soil analytical services are offered by CAF units such as the ICP and XRF unit. </div><div style="text-align:justify;">The water and soil facility will focus on providing standard analytical services and access to new state-of-the-art equip­ment. The unit will house an Ion Chromatography (IC) system from Metrohm. The unit will also feature advanced instruments for conducting the analysis of hydrogen and oxygen stable isotopes.</div><div style="text-align:justify;"><br></div><div style="text-align:justify;"><strong>Training and research opportunities</strong><br></div><div style="text-align:justify;"><br></div><div style="text-align:justify;">The unit will focus on providing researchers and post-graduate students with technical support to perform research projects. Clients from higher education institutes and the private and public sector will be able to submit samples for routine analysis. Students will have the option to receive hands-on training on all instruments during various training opportunities. This will empower them with the necessary advanced skills to operate instruments, conduct experiments and to develop new analytical methods that are not currently available in South Africa. </div><div style="text-align:justify;"><br></div><div style="text-align:justify;">We invite anyone interested to follow the <a href="/caf" style="text-decoration:underline;"><span class="ms-rteForeColor-1">CAF website</span></a> or <a href="https://www.facebook.com/cafstellenbosch" style="text-decoration:underline;"><span class="ms-rteForeColor-1" style="text-decoration:underline;">Facebook page</span></a> or send an email to<a href="mailto:jcolling@sun.ac.za" style="text-decoration:underline;"> <span class="ms-rteForeColor-1" style="text-decoration:underline;">jcolling@sun.ac.za</span></a> to receive updates and relevant information. We look forward to develop the new facility into an excellent training and research facility, which will enable world-class research that can compete and contribute on the global arena and advance our knowledge of biogeochemistry.<br></div><div style="text-align:justify;"><br></div><div style="text-align:justify;">For more information view the story in the CAF Annual Report page 7<a href="/english/faculty/science/CAF/Documents/CAF%202020%20Annual%20Report_FINAL_29%20July%202020.pdf"> <span style="text-decoration-line:underline;">(click here)​</span></a><br></div><div><br></div><div><em style="font-size:12px;">photo by Datamax https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3694084​</em><br></div><p><br></p>
Violin gets African tone thanks to SU professorhttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=7497Violin gets African tone thanks to SU professorCorporate Communication/Korporatiewe Kommunikasie [Rozanne Engel]<p>​​​​​<br></p><p>Over the years, Stellenbosch University (SU) has been at the forefront of creating unique educational courses that are instrumental in educating the country's future scientists. </p><p>Prof Martina Meincken from the Department of Forest and Wood Science is one such scientist who has come up with a unique project to show that wood science is not just about building materials, but can also be used to create beautiful music.</p><p>Meincken has initiated the process of making African violins by using indigenous African wood species. The first violin was made over three months from yellowwood and sapele by one of the best luthiers in South Africa, Hannes Jacobs from Pretoria.</p><p>Wood used for musical instruments need to have certain physical and acoustical properties and not all wood species are suitable as tone woods. 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, is very old and is typically dried naturally for up to fifty years. </p><p>According to Meincken, she wanted to show that the quality of the violin can be comparable to those made from carefully aged and dried wood that is conventionally used to make violins.</p><p>“There is actually a lot of science that goes into the choice of wood. It was important to showcase our local wood and its properties and more importantly to show that wood (other than the traditional, imported spruce and maple) chosen based on certain physical properties, can be used as tone wood," says Meincken.</p><p> The creation of the African violins stemmed from a research project that Meincken has been involved in over the past two years. The ongoing research project has 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 tone wood.</p><p>“We measured various physical and mechanical properties of all indigenous species we could find and different classification schemes for tone woods to pick the species that were most suitable," says Meincken.</p><p>There are plans to make a second violin by the Department of Forest and Wood Science as part of various student projects. A local luthier will also assist with the final fine-tuning and assembly of these violins.</p><p>Meincken, with the help of Louis van der Watt from SU's Music Department, also hopes to organise a concert or presentation in the future to explain the making of the violin and the choice of woods and so that people can hear the sound differences between the African violin and a traditional violin when played.</p><p>Click <a href="https://youtu.be/tKvrhbI04wk"><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-2-0">here</strong></a> to see the process of making the African violin. </p><p>For more information, contact Prof Martina Meincken at mmein@sun.ac.za at the Department of Forest and Wood Science or visit: <a href="/forestry"><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-2-0">www.sun.ac.za/forestry</strong></a>. ​<br></p><p><br></p>
Scientists warn of increasing threats posed by invasive alien specieshttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=7459Scientists 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="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/brv.12627"><em>Biological Reviews</em></a> on 26 June 2020, forms part of the <a href="https://scientistswarning.forestry.oregonstate.edu/"><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="http://blogs.sun.ac.za/cib/">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="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/brv.12627">https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/brv.12627</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/rich@sun.ac.za">rich@sun.ac.za</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="https://tinyurl.com/y82qygud">https://tinyurl.com/y82qygud</a></p><p>For information about the Centre for Invasion Biology, visit <a href="http://blogs.sun.ac.za/cib/">http://blogs.sun.ac.za/cib/</a> </p><p><br></p>
Development of SA’s first COVID-19 modelshttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=7454Development 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="http://www.sacema.org/page/home">South African Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis</a> (SACEMA), hosted at Stellenbosch University.</p><p>During an online <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbE5IMwHzlo&feature=youtu.be">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="https://www.nicd.ac.za/diseases-a-z-index/covid-19/surveillance-reports/">https://www.nicd.ac.za/diseases-a-z-index/covid-19/surveillance-reports/</a><br></p><p><a href="https://www.facebook.com/ScienceCafeStellenbosch/">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="https://www.facebook.com/ScienceCafeStellenbosch/">Facebook </a>or join our mailing list - sciencecafe@sun.ac.za<br></p><p><br></p>
Young postdoc in chemistry awarded prestigious EU fellowshiphttp://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=7446Young 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="https://ec.europa.eu/research/mariecurieactions/actions/individual-fellowships_en">Marie Sklodowska-Curie Action individual fellowship</a> to conduct research at the <a href="https://www.ipfdd.de/en/about-us/">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="https://www0.sun.ac.za/chemistry/hpasch.php">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>