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LC-MS used to study leaf blackening in Proteas used to study leaf blackening in ProteasProf M Stander<p style="text-align:justify;"><span style="text-align:justify;">​LC-MS is an important tool in metabolomics studies.</span><span style="text-align:justify;"> </span><span style="text-align:justify;">A</span><span style="text-align:justify;">n example of </span><span style="text-align:justify;">such </span><span style="text-align:justify;">work at the LCMS laboratory is the recently published papers by our PhD student, Keabetswe Masike who used it to study leaf blackening in Proteas.  </span>​​​​​​<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">She further optimized phenolic methods on the Synapt system with ion mobility and data-independent acquisition to study the metabolites of the plants.  Leaf blackening is a post-harvesting disorder that causes financial losses during exports.  </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Ion mobility is a complementary tool to mass spectrometry that separates molecules (ions) based on their collisional cross-section.  </p><p>The link to her latest paper:</p><p> <a href=""></a>​<br></p><p><br></p><p> <img src="/english/faculty/science/CAF/Documents/LC-MS%20leaf%20blackening.png" alt="" style="margin:5px;width:400px;height:380px;" /><br><br></p><p><br></p><p><br></p>
Science centenary book now available on TakeAlot centenary book now available on TakeAlotMedia & Communication, Faculty of Science<p>The Faculty of Science's centenary book on a hundred years of science at Stellenbosch University (SU) is now available on <a href="">TakeAlot</a>.</p><p>The coffee table book, <a href="/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=6042"><em>A Particular Frame of Mind – Faculty of Science, Stellenbosch University 1918-2018</em></a>, traces the steps of the first pioneers who laid the foundations for training and research in various disciplines in the natural sciences at SU. It also documents the contributions of various individuals to the establishment of research fields such as nuclear physics and polymer science in South Africa.</p><p>Prof. Chris Garbers, former professor of organic chemistry from 1958 to 1978 and president of the CSIR from 1980 to 1990, writes in the Foreword that key institutions such as the SU's Faculty of Science have contributed “to transforming South Africa from a mainly rural society to an industrial giant on the African continent".</p><p>“The book is a succinct summary covering the past one hundred years, with the exposition of diverse scientific findings in layman's terms, as well as the documentation of anecdotes about various eccentric characters. The book is further enhanced by the insets of colleagues with specialist knowledge and understanding of contemporary developments in science," he continues writing.</p><p>This limited edition red linen hard case book is embossed with foil on the front and spine, and contains more than 200 photographs and images from the SU Archive, the Africana section of the SU Library, and various artefacts from departmental collections, including scientific images of historical and current research.<br></p><p><br></p>
Wisaarkhu a Falling Walls finalist at the Berlin Science Week a Falling Walls finalist at the Berlin Science WeekMedia & Communication, Faculty of Science<p><em>Wisaarkhu</em>, a multidisciplinary project aimed at humanizing mathematics, is one of the innovative projects that has been selected as a finalist in the science engagement category of the <a href="">Falling Walls competition</a> taking place during the Berlin Science Week from 1 to 10 November 2020.</p><p>The Falling Walls Conference was established on 9 November 2009 with the 20th anniversary of the peaceful fall of the Berlin Wall. The aim of the conference, which has since grown into a World Science Summit, is to break down the walls between science and society.</p><p><a href=""><em>Wisaarkhu</em> </a>is the brain child of Dr Sophie Marques and her colleague Prof Zurab Janelidze from the <a href="">Mathematics Division</a> at Stellenbosch University. It started in 2019 as a series of talks about the psychology of abstract mathematics, i.e. how we experience mathematics, and involved students and lecturers from mathematics, psychology, education and the arts. With the support of Prof Ingrid Rewitzky, head of the Department of Mathematical Sciences and Vice-Dean for Teaching and Learning in the Faculty of Science, the initiative has since evolved into a community of practice with an online magazine and ongoing online talks with participants from all over the world.</p><p>Dr Marques says the seeds for the project was planted when she started feeling completely overwhelmed when confronted with the fears and anxieties of her students. While mathematics is supposed to empower her students, it more often than not had the complete opposite effect.</p><p>“If it is true that mathematics can empower people with essential life skills, then why are we failing so dramatically to do so? How can we share this knowledge as widely and fairly as possible? If education is about helping our students to be the best they can be, how do we do that with mathematics? How do we make mathematics accessible, valid and visible for most?" she writes on the <a href=""><em>Wisaarkhu</em> blog</a>.</p><p>One of the clinical psychologists involved in the project, Mariam Salie, says too many walls have been built around mathematics, creating anxiety and discomfort: “These walls disconnect the subject from reality and other disciplines and gives the impression that it is disconnected from humanity. With this project, we aim to break the stigma surrounding mathematics and give everyone the opportunity to learn maths, a very important life skill."