Biodiversity is the foundation upon which we can build back better and stronger. It underpins as a solution to several development challenges including health issues, nature-based solutions to climate change, food, and water security, sustainable livelihoods. On the 29th and 30th of March 2022 SANBI hosted its 4th Annual Student Research Day under the theme ‘being part of the solution for biodiversity’.
The event showcases SANBI’s emerging researchers in various disciplines across the many units and programmes of work. This is an opportunity to see the importance of the postgraduate research and how it fits into the research objectives of the programmes, as well as the SANBI research strategy and the mandate. The event is also an opportunity for staff members to contribute to the growth and to influence our scientists of tomorrow. It is important to acknowledge the significant role our students play in our research and to recognise the contribution they make.
As we continue to be in the pandemic times, the presentations were held virtually, the event welcomed 21 presenters from across various research units and their partner universities across South Africa.
The first day was attended by over eighty guests including SANBI staff, students, interns and student supervisors from various institutions, with day two showing a slight decrease in attendance. However, live discussions were still held and presenters were given the opportunity to answers questions from the audience and the chat section was a buzz.
On day one, attendees were welcomed by SANBI’s Acting Head of Branch Dr Theressa Frantz who described the day as a flagship event for the institution, where postgraduate students showcase their cutting-edge research projects. She acknowledged the students, mentors from SANBI and partner organisations for their hard work that contributes towards shaping biodiversity science and the research future for the young scientists, and encouraged them to keep up the good work.
Unpacking the theme was Prof Krystal Tolley, Molecular Lab lead in the Biodiversity Research Assessment and Monitoring (BRAM) Division. The theme for this year was “Being part of the solution for biodiversity” suggesting being proactive, innovative and creativity.
“Everyone should be held accountable and responsible for helping to protect and conserve our biodiversity. We can be part of the problem or be part of the solution; let’s all join hands and build the momentum towards positive actions of protecting our biological resources,” said Prof Tolley.
Student presentations were divided into sections for the following groups: invasion biology, ecology and conservation, marine and freshwater as well as systematics. The presentations were assessed by a panel of judges and the top two presentations winners were awarded prizes.
The first prize winner was a PhD student Francois Becker from the University of Witwatersrand, his topic was “Calls of the desert: Unexpected age and diversity of barking geckos”.
Second prize winner was Devon Main a PhD student from the University of Johannesburg. His topic was “Transformed habitats drive the evolution of bigger hands and feet in eastern dwarf chameleons (Bradypodion ventral).
The event was a resounding success as SANBI pulled off a spectacular 4th Annual Student Research Day. Sincere gratitude to everyone who contributed to making the event a success. It is anticipated that the year 2023 will provide yet another opportunity to host the 5th annual SANBI Student Research Day.