A group of FABIans enjoyed a colourful spectacle of red, orange and yellow flowers in full bloom at the LC de Villiers campus of the University of Pretoria (UP) on 22 June. FABI Communications officer Morné Booij-Liewes arranged the guided walk with Jason, and took part in the walk with Dr Tanay Bose, Prof Pedro Crous, Izette Greyling, Quentin Guignard, Dr Fahimeh Jami, visiting entomologist Dr Chris Malumphy, Extraordinary Professor Stefan Nesser, Josephine Queffelec, Namhla Tshisela, Prof Mike Wingfield and Dr Neriman Yilman-Visagie.
Congratulations to Esther Andrew Masumba, who successfully defended her PhD thesis on 13 June, becoming the eighth candidate at FABI to reach this milestone in 2018. Esther’s study focused on two genetically related varieties of cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) grown by farmers in Tanzania. After crossing the two varieties, she used molecular methods to identify genetic markers that are responsible for how each of the varieties reacts to the two viral diseases. Esther’s primary supervisor, Dr van der Merwe, complimented her on a “beautiful thesis” which she completed part-time while working as a plant breeder in Tanzania.
FABI researchers, Dr Marc Bouwer, Dr Kennedy Eguzozie and Agil Katumanyane recently attended a workshop hosted by the South African Sugarcane Research Institute (SASRI). Cacosceles newmannii poses a substantial threat to the sustainability of the sugarcane industry, because the larvae tunnel into the stool and stalk of the sugarcane where they then feed and render the cane unusable. Cacosceles newmannii is thought to be native to South Africa, but its full host range and distribution are not known. A species-specific pheromone could help monitor for the presence of the beetles and to find its native hosts and potential biological control agents. This field trip was also used as an opportunity to collect white grub beetle larvae for the PhD project of Agil Katumanyane. The group is thankful to Professor Des Conlong, Professor Stuart Rutherford and Mr Tom Webster from SASRI for assistance with arrangements and hosting during the conference and the field collections afterwards.
FABI’s Professor Mike Wingfield attended a meeting to provide advise on options to develop a National Forest Protection Programme for Colombia during a recent visit to the country.
FABIans participated in Science Week held at the Deutsche Internationale Schule in Pretoria from 29 May to 1 June. While the other Fabians kept the fifth graders enthusiastic about science, the CTHB Outreach team (Juanita Avontuur, Benedicta Swalarsk-Parry, Angel Maduke, Modjadji Makwela and Fezile Mthunzi) performed a range of science and mathematics experiments with the learners from the third to eighth grade.
From 28 May to 1 June, members of the Avocado Research Programme (ARP) attended the Avocado Brainstorming conference for 2018.
In the presence of academics from the joint Department of Biochemistry, Genetics and Microbiology as well as close family and colleagues, Melissa Simpson presented her prestige seminar at FABI on 30 May. Melissa completed her PhD research under the supervision of Proff Brenda Wingfield and Mike Wingfield as well as Drs Martin Coetzee and Magriet van der Nest. Melissa showed that understanding the mating system of C.
FABI postdoctoral research Fellow Dr Mesfin Gossa recently visited MIRO Forestry Company in Ghana and Sierra Leone, as part of the Eucalyptus Insect Pest Project in Africa (EIPPA). This project is led by Proff Brett Hurley, Bernard Slippers and Dr Gossa, and currently covers over 15 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
FABI had the pleasure of hosting a visit on 27 May by Mr Sukanto Tanoto, the Chairman of the Royal Golden Eagle (RGE) Group.
On 30 May, FABI in collaboration with Future Africa held a podcasting workshop facilitated by Anina Mumm of Sciencelink. Podcasts are an effective means of science communication, offering information to listeners on many audio platforms.
In a first for FABI, Osmond Mlonyeni publically defended his PhD thesis on 23 May, marking a shift away from the Institute’s traditional prestige seminars. Previously, PhD candidates presented their prestige seminars first at the Institute before undergoing a closed oral defence with their external examiners.
