During the week of 13th March, FABI Director Prof. Mike Wingfield visited Freiburg in Germany, primarily to meet with colleagues responsible for organising the IUFRO 125th Anniversary Congress to be held in Freiburg from 18-22 September 2017.
Dr. Michelle Schroder, a postdoctoral fellow at FABI is spending two months collaborating with researchers at the University of the Sunshine Coast’s (USC) Forest Industries Research Centre.
The European spruce bark beetle, Ips typographus, is the most damaging insect pest of palearctic forests.
FABI welcomed 17 DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Tree Health (CTHB) mentorship students at a function on 3 March.
Several FABI academics participated in a recent landmark International Practical Synthetic Biology Workshop sponsored by the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).
FABI has launched its Annual Blanket Drive in aid of those in need of warmth this coming winter. FABIans donated 200 blankets last year to Meet and Eat, an initiative run by six church dominations that provides meals for homeless people in the Hatfield and Hillcrest suburbs.
FABI has been developing relationships and collaborations with researchers at the Forest and Forest Product Research Institute (FFPRI) in Japan since 2007.
The Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI) and Southern African Macadamia Growers’ Association (SAMAC) have established a collaborative research partnership, the Macadamia Protection Programme (MaPP). This programme will address the threats posed by pests and diseases to Macadamia farming in South Africa.
During the past week, Prof. David Sillam-Dussès from the University of Paris visited FABI to do some field work as part of a collaborative research project.
Quentin Guignard, a PhD student in FABI, attended a camp for new Honours students organised by the University of Pretoria’s Department of Zoology and Entomology at the Kwalata Lodge in the Dinokeng Reserve from 7-10 February.
Jacqueline Meyer delivered her prestige seminar at FABI and successfully defended her PhD thesis on 8 February. The title of her presentation was: “RNA-Seq and metabolic profiling of resistant and susceptible sub-tropical maize lines reveals a role for kauralexins in resistance to grey leaf spot disease caused by Cercospora zeina”.
Members of the TPCP and CTHB at FABI gathered at the Uitspan Personnel Centre at the University of Pretoria’s LC de Villiers sports grounds for a day of discussions, feedback and sports on 3 February. The team was also introduced to Esna du Plessis, Ginna Granados, Rachel Mkandawire and Emeldah Rikhotso, who form part of the 2017 cohort of students working in the TPCP/CTHB Diagnostic Clinic.
A celebration was held at FABI on 6 February to mark the first publication in an ISI Rated Journal by five members of the TPCP research team.
Prof. Mario Rajchenberg of the National Scientific and Technical Research Council and the Research and Extension Center for Andean Patagonian Forests in Argentina visited FABI during the past two weeks.
Congratulations to four PhD students at FABI who submitted five winning posters in the CTHB Outreach Poster competition last year!
Prof. Mary Barbercheck from the College of Agricultural Sciences at Penn State University presented a special seminar at FABI on 27 January. The occasion marked Prof. Barbercheck’s return visit to South Africa after more than 30 years as one of Birhan Abate’s PhD external examiners. She presented her seminar titled “Effects of soil characteristics and management of Metarhizium, a bifunctional fungus, in organic cropping systems”.
Birhan Abate is the latest student at FABI to complete a PhD degree and the first to deliver a prestige seminar in 2017. He passed his PhD oral examination on 27 January, a day after presenting his prestige seminar. Professor Mike Wingfield presented him with a framed certificate of completion, an award accorded to FABIans who reach this milestone, and congratulated him for his “trailblazing” work.
FABIans ushered in 2017 with a sumptuous breakfast and the annual group photo on 23 January. The day marked the first Monday Morning Meeting of the year and the resumption of research activities at FABI with staff and students returning from their annual year-end break.
The annual meeting of the Tree Protection Co-operative Programme (TPCP) and DST/NRF Centre of Excellence in Tree Health Biotechnology (CTHB) is rapidly drawing closer. As has been the case in the past, the 28th annual meeting of the TPCP will focus on key issues relating to forest tree health in South Africa. We look forward to welcoming you in Pretoria and once again to use this opportunity to exchange ideas and to further the important goal of “KEEPING TREES HEALTHY”.
