A paper co-authored by Laura Blamey, an NRF ‘early career scientist’ at the Department of Biological Sciences highlights the important, yet underappreciated roles urchins play in marine ecosystems.
In this study we use a large and long-term (1931–2013) repeat photography dataset together with environmental data and fire records to account for the decline of the critically endangered Widdringtonia cedarbergensis. Our results suggest this continued decline is probably due to both natural and anthropogenically mediated increases in fire frequency and temperature.
Zander Venter, who is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Biological Sciences, won second place in the NRF/SAASTA Young Science Communicators Competition for his video titled, "Our footprint from space".
He used repeat satellite imagery from Google Earth to demonstrate the impact that humans have had on different landscapes across South Africa. You can watch the video here.
What are the causes of mysterious barren “fairy circles”? Mike Cramer, Nichole Barger and Walter Tschinkel in a recent paper suggest that they are produced by interactions between grasses enabled by coarse textured sand. Water and nutrients are highly mobile in the sands, allowing fairy circles to interact over distances > 5 m. The authors concluded that fairy circles are more closely associated with a highly connected soil environment, rather than particular biota.
How many species of humans have existed? It all depends on the concept of species that’s being employed. In some approaches, there was – and still is – only one. In others, there are as many as 17 species of Homo.
The Bolus Herbarium was established in 1865 and has a collection of over 400 000 specimens, from flowers and ferns to seaweeds and a few lichens, making it the third largest in South Africa and the third largest university herbarium in the southern hemisphere.
After celebrations on Tuesday December 8, and lectures by renowned botanists Professor Ben-Erik van Wyk and Professor Peter Linder, curator Terry Trinder-Smith invited every- one present to use the herbarium, which is located in the HW Pearson Building on the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) upper campus.
Mr Trinder-Smith said the primary function of the herbarium is to aid in the teaching and research of the diversity of the southern African flora, particularly that of the Cape Floristic Region.
Five UCT scholars were celebrated at the Academy of Science of South Africa’s annual award ceremony on 14 October in Stellenbosch.
A teacher’s job is to help students realise that the creation of scientific knowledge is on-going and dynamic, and that they have a role to play in that, says Distinguished Teacher Awardee Dr Adam West of the Department of Biological Sciences.
Jeremy Midgley, Gary Bronner and Joseph White from Biological Sciences at UCT and Steve Johnson from UKZN have reported in Nature Plants that the restio Ceratocaryum argenteum has its seeds buried by the dung beetle Epirinus flagellatus. The seeds look and smell like dung and this deceives the beetle into burying the seed, . . .
Parvez Alam, from Åbo Akademi University (Finland) was visiting our department last week and gave a fantastic seminar:
This lecture concerns size-scaling phenomena in biomimetics and provides insights into why biomimetics "may be" limited to application within specific length scales. The lecture aims to bring to light realistic challenges involved in developing design principles from nature. The lecture elucidates a number of superior design and production principles in nature that to this day, continue to confound biomimeticists the world over.
If you were not able to join us, you will be able to find the seminar on this [ link ]:
UCT's 'green visionaries'
19 December 2014
Three UCT students were among 25 recipients of the Green Talents 2014 awards, internationally recognised prizes for young researchers focused on sustainability. The winners were chosen from among 800 applicants from more than 100 countries. It is the sixth time that these awards took place under the patronage of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.