</p><p>Dr Karin-Therese Howell, a lecturer in mathematics, says she nominated <em>Wisaarkhu</em> for the Falling Walls competition because the initiative encourages community and involvement with the field of mathematics: “As a lecturer, I was sad that most of my students would not engage with mathematics after they graduated. This project aims to change that."</p><p>Since the <em>Wisaarkhu</em> team learned that they are amongst the finalists in the competition, they have had to come up with a video about their work within a matter of days. This video was produced by lecturers Mariam Salie, Dr Karin-Theresa Howell, Dr Rizwana Roomaney, maths teacher Shaun Hudson-Bennet and students Ethan Quirke, Laylaa Motola and Lourens van Niekerk.<br></p><p>“This team effort is just one example of the amazing diversity and commitment of the entire <em>Wisaarkhu</em> community, working hard behind the scenes to make it a success," says Dr Marques.</p><p>Thus far she has attended a number of events, including discussions with the other finalists and exchanging ideas. The <em>Wisaarkhu</em> team now has to produce another video by 28 October in order to compete for the top ten positions in their category. The top ten videos will be screened during the Grand Finale on 9 November 2020, the day the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. All videos are freely accessible online at<br></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><br></p><p><br></p>
Engineering, Science and AgriSciences students victorious at SU’s FameLab heat, Science and AgriSciences students victorious at SU’s FameLab heatCorporate Communication & Marketing / Korporatiewe Kommunikasie & Bemarking [Alec Basson]<p>​​​​Thabani Mtsi, a Master's student in Civil Engineering at Stellenbosch University (SU), won the SU heat of the 2021 national <a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">FameLab</strong></a><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0"> </strong>science communication and public speaking competition. The virtual event took place on Wednesday (14 October). Kaylan Reddy, a Master's student in Botany and Zoology, and Zimbili Sibiya, a doctoral student in Forest and Wood Science, finished second and third respectively. Considered one of the biggest science communication competitions in the world, FameLab creates a platform for young scientists to speak to public audiences about their work.<br></p><p>Mtsi and 23 other postgraduate students were given only three minutes to share their research with the audience. He spoke about ways in which the minibus taxi industry user experience can be improved, while Reddy talked about how indigenous knowledge of medicinal plants can be combined with brain biology to treat  anxiety and depression. Sibiya focused on the link between nature and technological sustainability. As the winner of the heat, Mtsi will represent SU at the national final in April 2021 where he will compete against the winners of heats at other universities in South Africa. </p><p>The SU FameLab heat was organised by Jive Media Africa and the Division for Research Development's Postgraduate Office​. The judges were Martin Viljoen (Corporate Communication and Marketing), Wilma Stassen (Marketing & Communications at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences), Dr Palesa Mothapo (Research Development) and Prof Nox Makunga (Botany and Zoology).<br></p><p>Commenting on his win, Mtsi, said “my life purpose is to inspire and edify those within my sphere of influence and everything I do is in service of this purpose. It is imperative that we use our academic pursuits to build the communities that built us because we are because of them. I was clothed, fed and raised by the taxi industry and so 'isintu' has it that I reciprocate that benevolence."<br></p><p>Regarding the importance of science communication, he said “Science that is circumscribed to the bounds of scientific journals and papers has stifled societal applicability. The gap between science and society needs to be bridged so that we can co-create solutions — particularly on the Afrikan continent."<br></p><p>Mtsi also boasts a Mandela Rhodes Scholarship and two Rector's Awards for Excellence, among others. His undergraduate thesis was named the best in South Africa by the South African Institution of Civil Engineering for 2018/2019.</p><p>The winner of the South African final will compete against participants from 30 countries at the international FameLab competition</p><ul><li><strong>Photo</strong>: Thabani Mtsi, Kaylan Reddy.and Zimbili Sibiya</li></ul><p><br></p>
Small fish species from the Serengeti named for Sir David Attenborough fish species from the Serengeti named for Sir David AttenboroughWiida Fourie-Basson<p>​​​A newly identified killifish species from the iconic Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, has been named for Sir David Attenborough in recognition of his dedicated efforts to promote <em>biophilia</em> – an awareness of the wonders and beauty of nature.</p><p>In contrast to the charismatic wildebeest and their spectacular annual migration, the brightly coloured <em>Nothobranchius attenboroughi </em>is barely five centimetres long and known to live fast and die young. ​​The species is endemic to northern Tanzania and integral to the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem.</p><p>That is why five scientists and fish enthusiasts from Canada, France and South Africa decided to name this highly vulnerable species after the doyen of biodiversity conservation.