FABI PhD candidate Joey Hulbert has been awarded the Mathre Education Endowment for 2017 to help cover costs of public engagement in Cape Citizen Science. More information about the award can be found here.
One of the first FABI papers for 2017 was published online on January 17th in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) with an Impact Factor of 9.423. Three members of the Forest Molecular Genetics (FMG) Programme in FABI was involved in the work: Dr Eshchar Mizrachi was first author, with Prof. Zander Myburg the senior author, and Dr Nanette Christie a co-author together with a team of collaborators from Belgi
An unusual but important granite monument has stood steadfastly under a grove of magnificent plane trees near the entrance to Cedara Agricultural College for almost 20 years. The renovated Tooke monument was unveiled at a small ceremony attended by three generations of the Tooke family, FABI researchers and guests from Government, the South African forestry industry and associations. Addressing the guests, Dr. In his speech, FABI Director, Prof. Prof. Dr Brett Hurley, a forest entomologist that leads the forest insect biological control programme at FABI shared stories taken from the doctoral thesis of Dr.
On the last day of the SASPP a keynote lecture was presented by Prof. Dawn Arnold of the Sciences University of the West of England on "A persistent reservoir of a genomic island in Pseudomonas syringae pv. phaseolicola." Six talks were presented by FABIans, including Prof. Dave Berger, Dr Irene Barnes, Dr Almuth Hammerbacher, Dr Markus Wilken and students Rachel Mkandawire and Wilma Nel.
The second day of the 2017 congress of the Southern African Society for Plant Pathology (SASPP) kicked off with the Ethyl M. Doidge Memorial Address delivered by Prof. Carolee Bull of Pennsylvania State University.
The organizers of the 2017 congress of the Southern African Society for Plant Pathology (SASPP) introduced a new way in which students can present their posters. As is typical for congresses, posters were displayed in a hall separate from the auditorium where oral presentations took place. However, this year the authors of posters were provided two sessions in the main hall where they were each given 2 minutes to introduce their poster without the assistance of powerpoint slides.
The 2017 congress of the Southern African Society for Plant Pathology (SASPP) took place last week at Champagne Sports Resort in the Drakensberg. This year the meeting commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Society, and this was celebrated by five past presidents of the Society popping champagne on the first evening. Forty six FABIans, including 36 students, attended the congress.
On Monday, 16 January, three FABI researchers, Prof. The title of the campaign is ‘Engage Kayamandi Youth in Cape Citizen Science with Vision Afrika’ and can be viewed here. Cape Citizen Science is an initiative to involve the public in research about the diversity and distribution of Phytophthora in the Cape floristic region. The researchers launched the crowd funding campaign to raise support for a partnership between FABI and Vision Afrika, a non-profit afterschool education program in Kayamandi.
Dr Robert Waterhouse from the University of Geneva presented a training course in arthropod genomics at Vodaworld in Midrand between 28 November and 1 December.
FABI was well represented at the annual symposium of the Genomics Research Institute (GRI) held at the University of Pretoria on 18 November.
The Director of FABI, Prof. Mike Wingfield, has spent the last week of November pursuing a long-term project to identify and compare pathogens of Myrtaceae and Proteaceae in Australia and South Africa.
On Friday 2nd December, Prof. Mike Wingfield (Director of FABI) and Prof. Pedro Crous (Director of the Centraalbureau voor Schimmelcultures and adjunct Professor at the University of Pretoria) visited Dr. Tom May, mycologist at the Melbourne Botanical Garden.
