Postgraduate research activities have continued at FABI despite the COVID-19 lockdown. Stage Gate meetings form an important part of student projects in FABI. They occur in the early part of the projects and seek to ensure a complete understanding of the project objectives and background literature.  To this end, the first two online stage gate meetings in FABI were held using the Zoom platform on 2 June.  These were for M.Sc. students Cheyenne Theron and Claire Randolph who “met” with their supervisors and advisory committee members to present and defend their projects. Cheyenne’s project is focused on important pine needle pathogens affecting non-native plantations globally and has Prof. Irene Barnes and Prof. Mike Wingfield as Advisors. Claire is studying population genetics in the invasive Polyphagus Shothole Borer Euwallacea fornicatus and has Prof. Wilhelm de Beer, Prof. Irene Barnes and Dr Trudy Paap as Advisors.  Both students presented outstanding proposals and passed their Stage Gates with ease.

FABI has recently been allowed to partially open its doors and resume research activities. This is albeit under very strict guidelines and protocols to ensure social distancing, sanitizing and traceability protocols implemented by the University of Pretoria. This severely restricts the numbers of staff and students allowed back in the Institute. We thus continue with online meetings including Stage Gates, Monday Morning Meetings, Thursday Seminars and Special Seminars.  These have all become commonplace and used successfully to continue working while also limiting personal contact to the absolute minimum.