Congratulations to the five FABI researchers whose stellar achievements were acknowledged by the University of Pretoria (UP) at the Academic Achievers’ Awards on 10 May! The annual ceremony is dedicated to academics rated by the National Research Foundation and whose excellence in research have contributed to UP’s ranking as one of the top research institutions in the world.
FameLab is an international science communication competition hosted in over 25 different countries. FABI PhD candidate Darryl Herron took part in one of 2018’s first heats last year at the Science Forum South Africa held at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). The semi-finals were held at the Nelson Mandela University on the 9 May 2018, right after a two-day Master Class.
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. The Outreach Team included five FABI postgraduate students: Juanita Avontuur, Benedicta Swalarsk-Parry, Angel Maduke, Modjadji Makwela and Fezile Mthunzi.
Four FABIans presented at the 15th African Centre for Gene Technologies (ACGT) Regional Plant Biotechnology Forum held at the University of Witwatersrand on 18 May. The theme was “Plant genomes - from genes to networks”. The keynote speaker was Dr Maria-Celeste Costa from the University of Cape Town (UCT) who spoke on gene co-expression networks of desiccation tolerance.
Many of the research leaders in FABI actively participate in, and are members of national and international Societies and Academies. Professor Brenda Wingfield is no exception and she is (amongst other responsibilities) the Vice President of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf). It was in this capacity that she represented South Africa at the Inaugural meeting of Commonwealth Science Advisers and Equivalents (CSAE). The meeting was part of the Commonwealth Summit and brought together
The Southern African Institute of Forestry (SAIF) celebrated its 50th Birthday at a special dinner function at the Pretoria Botanical Gardens on 16 May. SAIF is an association of forestry practitioners geared towards delivering a professional service to forestry in South Africa. The dinner was attended by two of the original founding members of the Institute and a number of other SAIF members working in forestry and forest research from across the country. Also in attendance were some overseas g
Opportunities for trailblazing research discussed on the second day of the 29th annual meeting of the TPCP
Presentations and discussions on the second and last day of the 29th Annual Meeting of the Tree Protection Co-operative Programme on 16 May followed up on the varying areas of research that arise from the ongoing battle with insect pests and pathogens affecting tree health. Speakers highlighted the creativity, innovation and opportunities for collaborations that drive programmes such as the TPCP.
The invasive and aggressive Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer (PSHB) was discovered killing trees in South Africa by FABI Postdoctoral Fellow Dr Trudy Paap in 2017. This has prompted FABI to take a lead in identifying the extent of the outbreak and its impact on indigenous, forestry and ornamental tree species.
FABI Postdoctoral Fellow Dr Trudy Paap was one of 82 South African botanical artists invited to exhibit their work portraying indigenous plants species at the Botanical Art Worldwide Exhibition being held at the Everard Reid Gallery in Rosebank, Johannesburg from 17 May – 9 June. The exhibition is being hosted by the Botanical Artists Association of South Africa of which Trudy is a member.
Tree health specialists converge on the University of Pretoria for the 29th annual meeting of the TPCP
Tree health experts shared the stage with researchers and forestry industry stakeholders at the 29th annual meeting of the Tree Protection Co-operative (TPCP) Programme at the University of Pretoria on 15 and 16 May.
Collaborators, researchers and core team members of the CTHB celebrate the programme’s successes at its 14th annual meeting
The DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Tree Health Biotechnology (CTHB) hosted its 14th annual meeting at FABI on 14 May. This marked the first of three days dedicated to discussions about keeping trees healthy. Research by students at different institutions that form part of the CTHB dominated the proceedings on the day. Two guest speakers from Australia and the United States highlighted some problems affecting indigenous trees in their respective countries.
More than 30 postgraduate students affiliated with FABI were awarded their degrees at the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences’ Autumn Graduation ceremonies in April.
