The CTHB Outreach Team once again joined the team at the Mondi Science, Career Guidance and FET skills Centre, Piet Retief, Mpumalanga for their annual Career Week from 7-11 May. Career Week is an initiative of the Mpumalanga Department of Education, where various companies and Universities are invited to participate and showcase what they do, provide information on the various opportunities available for the learners and assist in career guidance. This year’s fair was attended by 3361 learners from schools in Piet Retief and the surrounding area.

The Outreach Team included five FABI postgraduate students: Juanita Avontuur, Benedicta Swalarsk-Parry, Angel Maduke, Modjadji Makwela and Fezile Mthunzi. The team introduced the learners to the various fields of biological sciences at the University of Pretoria, with emphasis on tree and plant health. This group of postgraduate students played the role of various stakeholders (farmers and foresters) and scientists (geneticist, microbiologist, plant pathologist and entomologist), explaining to the learners the scientific methods involved in the identification of pests and pathogens from diseased trees. They did so in the form of a news bulletin. The news bulletin introduced a disease outbreak on Pine trees in Mpumalanga and that there was a group of scientists from FABI investigating the disease and solving the problem. The team played their various “scientist” roles explaining their role in solving the disease outbreak. They started by looking at symptoms on the trees, sampling, DNA extractions and sequencing, which led to the identification of the cause of the problem. The team then ended off with the practical implications of diseased trees and the importance of controlling pests and diseases, not only in commercial plantations but also on agricultural crops and fruit trees. The sessions ended off with the team informing the students about the requirements needed to obtain a degree in the Biological Sciences.