Research days set students and staff on a platform that is considerably conducive towards their growth in academic and professional aspects. Whether it is through networking or collaboration, students and staff develop bonds that will lead to numerous opportunities in the future. Moreover they allow for the sharing of various science to wider and different audiences.

For the 2019 Research day, held on 11 June 2019 at the Kirstenbosch Research Centre, the focus was on SANBI postgraduate students. They were given an opportunity to share their research findings. The theme for the day was: ‘Research contribution to decision making – policy advice.’ The theme followed from last year’s engagement on knowledge generation for biodiversity conservation. This was to highlight the contributions that respective postgraduate research projects make towards decision making and policy advice. We often only look at student projects as being essential towards obtaining a certain degree/qualification. However, SANBI postgraduate projects are also aligned to various research priorities and the mandate.

In kick-starting the day’s programme, students, visitors and staff were welcomed by Zuziwe Nyareli who is the research manager of the Research Team at SANBI’s Biodiversity Research Assessment and Monitoring (BRAM) Division. Zuziwe described the day as a flagship event for SANBI, where the finest of its Master’s and PhD students showcased their cutting-edge research initiatives through oral presentations, discussions and to a certain extent having a dialogue with participants in attendance. She acknowledged the mentors from SANBI and partner organisations for their hard work that contribute towards shaping biodiversity science and the research future for the young scientists, and encouraged them to keep up the good work.

A total of 16 students were presenting on the day, with the overall audience attendance of 85. Presentations covered the full gambit of research being undertaken in SANBI in the fields of taxonomy, systematics, ecology, conservation, biological invasions and lastly the newly established Freshwater Unit. Each session was opened with lead researchers giving an overview of the work undertaken in each field or unit. This was to set the scene in terms of what the student presentation would cover. The presentations were all informative and fascinating.

Attendees of the Student Research Day

The students’ presentations were assessed by a panel of judges and the presentation winners were awarded prizes. The 1st Prize consisted of a Botanical Society Bookshop voucher, Trophy and chocolates, whilst the 2nd Prize was a Kirstenbosch Bookshop voucher. The 1st Prize was awarded to PhD student Aarifah Jakoet (from Systematics Division) whose presentation was titled: ‘Unbuttoning the Button Daisies: A systematic study of the genus Cotula (Asteraceae, Anthemideae’, and the 2nd Prize was awarded to MSc student Thembeka Malwane (BRAM Division) whose topic focused on ‘Can In vitro tissue culture be used as an additional conservation method for threatened Encephalartos spp South African cycad species?’. 

Arifah Jakoet (left) First prize winner and Thembeka Malwane (Right) Second Prize winner

In concluding the eventful day, all presenters received goodies donated by Separation Scientific, Lasec (Pty) Ltd, United Scientific, the Botanical Society of South Africa (Botsoc), Inqaba Biotec and Whitehead Scientific.

The event was a resounding success as SANBI pulled off a spectacular Student Research Day. It is anticipated that the year 2020 will provide yet another opportunity to host the 3nd Annual SANBI Student Research Day.


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