It’s a new year, and we have 3 fabulous new bloggers (in alphabetical order):
I was born and schooled in Gauteng, and I completed my BSc (plant ecology) at the University of Cape Town. I took a ‘travelling’ break after my BSc, it was during my travels that I felt the lure of academia. At that time, I was living in Seoul and began my MSc (in microbial ecology) at Seoul National University. After my MSc I moved to Montréal, Canada where I am currently pursuing my Ph.D (microbial ecology) at Institut National de la Recherche Scientific (Centre-Institut Armand-Frappier).
Briefly- I am a microbial community ecologist with a keen interest in testing ecological theories of community assembly; particularly, incorporating phylogenies in community assembly analysis. I have a firm background and deep understanding of Mediterranean ecosystems and ecological theory. My current Ph.D. work focuses on understanding which assembly processes are delimiting the plant microbiome, as well as the evolutionary history of niche shifts and stability. My work will contribute to our understanding of how plant microbiomes are assembled and maintained; more importantly, it will offer a new perspective on the hologenome theory of evolution. I am also passionate about science communication and an active contributor to online discussions regarding advances and challenges in microbiome research.
I was born in the Eastern Cape and I’ve lived there all my life. Though I was born first I can never really claim to be the “first born” because I share my birthday with my twin sister. I love reading. And no, I don’t mean pdf files and journal articles — I mean novels and autobiographies. I also love being outdoors and so I do road runs and fit in tennis here and there.
Broiler production is something close to my heart. I have experienced how it can help the people of a village (my village) gain their financial independence as well as food security, which happens to be a crisis in our continent. Hence I undertook a project that would give me the opportunity to help broiler producers. Currently I am a second-year Masters student, at the University of Fort Hare. My project focuses on the search for alternative protein sources that can be included in broiler diets. Never has it been so important to search for alternatives that will suit the various climatic conditions of our continent because the population is increasing, putting more pressure on broiler producers to increase production. The aim of course is for these alternatives to be affordable and sustainable.
I want to make the world a better place through research. And what better way than to delve in a field that fuels all fields — you see, everyone must eat and because of that someone must ensure sustainable production. I am a researcher in the making and yes the path is new and very interesting and so to remind my self – from time to time – of what I want to achieve in life I always “Think about it, speak about it, then I be about it!”
I’m a Chemistry doctoral student at the Tshwane University of Technology. My study area deals with the chemistry of the environment, with particular focus on analytical detection and quantification of persistent organic pollutants. In addition, I assess the risk posed to aquatic systems by these contaminants. For the past few years, I’ve been involved in gender equality issues and currently serve on the Women in Science forum of the Faculty of Science. I strongly feel that the contribution of Africans to good quality and appropriate science will change the perceptions of researchers from other continents about Africa and her people. However, that contribution can only take place if we are equipped with world-class skills, particularly those centered around communication. Through my research, I aim to contribute to building science as well as improving our understanding regarding the sustainability of the environment. My passions include ecological preservation and restoration, participating in interdisciplinary partnerships, solutions into greener energy solutions, using environmentally friendly research methods, as well as involving community participation. I want to be a part of this promising future by developing relationships with my peers and undertaking research that contributes to the progress of science that encourages economic prosperity in Africa. Africa is never seen as a source of high quality research and therefore I want to change this perception. As an upcoming female researcher and scientist, I believe that young scientists need to support one another to foster the development of human capacity and together contribute to the scientific community and the world.
And this year’s guest bloggers are:
Dr Karen Cloete has a PhD in Microbiology and is currently employed as a postdoctoral researcher at the iThemba Laboratory for Accelerator Based Sciences (LABS), National Research Foundation, where her research is focused on the biological applications of ion beam techniques. She has co-authored a number of international journal publications in multidisciplinary fields, has convened and lectured a module on writing scientific papers for MSc (MedSci) in Clinical Epidemiology students, and has also mentored and organized workshops for postgraduate students from various disciplines on academic writing. She believes in the power of science to affect positive change.