</p><p>“We wanted to honour Sir Attenborough for raising awareness of the wonders and beauty of nature to so many people worldwide, promoting the importance of biodiversity conservation, and above all, inspiring so many young persons and researchers in the field of natural history, including ourselves," explains the authors: Prof Dirk Bellstedt and Dr Fenton (Woody) Cotterill, a biochemist and geologist respectively and their student, De Wet van der Merwe, from Stellenbosch University, South Africa, together with Béla Nagy, from France, and Prof Brian Watters, from Canada.<br></p><p><img src="/english/PublishingImages/Lists/dualnews/My%20Items%20View/three%20researchers.png" alt="three researchers.png" class="ms-rtePosition-2" style="margin:5px;width:450px;" />Together this eclectic group of scientists have been working on fish species endemic to East Africa since the 1990s. Between the five of them they have covered thousands of kilometres from as far north as Chad and Sudan through eastern central Africa to the Caprivi Region of Namibia and northern KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa, in an effort to collect, study and describe <em>Nothobranchius</em> species and to collect tissues for laboratory work. Key to their studies has been the DNA sequencing and molecular systematic work started by Dr Cotterill in 2007 in Prof Bellstedt's laboratory and subsequently greatly expanded by De Wet van der Merwe in his PhD studies since 2015.<br></p><p>They want to make use of this opportunity to raise awareness about the precarious conservation status of <em>Nothobranchius</em> fishes in general: “The biodiversity of East Africa is deservedly renowned for the diversity of its spectacular large mammals, but the freshwater fish fauna is no less significant. The conservation status of <em>Nothobranchius</em> <em>attenboroughi</em> depends on the integrity of the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem and the area surrounding Lake Victoria," explains Prof Bellstedt.</p><p>This is because these fish literally only live long enough during the wet season to reach maturity and then die after they've laid their eggs in the habitat substrate mud and the seasonal pools dry out. As the mud dries, cracks allow oxygen to penetrate and the embryos to develop. When the rainy season arrives and the pools fill again, the eggs hatch, the fry grow rapidly and the cycle repeats itself.​</p><p>With climate change and human settlement in the regions surrounding Lake Victoria, the conservation of the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem is not only important for the conservation of the large mammals such as wildebeest and their migration, but also for these wonderfully adapted, brightly coloured little fish and their precarious life cycle. Sir David Attenborough has always emphasized that an ecosystem consists of many species including even the smallest and this is also one of the reasons the authors have named the species in his honour.</p><p><strong>More about </strong><strong><em>Nothobranchius </em></strong><strong><em>attenboroughi</em></strong><strong> </strong></p><p><em>Nothobranchius </em><em>attenboroughi</em> is endemic to northern Tanzania and found in ephemeral pools and marshes associated with the Grumeti River system and other small systems draining into Lake Victoria at the east side of the lake. The ecological integrity of this river is maintained by the congruence of its catchments largely within the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem. It is one of six new species described in an article entitled “Review of the <em>Nothobranchius ugandensis </em>species group from the inland plateau of eastern Africa with descriptions of six new species (Teleostei: Nothobranchiidae)", published in the journal <em>Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters</em> in April this year. The article is available online at <a href=""></a></p><p>The work was largely privately funded by the authors, but since 2015, it has been funded under the umbrella of the “Off the Beaten Track" initiative of the Volkswagen Foundation in Germany and Stellenbosch University in South Africa. The aim of the project, entitled “<a href="">Exploring the Genomic Record of Living Biota to Reconstruct the Landscape Evolution of South Central Afric</a>a", is to develop a novel approach to reconstruct the landscape evolution of central Africa over the past 20 million years. This is being done by combining Sanger and next-generation sequencing of the DNA of fish groups, such as the killifish and cichlid fishes, with high precision rock dating of key landforms.</p><p><strong>On the photo above: </strong>The brightly coloured killifish species, <em>Nothobranchius attenboroughi</em>, is only five centimetres long. It is found in ephemeral pools and marshes at the east side of Lake Victoria, where its survival depends on the annual rain season when the dry riverbeds of the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem start flowing again. <em>Photo: Brian Watters</em></p><p><strong><br></strong></p><p><strong>Media interviews</strong></p><p>Prof Dirk U. Bellstedt, </p><p>Stellenbosch University</p><p>E-mail: <a href=""></a></p><p>Mobile:+27-73-1661380</p><p> </p><p>Dr Fenton Cotterill</p><p>Department of Earth Sciences, Stellenbosch University</p><p>E-mail: <a href=""></a><br></p>
