Highlights from the 6th annual Student Research Day 

The 6th Annual Student Research Day held at the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) was not just a showcase of academic expertise, but a testament to the pivotal role postgraduate research plays within SANBI and its various units and programs. Theressa Frantz, the newly appointed Head of Branch, underscored the significance of the event, highlighting its alignment with SANBI’s overarching research strategy and mandate.

“As we gather here today, we recognise the importance of postgraduate research in advancing scientific knowledge and promoting biodiversity conservation,” remarked Frantz. “This event serves as a platform to celebrate the innovative research efforts of our students, which are instrumental in addressing the conservation challenges of our time.”

Frantz extended her sincere appreciation to all the students participating in the event, acknowledging their dedication and hard work in pushing the boundaries of scientific inquiry. “Your contributions are invaluable, and we are proud to support your journey towards becoming future leaders in biodiversity research,” she added.

In addition to recognising the students, Frantz emphasised the indispensable role of mentors and supervisors who guide and support young scientists. “SANBI’s commitment to capacity building is exemplified through initiatives that nurture and empower the next generation of researchers,” she noted.

The evolution of Student Research Day into a comprehensive platform that engages students from diverse campuses was also highlighted by Frantz. “Over the years, this event has grown significantly, reflecting SANBI’s dedication to fostering a vibrant research community and promoting interdisciplinary collaboration,” she remarked.

Frantz also addressed the importance of gender mainstreaming in research, acknowledging the need to promote gender equality and diversity. “As we celebrate the achievements of our students, we must also consider how to further promote gender equality and diversity in research,” she emphasized.

The keynote address by Tsungai Zengeya on the status of biological invasions in South Africa added depth to the discussions. Zengeya highlighted the urgent need for proactive measures to mitigate the impacts of invasive species on native biodiversity. “Biological invasions pose a significant threat to South Africa’s biodiversity, and concerted efforts are needed to address this challenge,” remarked Zengeya.

The theme for this year’s Student Research Day, “Conserving Biodiversity in an Era of Environmental Change,” resonated throughout the event. Sessions covering the realms of biological invasives (assessments and management), aquatics, ecology, and conservation provided a comprehensive overview of the multifaceted approaches to biodiversity conservation.

The winners of the 6th Annual Student Research Day were announced amidst much anticipation and excitement. Tallulah Glasby emerged as the winner with her groundbreaking research titled “Secrets of the Sediment: Unearthing drivers of dormant invertebrate diversity in ephemeral waterbodies,” achieving an outstanding score of 96.15%. As the recipient of the first prize, Glasby received a prize package that includes a R5000 contribution to the conference of her choice, a concert ticket to at least one Kirstenbosch summer concert (if she is in Cape Town), and the esteemed “Wild Flowers of the Table Mountain National Park” book.

The runner-up, Sinothando Shibe, impressed the judges with her research on “Patterns and potential drivers of epifaunal communities on unconsolidated sediments of South Africa’s eastern margin,” earning a commendable score of 88.5%. Shibe was awarded a prize package comprising a R3000 contribution to the conference of her choice, a concert ticket to at least one Kirstenbosch summer concert (if she is in Cape Town), and the esteemed “Wild Flowers of the Table Mountain National Park” book.

The 6th Annual Student Research Day was not just a showcase of academic excellence but a reaffirmation of SANBI’s commitment to fostering a culture of scientific inquiry and innovation. As the journey of exploration and discovery continues, the contributions of young researchers like Tallulah Glasby and Sinothando Shibe serve as beacons of hope for a brighter, more sustainable future.

In her closing, Frantz wished all participants a fruitful and inspiring experience during their journeys. “Let us continue to champion excellence in research and innovation as we work together to address the conservation challenges of our time,” she concluded.

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