A team of 13 FABIans conducted a survey to determine infestation levels of the Polyphagous Shothole Borer on street and garden trees in the Johannesburg suburb of Hurlingham on 4 May.
Danielle Roodt, a PhD student in the FMG Research Programme and FABI, has been awarded an American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) Travel Award to attend and present her research at the upcoming Plant Biology Conference, a joint meeting of the ASPB, Canadian Society of Plant Biologists and the International Society of Photosynthesis Research.
Following his presentation at the meeting of the South African Society for Microbiology where he was an invited speaker, Dr Ramon Rosselló-Móra presented a special seminar at FABI on 13 April. His talk provided details on his group’s surprising findings in extreme saline habitats such as salterns, where the salt content sometimes rivals that of seawater.
FABI, together with the CIB (DST-NRF Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology), hosted a public seminar on the disastrous effect of the PSHB and its fungus on trees in South Africa.
Associate Professor Sanushka Naidoo, received a Next Einstein Forum (NEF) Fellow Award. The award resembles the Ishango Bones that were discovered in the Ishango region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Professor Naidoo presented a spotlight talk displaying her work in forest tree resilience and the role of plant biotechnology in addressing food security. As part of her NEF Fellowship (2017-2019), Prof.
The Ethics, Gender and Sexuality Symposium was held on 24 March at the University of Pretoria's Faculty of Health Sciences and was chaired by Prof Michael Pepper. Photo caption: From left to right: Prof MS Pepper, Ms B Jardim, Prof JA Nel, Prof G Lindeque, Dr G Grobler, Mrs M Crewe, Dr E Moshokua.
Professor Fanus Venter and the University of Pretoria hosted the South African Society of Microbiology (SASM) conference from 4-7 April at the Misty Hills Hotel and Conference Centre in Muldersdrift. Many FABIans attended, presenting a total of eight posters and eight oral presentations. (Photos by Kinosha Moodley, Andi Wilson, Claudette Dewing, Bernard Slippers and Dineo Mailula)
A special seminar by Professor Gilles Boeuf on 10 April drew attention to the dangers of climate change on biodiversity in different ecosystems around the world. Prof Boeuf discussed not only the effects of climate change such as drought and melting glaciers but also the role played by citizen scientists in sharing information about changes in their immediate environment.
The inaugural meeting of IUFRO Working Group 7. FABI presentations: Hurley B. Fraser S. Hurley B. (Photos supplied by the organisers of IUFRO Working Group 7.
Following the Easter weekend break, the Easter Bunny hopped into FABI on 4 April, leaving behind a trail of Easter eggs and some “rabbit food” for FABIans to nibble on and enjoy.
FABI is running the FABI Flower Drive, a yearlong campaign to collect sanitary products for girls at school who cannot afford them. The Institute will also resume its annual FABI Blanket Drive to deliver warm winter clothing and blankets to community organisations in the Tshwane municipality.
The Southern African Plant Breeders Association (SAPBA) held its 12th Symposium at Umhlanga last week with the theme “Big Data and Breeding Technologies”. Photo caption: DowDuPont Plant Sciences Symposium student presenters with keynote speaker Dr Geoff Graham, Vice-President, Global Plant Breeding, DowDuPontTM.
FABI welcomed a new crop of undergraduate mentorship students. The CTHB has run the mentorship programme alongside its outreach programmes for more than 10 years. The 2018 mentors are: Dr Albe van der Merwe; postdocs Drs Vuyiswa Bushula-Njah and Aquillah Kanzi as well as postgraduate students Tayo Adenigba, Miranda Erasmus, Ginna Granados, Darryl Herron, Angel Maduke, Mkhululi Maphosa, Wilma Nel, Nam Pham, Mmatshepho Phasha, Emeldah Rikhotso, Sydney Sithole, Benedicta Swalarsk-Parry, Ariska van der Nest and Andi Wilson.