Students at Rhodes University (RU) and the University of Venda (UV) with projects funded by the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Tree Health Biotechnology (CTHB) presented progress on their research projects on 23 November at FABI. Deputy Director in the CTHB Prof Emma Steenkamp, Prof Nigel Barker of the School of Plant and Crop Sciences at the University of Pretoria, Dr Martin Coetzee of the Department of Genetics at UP as well as Prof Eastonce Gwata and Prof Ednah Kunjeku from the Department of Plant Production at UV, led the process. The presenters and their presentation titles are listed below: Prof Barker presented on behalf of PhD student at RU, Sivu Situngu, who could not attend: “Ecological associations between leaf domatia and mites”. MSc student at the School of Plant and Crop Sciences at UP, Conny Mothwa presented “A comparative phylogeography of selected native forest species” focusing on three indigenous tree species that grow in different regions in South Africa. PhD student at the UV Lovejoy Tembo discussed the different roles that factors as temperature and rainfall have on the prevalence of a smut disease in: “Incidence and severity of smut pathogen Coniodictyum chevalieri on Ziziphus mucronata species”. Elelwani Ramabulana of UV presented a PhD proposal titled: “Diversity of Botryosphaeriaceae on the Anarcadiaceae in Limpopo Province”. Dakalo Nemamilwe, MSc student at UV: “Preliminary characterisation of Rhizobial strains associated with indigenous wild legumes”.
FABIans looked back on the challenges they faced in 2016 and celebrated their achievements at the annual year-end function and awards ceremony on 19 November. Chairman of the board of the Hans Merensky Foundation and Chancellor of the University of the Free State, Prof. Congratulations to the following people on their awards from Prof Jolanda Roux in recognition of their contributions to FABI: FABIan of the Year: Arista Fourie Best FABI Student Publication: Angelica Marsberg-de Villiers Best FABI Post-Doc Publication: Dr Alistair McTaggart Best MSc: Andi Wilson FABI Award for Mentorship: James Mehl, Katrin Fitza, Esna du Plessis, Tanay Bose, Arista Fourie, Andi Wilson and FeiFei Liu Best FABI Student Personal Website: Joey Hulbert, Darryl Herron and Tanay Bose FABI Award “Getting the Message to the Public”: Darryl Herron, Joey Hulbert and Benedicta Swalarsk-Parry FABI Award Recognising Contributions by a Person External to the Institute: Dr Charlie Clark FABI Award Recognising Contributions by a Member of Staff of the University of Pretoria: Leanne van Zyl FABI Photographic Awards – FABIans at Work: Prof. FABI Photographic Awards – FABI Research: Ginna Granados BSc Honours students with projects linked to FABI and undergraduate students that participate in the FABI Mentorship programme also received certificates of appreciation. The Photo Gallery can be viewed by clicking here.
FABIans celebrated the milestone of Eston Mutitu completing his PhD degree with a prestige seminar on 18 November.
The 24th Advanced Phylogenetics Workshop took place at FABI from 7 - 11 November 2016. The workshop provided attendees with hands-on experience in the different software that is currently used to infer phylogenies.
A mini-symposium on 15 November showcased the diversity of research on the woodwasp Sirex noctilio conducted at FABI by postgraduate students and staff, as well as collaborators from Japan. Professor Bernard Slippers opened the meeting by giving an overview on the introduction of the Sirex woodwasp in South Africa and the research that emanated from it. Alisa Postma: Amylostereum-Deladenus-Sirex genomics: Opportunities arising from the genomes of a tripartite symbiotic system MSc student Bianca Jardim: Characterising sex determination genes of Sirex noctilio (Hymenoptera: Siridicae) PhD student Josephine Queffelec: Sirex noctilio: Influence of reproductive biology on invasive species PhD student Katrin Fitza: The diversity and specificity in the Deladenus-Sirex-Amylostereum complex PhD student Osmond Mlonyeni: Genotypic and phenotypic diversity in non-native populations of Sirex-Amylostereum-Deladenus Dr Marc Bouwer: Potential semiochemicals for Sirex noctilio and Ibalia leucospoides PhD student Quentin Guignard: Chemical and visual influences on insect behaviour: Opportunities to study applied biology of Sirex noctilio Dr Brett Hurley: Sirex-Deladenus-Environment interactions: Lessons from tens of thousands of dissection Prof. Prof.