Sustainable wood-based housing market possible in SA wood-based housing market possible in SACorporate Communication & Marketing / Korporatiewe Kommunikasie & Bemarking [Alec Basson]<p>Researchers at Stellenbosch University (SU) found that South Africa has sufficient log resource options for a sustainable wood residential building market.<br></p><p>“Our study showed that with the use of wood resources currently exported as chips, as well as planting trees in areas that have been earmarked for afforestation, it will be possible (in the long term) to sustain a future residential building market where all houses are built with wood," says Dr Philip Crafford from SU's Department of Forest​ and Wood Science. He and colleague Dr Brand Wessels investigated the country's log resources and the potential global warming impact of an increasing wood-based residential building market.<br></p><p>The findings of their study were published in the <a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0" style="">South African Journal of Science</strong></a> recently.</p><p>​Crafford says they wanted to determine whether local forest resources would be able to supply the required wood for substantial growth in wood-based residential development in South Africa. To do this, they analysed the residential housing footprint in the country; available log resources for wood-based buildings; and the likely environmental impacts of such a building system.<br></p><p>“Due to the limited forest cover in South Africa, the perception is often that significant increases in the market share of wood-based buildings are not possible (at least from local wood resources). Our study showed that this perception is not correct.<img src="/english/PublishingImages/Lists/dualnews/My%20Items%20View/TreeHouse_Iconographic_2020_Portrait-1.jpg" alt="TreeHouse_Iconographic_2020_Portrait-1.jpg" class="ms-rtePosition-2" style="margin:5px;width:430px;height:613px;" /><br></p><p>“If we consider only current available wood chips as a resource, 39 646 wood-based houses (30 523 houses and 9123 flats) could be built annually. With the afforestation resources, 55 314 houses (42 586 houses and 12 728 flats) could be constructed each year. That is 1 203 more than the average new buildings in the past 17 years.<br></p><p>Considering both wood chips and afforestation resource potential, close to 95 000 wood-based houses (172% of current supply) could be built annually."<br></p><p>Crafford says that excluding imports and current pulp, board and other log resources, there could be an estimated 6,23 million cubic metres of log resources available for wood house components in the future. This amount of log resources would fill 6 019 Boeing 747s in volume or 55 377 double-decker City Sightseeing busses.<br></p><p>“This clearly indicates the resource potential for an increased wood-based construction market in South Africa."<br></p><p>Despite this potential, only 1% of new houses in the country is wood-based, compared to more than 90% in countries such as the USA, Canada and Australia.</p><p>Crafford says South Africa's industrial round wood (saw logs for everyday use) production is mainly to produce pulp and board products (51%), sawn lumber (24%) and chip exports to Asia. <br></p><p>“Over the past 10 years, we exported an average of 3,5 million tons of wood chips annually. Chip exports is the most likely available resource which could potentially be used in the building of wood-based houses."<br></p><p>Regarding the environmental impact of a wood-based building residential market, Crafford says numerous studies have shown that timber is not only renewable, but is also the best performer across most environmental impact factors when compared to alternative building material such as steel and concrete, with particularly good performance in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.<br></p><p>“Our basic modelling analyses show that if 20% of new houses were to be built with wood, the amount of energy/fossil fuels required for production and the global warming potential of the residential building sector could decrease by 4,9%. If all new constructions were wood based, this could decrease by up to 30%.<br></p><p>“This is quite a significant decrease if one considers that in South Africa, it is estimated that the energy used in the construction and use of buildings is responsible for about 27% of the country's total man-made carbon dioxide emissions. Wood-based building materials can help to reduce the environmental footprint of our residential buildings."<br></p><p>Crafford says because South Africa does not have a culture of designing and building with wood, there's a need for further research that includes other impacts such GDP generation, job creation and social and economic comparisons with regard to an increase in wood-based building.<br></p><ul><li><strong>SOURCE</strong>: Crafford, PL & Wessels, CB 2020. South African log resource availability and potential environmental impact of timber construction. <em>South African Journal of Science</em>, Vol. 116(7/8). <a href=""><span class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0" style=""><span style=""><strong>h</strong></span><span style=""><strong>ttps://</strong></span></span></a> </li></ul><p><strong>​FOR MEDIA ENQUIRIES ONLY</strong></p><p>Dr Philip Crafford</p><p>Department of Forest and Wood Science</p><p>Faculty of AgriSciences</p><p>Stellenbosch University</p><p>Email: <a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0" style=""></strong></a> </p><p><strong>ISSUED BY</strong></p><p>Martin Viljoen<br></p><p>Manager: Media</p><p>Corporate Communication & Marketing</p><p>Stellenbosch University</p><p>Email: <a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0" style=""></strong></a> </p><p> </p><p> </p><p><br></p>
