The South African National Biodiversity Institute’s (SANBI) Annual Student Research Day looked a little different this year. The two day event that was held at Kirstenbosch on the 30th and 31st March 2021 made major strides in exploring and adapting to the digital space. The annual event showcases SANBI’s emerging researchers in various disciplines across the many units of the institution.
This is an opportunity to appreciate the importance of the postgraduate research and how it fits into the research objectives of the institution feeding into SANBI’s research strategy and mandate that explore, reveal, celebrate and champion biodiversity for the benefit and enjoyment of all South Africans.
The event welcomed 17 presenters from across various research units and their partner universities across South Africa. The presenters included postgraduate students that presented their research, and talks were divided into sections for the following groups; foundations, conservation and ecology, invasions biology and aquatic. Each group session was introduced by staff to set the stage for the talks to follow.
The first day was attended by over ninety-five 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.
On day one, attendees were welcomed by SANBI’s Acting CEO, Carmel Mbizvo 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 Dr. Theressa Frantz the new Chief Director of Biodiversity Research Assessment and Monitoring (BRAM) Division. The theme for this year was “Unlocking Biodiversity Research during lockdown”. Theressa applauded the students for the resilience in undertaking research during the difficult period the world is facing, working in isolation, working with limited resources, limited access to facilities like labs, restricted fieldwork and implications on data collecting and project time frames.
Presentations covered the full gambit of research undertaken in SANBI in the fields of systematics, ecology and conservation, biological invasions, marine and the freshwater unit. The presentations were all informative and fascinating.
The students’ presentations were assessed by a panel of judges and the top two presentations winners were awarded prizes. The first prize winner was Master’s student Monique du Plessis from the University of Cape Town, her topic was “The effect of artificial nectar feeders on birds and Erica visitation rate in the Cape Fynbos”, Monique’s prizes included:
- Book prize to the value of R600 at any Botanical Gardens book shops across the country. (Sponsored by the BotSoc)
- Sponsored Student BotSoc membership for 2021-2022
- Moyo restaurant sponsored gift voucher at Kirstenbosch voucher worth R300
- Floating Trophy to keep until the 2022 Research Day.
Second prize winner was Liam Davids a Master’s student from the Stellenbosch University. His topic was “The importance of heuweltjies for arthropod biodiversity in Succulent Karoo”, Liaam’s prizes included:
- Book prize to the value of R400 from any Botanical Gardens book shops across the country. (Sponsored by the BotSoc)
- Sponsored Student BotSoc membership 2021-2022
All presenters received a BotSoc gift pack that included a Veld and Flora magazine, Book- Medicinal plants of Pondoland, lanyards and other stationery.
The high level of creativity, professionalism and engagement that the participants displayed during this new virtual format was pleasing. Of course the energy and buzz of the face-to-face interaction was missing, but the format allowed for polished recorded presentations and the ability for presenters and attendees to explore and interact with more of their fellow presenters. The discussion boards were alive with questions and deep exchanges on the topics.
The event was a resounding success as SANBI pulled off a spectacular 3rd annual Student Research Day. Sincere gratitude to everyone who contributed to making the event a success. It is anticipated that the year 2022 will provide yet another opportunity to host the 4th annual SANBI Student Research Day.