Aliza le Roux (SAYAS blog editor)
I became a zoologist because humans piqued my curiosity. I wanted to know why we use so many words – it’s just talk, talk, talk all the time… our evolutionary brothers and sisters are positively mute by comparison. I received my early training at Stellenbosch University and the University of Michigan, and my research “taste” has evolved over time. I am now much more excited about the animal mind than human chatter, and I established the Mammalian Cognition Research Group in at the University of the Free State’s Qwaqwa campus to come to grips with animal cognition. My students are mostly studying bat-eared foxes in the Kalahari Desert, and I am very jealous of the time they get to spend in the field. We’re also trying to mitigate the huge problem of road kill in South Africa, with the help of the Endangered Wildlife Trust. As principal investigator of a new research group — and a mother of one future biologist (I wish!) — I am (sadly) not in the field very often.
For me, communication remains at the heart of good science. This is why I’ve launched the SAYAS blogging series, in which we invite young scientists to sharpen their communication skills and shed some light on the workings of the scientific process.
Thanks to all the contributors to our site so far! Our previous bloggers for SAYAS were:
I was born and raised on an Island (Sicily) in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea and I’ve always lived along the shore. I have worked for many years for WWF and in those years I have been lucky enough to be involved with many projects related to the marine environment. In 2009, I moved to Australia to face the Ocean for the first time. In that moment, I realised that despite my great passion and knowledge of the marine ecosystem, there was much more for me to discover.
In 2013, I started a research project at the Percy Fitzpatrick Institute of African Ornithology and University of Cape Town. The project started as MSc and I have recently upgraded to a PhD. My research focuses on the links between pelagic fish and seabirds. Thanks to this research, I’ve been living on remote islands for long periods of time, which has given me the opportunity to develop my interest in not only seabirds, but marine conservation as a whole. Ongoing efforts are needed to protect and preserve our marine ecosystems from being damaged and I strongly believe that public outreach has an important role to play in it.
I was born and bred in Cameroon, West Africa, where I matriculated before travelling to South Africa to pursue undergraduate and postgraduate studies in Zoological Sciences. During my Honours degree, I was awarded a bursary to travel to the sub-Antarctic Marion Island and research on physiological responses to temperature changes of two of the island’s spider species. Mingling with the expedition team full of accomplished scientists greatly improved my research skills and helped me see the bigger picture: every living organism counts!
My MSc was a buildup on my physiological foundation: I investigated responses to heat traits, including climate change effects on distribution patterns of the invasiveArgentine ant. And now for my PhD, I have moved to something much bigger than invertebrates – bat-eared foxes (aka batties). Batties are the only canids that feed almost exclusively on invertebrates. My focus is on maternal care and factors that contribute to stress levels in females, given that pregnancy and lactation are likely to increase nutritional needs. Therefore, exploring their feeding habits (amongst other things), is high up on the cards for me. Now that we’ve established that invertebrates are here to stay, a blend of entomological and mammalian research for a postdoc degree is the way forward for me.
As a curious little girl I pulled leaves apart to see how they worked, memorised Latin names of animals for fun and used my paintbrush to pollinate flowers. I’ve always been enthralled by Nature’s ingenuity, so pursuing a career in natural science seemed an obvious choice. After countless test papers, assignments and a Master’s thesis I needed a break! Science was wonderfully challenging but I struggled to see how I could use all the academic learning to make a difference. So I set out to find “meaning”. After a detour through Radio-ville, the journey led me to theSustainability Institute. Here I found the point where Science meets Purpose:biomimicry. Sometimes called “bio-inspired innovation,” biomimicry is an emerging scientific discipline that studies Nature’s design principles in order to find sustainable solutions for human challenges. This ‘a-ha’ moment motivated me to return to the laboratory where I now study the complex world of bacterial biofilms in order to contribute to our understanding of Life’s genius. And that’s how the curious little girl became a biomimetic biochemist with a passion for sustainability, environmental education and science communication.