Research dives deep to understand climate impacts on whales dives deep to understand climate impacts on whalesMedia & Communication, Faculty of Science<p>​Three South African universities are involved in a <a href="">world-first research project</a> that aims to understand how changes in the ocean influence the recovery of humpback whale populations in the Southern Hemisphere.<br></p><p>During the previous century humpback whale populations were severely depleted by the modern whaling industry, with catches of over 220 000 individuals between 1904 and 1972 (from an existing population of around 140 000 prior to modern whaling). Since protection in the 1960s and 1970s, certain populations have started to recover.</p><p>The <a href="">Whales and Climate Research Program</a> was conceptualised by <a href="/english/faculty/science/earthsciences/staff-and-postgrads/academic-staff/prof-roychoudhury-(hod)">Prof Alakendra Roychoudhury</a>, an environmental geochemist in the Department of Earth Sciences at Stellenbosch University (SU), in collaboration with Professor Brendan Mackey, Director of the Griffith Climate Change Response Program at Griffith University in Australia. The research team also includes Prof Ken Findlay, a whale expert from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), Associate Professor Marcello Vichi, an oceanographer from the University of Cape Town (UCT), and another four research institutions from South America.<br></p><p>Prof Roychoudhury says the Southern Ocean is vastly unexplored, and there is an urgent need for both seasonal and long-term observations from this vast expanse of ocean: “A lack of ground-truth data provides a skewed picture in climate models, creating uncertainties. Recent observations of fluxes in carbon dioxide, a major driver in climate change, show that the Southern Ocean is behaving quite differently from what we understand from climatology and satellite data".</p><p>According to Prof Findlay from CPUT, the project breaks new ground in combining historic and more recent long-term datasets with future scenarios in multiple regions in the Southern Hemisphere.</p><p>The research team from CPUT will dive deep into these datasets: “We hope to identify and link variations in seasonal abundance and distribution of whales to the oceanographic and biogeochemical changes occurring in the Southern Ocean over the same time period," he explains.</p><p>Professor Vichi from UCT says the combination of these different data sets represent a powerful tool to understand changes in whale distribution, and will also serve as validation of climate models: “The concurrent use of ocean models with whale observation networks can help us to understand the recent large aggregations of humpbacks, called super-groups, which we have observed along the Western Cape coast," he adds.</p><p>Professor Brendan Mackey from Griffith University says the six-year research program would establish a fundamental understanding of how changing ocean conditions were influencing the recovery of humpback whale populations.</p><p>“Climate change is drastically altering ecosystems and our oceans are experiencing fast changes, affecting all marine life. The project will also develop adaptation scenarios for advancing whale conservation policies and programs," Professor Mackey said.</p><p>Dr Olaf Meynecke, a whale researcher from Griffith University and programme manager, says over the past decade a new understanding of the important role of whales as ecosystems engineers has emerged: “Recent research shows that baleen whales are integral to refertilising the upper 80 metres of the ocean, the photic zone where light penetration drives primary productivity. Whales also act as recyclers of iron, an essential micronutrient, within the upper ocean by feeding on iron-rich Antarctic krill".</p><p>The research teams from Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Panama will investigate detailed movement of the South American west coast humpback whale population. During the austral summer, these populations migrate to feeding grounds in the cold waters of southern Chile and the Antarctic Peninsula. But, the western Antarctic Peninsula has been experiencing a drastic increase in warming: “There is strong scientific evidence that this warming is affecting the ecosystem," says Professor Eduardo Secchi, Federal University of Rio Grande in Brazil.</p><p>The project will run over six years and the lead team comprises climate scientists, marine ecologists and oceanographers from:</p><ul><li>Stellenbosch University – Professor Alakendra Roychoudhury, Dr Jan Lukas Menzel, Dr Suamik Samanta;</li><li>University of Cape Town – Professor Marcello Vichi, Dr Subhra Dey; </li><li>Cape Peninsula University of Technology – Professor Ken Findlay, Dr Elisa Seyboth;</li><li>Griffith University (Australia) – Professor Brendan Mackey, Dr Olaf Meynecke, Dr Serena Lee and Dr Jasper De Bie;</li><li>Universidade Federal do Rio Grande (Brazil) – Professor Eduardo R. Secchi, Professor Luciano Dalla Rosa, Dr Pedro Fruet, Dr Rodrigo Genoves</li><li>Pontific Catholic University of Ecuador (Ecuador) – Dr Fernando Felix</li><li>Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (Panama) – Dr Héctor Guzmán</li><li>CEQUA Foundation (Chile) – Dr(c) Jorge Acevedo and Dr Esther Jiménez</li></ul><p>Multiple research cruises and field work is scheduled for the feeding and breeding grounds of target populations in Antarctic and the coastlines of Australia, Africa, and South America. </p><p>The <a href="">Whales and Climate Research Program</a> will be hosted at Griffith University. The humpback whale migration models and access to relevant project information will be available at</p><p><strong>Fact sheet on the Whales and Climate Research Program</strong></p><ul><li>Project life span: approximately six years</li><li>Total project budget: approximately AUD 7 million (R80 million)</li></ul><ul><li>Project team consists of 16 full time researchers and 7 associated researchers, and includes 14 postgraduate students.</li><li>Joint Antarctic voyages accomplished: 4 </li><li>Total number of contemporary whale records currently in database: 73132</li><li>Total number of whale catch records available to project: 215 928</li></ul><p><strong> On the photo above: </strong>Like most baleen whale species in the Southern Hemisphere, humpback whales make annual migrations across ocean basins, from their summer feeding grounds in the Antarctic polar region to their winter breeding grounds in the coastal tropical and subtropical waters of Africa, Australia and South America. <em>Photo: Ken Findlay</em></p><p><strong>Media enquiries</strong></p><p>Prof Alakendra Roychoudhury</p><p>Department of Earth Sciences, Stellenbosch University</p><p>E-mail:</p><p>Mobile: +27 (0)72 062 8416</p><p>Landline: +27 (0)21 808 3124 (office hours only) </p><p> </p><p>Prof Ken Findlay</p><p>CPUT Research Chair: Oceans Economy, Centre for Sustainable Oceans</p><p>Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT)</p><p>E-mail:</p><p>Mobile: +27 (0)82 570 8212</p><p>Tel: +27 (0)21 460-3192</p><p> </p><p>Prof Marcello Vichi</p><p>Director: Marine Research Institute, Department of Oceanography</p><p>University of Cape Town</p><p>E-mail: <a href=""></a><br><br></p>
