Science can change the world – as long as there are researchers willing to put in the long hours in the field and in the lab, and to stretch their intellects and imaginations to approaching some of the great challenges and problems the biosphere faces.

SANBI hosted its 1st Annual Student Research Day on 8 May 2018 under the theme “Generating knowledge for biodiversity Conservation”. The aim of the research day was to recognize the research efforts of SANBI students, demonstrate how their research contributes to the greater SANBI mandate, and showcase the diversity and growth of research pursuits in SANBI. This was also an opportunity for SANBI staff to get to know other forms of research taking place with the different divisions.

The opening address on the day was by the SANBI CEO, Dr Moshibudi Rampedi. She touched on a few aspects, with strong emphasis being placed on the  objectives of SANBI’s student programmes, which are to prepare postgraduate students for a career in research, expose students to career prospects in biodiversity and to accelerate the development of designated groups into the mainstream of competitive biodiversity conservation opportunities Through capacity building initiatives, SANBI students benefit from numerous learning opportunities, including orientation into a work environment, technical skills training, formal and informal mentoring. The Research Day was yet another learning opportunity in that it was a chance for the young researchers to practice their presentation skills.

16 Masters and PhD candidates presented their research to the SANBI staff and students in attendance. The presentations were grouped into three different themes (sessions), namely: foundational data and ecology, biological invasions and marine science. Each session was opened with lead researchers giving an overview of the work in the field. The presentations were all informative and fascinating.

Participants’ presentations were assessed by a panel of judges and after an intensive day, the event ended with the awarding of two prizes sponsored by Botanical Society (BotSOc). Dr Zaitoon Rabaney, Executive Director of BotSoc, was present to hand over the prizes. All presenters were winners, as they all presented interesting research, fielded tough questions, and shared in the spirit of knowledge. But only a few of them could walk away with prizes…and in this case, those few were…

First prize winner was a PhD student Ariella Rink who gave a presentation on “Intersexual competition and sexual selection in combatant monkey beetles (Scarabaeidae: Hopliini)” Ariella described the feeling of being awarded as exhilarating, and said she was amazed to win because she did not know her presentation was that good.

Second prize winner was a PhD student Zoe Woodgate who gave a talk on “Variation of mammal species richness and relative abundance across the Karoo: Biogaps in action”.

2019 will provide yet another opportunity to host the 2nd Annual SANBI Student Research Day and we hope for the similar passion and enthusiasm from the students in sharing their research.

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