I am a PhD student at the University of Fort Hare, Alice, Eastern Cape. I was born into a big family and grew up in Flagstaff, a small rural town in the Eastern Cape, where I completed my early schooling. Straight after high school (in Harding, KZN) I enrolled at the University of Fort Hare where I obtained my BSc (2011) and MSc Agric (2013) degrees before launching into a PhD in Agriculture (Animal Science) at the same institution. My love for research, and eagerness to learn and strong belief in empowerment through education motivated my decision to start a PhD. For me, this is the only way to attain the greatness I have always dreamed and hoped to achieve for myself and my family. It is a legacy that can never be lost. My current research focuses on animal welfare and meat science, particularly beef cattle behaviour relating it to meat production. I am looking to further animal behaviour and welfare research, merging it with community engagement in a broader spectrum and different species around South Africa and Africa as a whole.
Sipho Patrick Mabusela
I was born in Cape Town but raised in the eastern Cape, South Africa. As a child I moved around a lot so writing all those places might feel like reading a reference list [boring]. With all this moving you’d think I’d have a lot of friends, but to the contrary. As I young boy I’ve always had a fascination with dogs or just animals in general. Growing up with a hunting/ farmer dad I guess you’re more inclined to start having a relationship towards animals due to the exposure. My love for animals almost pushed me towards being a veterinarian but due to the number of years needed to complete the degree I decided against that. Instead I decided to do a BSc in Animal Science… After finishing my undergraduate degree, I was drawn to chickens. Weird right? Yeah, I know! From then onwards I decided what better way to embrace my animal calling then to focus my career towards Animal Nutrition. Specifically looking at mono-gastric animals (the ones with only one stomach chamber, like us); currently my research is on egg laying chickens, looking at the effect of non-conventional protein sources their performance and egg quality.
I am a PhD candidate in virology specialising in HIV that keeps sane with cartooning and cracking punny jokes. I am currently working on the hunt for HIV vaccines while occasionally wearing a HAZMAT suit which raises my science street ‘cred’ considerably. I enjoy growing viruses, infecting cells and then finding complicated ways of killing them, all the while practicing my evil laugh. I do not have spare time as I am doing a PhD; ask me again in 3 years. I blog, therefore I am.
Joey is a PhD student at the University of Pretoria supported by the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute. He is passionate about science communication and engaging the public in science. He aspires to inspire scientific inquiry in our youth while making a positive impact on the planet through research about plant diseases and outreach about microorganisms as the cause of disease. For Joey’s PhD, he is initiating a citizen science program to engage the public in research about plant destroyers in the Western Cape. For more information about the project, visit http://citsci.co.za
Odilile PL Ayodele
I have always been interested in how culture and context intersect and affect every part of human interaction. I was born to a South African mother and Nigerian father and learned practical ‘diplomacy 101’ within my extended family. I am currently finishing up my doctoral studies with the SARChi Chair for African Diplomacy and Foreign Policy at the University of Johannesburg. I am a pilot’s wife and have two small children.
My journey to my doctorate isn’t the most conventional: I earned a Masters degree in International Relations from WITS, I went to work (because that is what was expected from me) then decided to be a stay-at-home mum (not so expected) while I reimagined what I wanted my future to look like. Unlike, many of my colleagues, I undertook the PhD not for prestige, or to begin the arduous journey towards the increasingly elusive tenured position, but rather to redirect my path and gain a new set of skills. This journey has given me a lot more in my professional and personal life than I could have ever imagined; I am definitely not the same person coming out that I was going in.
She is a senior liaison officer at the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) where she is primarily responsible for directing and implementing the Academy’s African collaborations, and its gender and STI portfolios. Dorothy serves on the Women for Science Working Group of the Network of African science Academies (NASAC). She was one of the compilers of ‘Inquiry-Based Science Education: Increasing Participation of Girls in Science in sub-Saharan Africa’ Policymakers’ Booklet published by ASSAf in 2011. Dorothy has a Masters degree in Geography and Environmental Management from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), South Africa and is currently studying towards a PhD in Science and Technology Studies at Stellenbosch University.