New framework to protect World Heritage Sites against invasive species framework to protect World Heritage Sites against invasive speciesCorporate Communication & Marketing / Korporatiewe Kommunikasie & Bemarking [Alec Basson]<p>A team of international scientists, including three researchers affiliated with the Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology (CIB) at Stellenbosch University, came up with a new monitoring and reporting framework to help protect World Heritage Sites (WHS) from almost 300 different invasive alien species (microorganisms, animals and plants) that have been introduced to them. <br></p><p>They assessed the current status of biological invasions and their management in 241 natural and mixed WHS globally  ̶  including South Africa's Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains, Cape Floristic Region, iSimangaliso Wetland Park and Vredefort Dome  ̶  by reviewing documents collated by UNESCO and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The findings of their research were published in <a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0" style="">Biodiversity and Conservation</strong></a> recently.</p><p>“Our review yielded limited information on the presence, threat, and management of invasive alien species within many World Heritage Sites. Reports on the status of biological invasions were also inconsistent at times," says lead author Dr Ross Shackleton from the CIB and the Institute of Geography and Sustainability at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland.</p><p>Shackleton adds that the lack of a systematic method of reporting made it very difficult to compare information between sites to produce summaries of global trends. <br></p><p>“Detailed information on invasive alien species management undertaken in World Heritage Sites was available for fewer than half of the sites that listed them as a threat. This clearly highlights the need for a good monitoring and reporting framework for biological invasions in World Heritage Sites and other protected areas globally."<br></p><p>Shackleton says their framework proposes protocols for collecting information and reporting on (i) pathways by which alien species are introduced to WHS, (ii) current alien species that are present, (iii) their impacts and management, (iv) predicting future threat and management needs, and (v) identifying the status of knowledge and gaps. All of this information can be used to assign an overall 'threat score/level' (very high, high, moderate, low, or data deficient) to a specific site.<br></p><p>“A key facet of the new framework involves the listing all alien invasive species present. This information will allow the tracking of changes in threats and the implementation and level of success of managing these species."<br></p><p>The scientists tested their framework on seven sites across the world including the Vredefort Dome in South Africa. Shackleton says applying it to these sites has yielded more information than past monitoring initiatives.<br></p><p>“For example, the invasive alien species threat level indicated in the 2017 IUCN World Heritage Outlook for the Serengeti, Keoladeo, Donana, and the Vredefort Dome sites was 'data deficient' or 'low threat' or 'not listed', whereas all of these World Heritage Sites are now categorised as facing moderate to high threats from biological invasions based on our assessment informed by the framework." He adds that some successes in management were also uncovered where Aldabra Atoll has fewer species present due to good management. <br></p><p>Shackleton says hopefully their framework would improve the consistency, comparability and overall value of future reporting on the threats and management of invasive alien species in WHS and other protected areas.<br></p><p>“Applying this framework in World Heritage Sites and other protected areas would help facilitate comparisons and the sharing of best practices between sites and help to guide the allocation and prioritisation of funding to manage invasive alien species. It could also provide the basis for a freely available global information system with an inventory of invasive alien species threats to these areas."<br></p><p>Echoing Shackleton's sentiment regarding the importance of protecting these areas, co-author Prof Dave Richardson from the CIB says “World Heritage Sites face rapidly growing threats from a range of biological invasions which impact upon native biodiversity and the delivery of ecosystem services. Not only that, but invasive alien species are a financial burden as costs for management can be extremely high."<br></p><p>The scientists suggest that monitoring and reporting should preferably be done by local experts or managers while state authorities, in partnership with local role-players, should drive the implementation of the framework. <br></p><ul><li><strong>SOURCE</strong>: Shackleton, R.T. <em>et al</em><em>*</em>. 'Biological invasions in World Heritage Sites: current status and a proposed monitoring and reporting framework'. <em>Biodiversity and Conservation</em>. <a href=""><span class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0" style=""><strong>DOI: 10.1007/s10531-020-02026-1</strong></span></a></li></ul><p>*Authors of this paper include Ross Shackleton (Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology – CIB – Stellenbosch University/ Institute of Geography and Sustainability, University of Lausanne), Bastian Bertzky (Joint Research Centre, European Commission), Louisa Wood (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, United Kingdom), Nancy Bunbury (Seychelles Islands Foundation/ Centre for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter), Heinke Jäger (Charles Darwin Foundation), Remco van Merm (International Union for Conservation of Nature – IUCN), Christian Sevilla (Galapagos National Park Directorate), Kevin Smith (IUCN), John Wilson (CIB/ South African National Biodiversity Institute ), Arne Witt (Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International, Nairobi) and David Richardson (CIB).<br></p><p><strong>Photo</strong>: Vredefort World Heritage Site: <strong>Credit</strong>: Wikimedia Commons<br></p><p><strong>FOR MEDIA ENQUIRIES ONLY</strong></p><p>Dr Ross Shackleton</p><p>Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology/ Institute of Geography and Sustainability</p><p>Stellenbosch University/ University of Lausanne</p><p>Email:<strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0" style=""> </strong><a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0" style=""></strong></a> </p><p><br></p><p>Prof Dave Richardson<br></p><p>Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology</p><p>Stellenbosch University</p><p>Email: <a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0" style=""></strong></a> </p><p><strong>ISSUED BY</strong></p><p>Martin Viljoen</p><p>Manager: Media</p><p>Corporate Communication and Marketing</p><p>Stellenbosch University</p><p>Email:<strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0" style=""> </strong><a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0" style=""></strong></a> </p><p> </p><p> <br></p><p><br></p>
WWF Living Planet Report: two-thirds decline in wildlife populations on average since 1970 Living Planet Report: two-thirds decline in wildlife populations on average since 1970Media & Communication, Faculty of Science<p>​​​Prof Guy Midgley from Stellenbosch University is one of 125 specialists from around the world who have contributed to the World Wildlife Fund's (WWF) <em><a href="">Living Planet Report 2020</a></em>, published today.</p><p>Prof Midgley, an internationally acknowledged leader in the field of biodiversity and climate change science, heads the Global Change Biology Group in the Department of Botany and Zoology at Stellenbosch University.</p><p>The <em>Living Planet Report 2020 </em>presents a comprehensive overview of the state of our natural world through the Living Planet Index. This index, provided by the Zoological Society of London, has been tracking trends in global wildlife abundance since 1970. </p><p>According to a media release issued by WWF, the Living Planet Index shows that there has been a 68% decline in global vertebrate species populations between 1970 and 2016, mainly caused by environmental destruction and the use and trade of wildlife.</p><p>In the section “Deep dive into biodiversity in a warming world" Prof Midgley writes that even with significant mitigation efforts, “up to one-fifth of wild species are at risk of extinction this century due to climate change alone". Even more concerning is the fact that recent modelling has shown that changing climate conditions could begin breaching the tolerance limits of most species in multi-species communities roughly simultaneously, causing abrupt losses of biodiversity. Midgley adds that biodiversity hotspots around the world, like the Cape Fynbos and Succulent Karoo, could be particularly vulnerable to such effects.</p><p>Reducing emissions from fossil fuel use, in particular, is essential to avoid these risks, says Midgley. “Abrupt thresholds could be reached in tropical oceans within a decade under a high-emissions scenario, spreading to tropical forests and reaching higher latitudes by mid-century. Up to 15% of ecological communities would be exposed to this threshold if global warming exceeds 4° C, but fewer than 2% if global warming is kept below 2° C," according to the work referred to in the report. Recent work by a team working on the SPARC program (, in which Midgley co-led work on modelling the vulnerability of African biodiversity to climate change, showed that increasing land available for conservation would substantially reduce climate change extinction risks, regionally and globally. </p><p>According to the <em>Living Planet Report 2020</em>, pioneering modelling shows that without further efforts to counteract habitat loss and degradation, global biodiversity will continue to decline. To turn this situation around, we need “bolder, more ambitious conservation efforts" and a transformation in how we produce and consume food". In this regard, the WWF is calling for urgent action to reverse the trend by 2030 by ending the destruction of natural habitats and reforming our food system. </p><p>In the Foreword to the report, Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International, writes that “a deep cultural and systemic shift is urgently needed, one that so far our civilization has failed to embrace: a transition to a society and economic system that values nature, stops taking it for granted and recognise that we depend on nature more than nature depends on us".<br></p><p><br> </p>
It’s possible to decolonise science’s possible to decolonise scienceMargaret Blackie & Hanelie Adendorff<p>The decolonisation of science is possible, but then we must begin to recognise the influence of cultural heritage and Western modernity on the way science is being taught, write Drs Margaret Blackie (Department of Chemistry and Polymer Science) and Hanelie Adendorff (Centre for Teaching and Learning) in an opinion piece for <em>Mail & Guardian</em> (31 August).<br></p><ul><li>Read the 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>Margaret Blackie & Hanelie Adendorff*</strong><br></p><p>The call for decolonisation has caused much angst and much debate in academic circles in South Africa. It is important to recognise that this call is not limited to South Africa. Nonetheless, with our history and the continued economic disparity it has a particular urgency in our country. <br></p><p>Where one can see relatively easily how one might go about such a task in the humanities, the call to decolonise science was largely met with derision. For the most part, science gently ignored the call for decolonisation until the #ScienceMustFall video went viral. Tempers flared and the debate quickly shifted to two intractable positions. On the one hand a call to equate indigenous knowledge systems with science and on the other a complete lack of recognition that science is embedded in and infused with Western individualism.</p><p>Our curiosity was to find a way to facilitate a conversation between these two positions. The major challenge was that the grounds on which the debate was considered valid was itself contested because of the difference in the way in which legitimate knowledge is built in science and in the humanities. <br></p><p>In science, method is independent of the person. Once a method has been described clearly, a second person performing the same experiment can be reasonably expected to obtain the same result. This reproducibility is the deep strength of science. In the social sciences, one learns an orientation to knowledge which is built on theory, but the manner in which one interprets data will be influenced by one's own history. Part of the beauty of the social sciences is making explicit the ways in which personal experience infuse and influence one's gaze. <br></p><p>So science prides itself on being objective and frequently dismisses the relatively 'soft' approach of the social sciences. Alas in so doing scientists fail to recognise an important distinction. Scientific knowledge is objective, but scientists are not. They are also profoundly influenced by their cultural heritage. <br></p><p>There is no escaping the fact that science as we know it today has deep roots in Western Europe and much of the development of science and technology coincided with the emergence of the colonial era. The technological advances made by those societies at that time allowed for the possibility of exploration. This was inextricably linked with the development of refined measuring instruments. For example, chemistry, as a science, only really emerged once we had sufficiently accurate balances. We cannot separate the development of scientific knowledge from that history. <br></p><p>In developing a decolonised scientific curriculum, we are not going to start again. We will still teach Newton's laws, and the structure of the atom and the theory of evolution. These ideas are far too powerful as explanatory tools to lay them to one side. But what we can do is begin to recognise the practice of science by scientists has been profoundly influenced by Western modernity. The obsession with the individual is highly problematic. Is there a way in which we can begin to recognise that all knowledge is built on the work of those who have gone before and contribute not only to those who follow but to our contemporaries? Can we build a valuation system of recognition of contribution that accounts for the deep web of relationships rather than trying to carve out the individual?<br></p><p>A decolonised scientific curriculum will also have implications for teaching and learning as well as how we perceive and interact with information.  When we use an example to aid the teaching of a concept we have to ask whether that example is actually experientially accessible to everyone in the class. In other words does the example lower the barrier to learning or create yet another obstacle? <br></p><p>In a diverse science class, it is unlikely that any one example will be accessible to all, so one of the strategies we use is to offer one example, and then ask the class to discuss other possible examples in small groups. These examples can then be discussed in the large class to show which examples work and which don't and why. This way there is less bias towards just one kind of life experience – that of the academic.  </p><p>In the end our challenge is to make more visible the working of culture in academic science. To aim to help academic scientists understand that although their science may be objective, rigorous and potentially groundbreaking, they may be unconsciously perpetuating a culture which is alienating to many students. Both of these things may be simultaneously true. To ameliorate this doesn't require substituting scientific content with commentary on society, but it does require taking students seriously when they either say they feel like they do not belong or they simply vote with their feet.  <br></p><p><strong>*Dr Margaret Blackie is a senior lecturer in the Department of Chemistry and Polymer Science and Dr Hanelie Adendorff a senior advisor at the Centre for Teaching and Learning at Stellenbosch University. This article is based on their chapter in </strong><strong><em>Building knowledge in Higher Education:</em></strong><strong><em> </em></strong><strong><em>Enhancing Teaching and Learning with Legitimation Code Theory</em></strong><strong> (2020).</strong></p><p><strong> </strong></p><p> </p><p><br></p>