12 September 2013 Volume :1 Issue :1

Young researchers represent UKZN at SAEON-GSN Indibano conference

Young researchers represent UKZN at SAEON-GSN Indibano conference
Participants at the 2013 SAEON Indibano held in Cape Town.

Three postgraduate researchers from the African Environmental Change Lab research group in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences, were selected to represent the University at the 6th Annual SAEON-GSN Indibano Conference held in Cape Town.

Two MSc students, Mr Luke Bodmann and Mr Tristan Duthie, focussed on vegetation change in the Cathedral Peak area of the Drakensberg, while PhD student Ms Kate Strachan, examined the reconstruction of past sea-level change along the east coast of southern Africa.

The title of Bodmann’s research was: “Detection and Attribution of Change of the Afromontane Archipelago: Cathedral Peak”. Bodmann uses a combination of proxy data techniques, including fossil pollen and charcoal analysis, to analyse a sedimentary record of environmental change in Cathedral Peak over the past 1 000 - 2 000 years.

Bodmann, who is being supervised by Professor Trevor Hill, Ms Michelle Warburton and Dr Jemma Finch, said: ‘This burst of energy, motivation and fun has got me to really grab my research by the horns and give it my best. The SAEON-GSN Indibano was a privilege to attend, and really made me feel a part of something bigger,’ said Bodmann.

Duthie was awarded the prize for Best Poster Presentation for her poster titled: “Modelling Modern Pollen Dispersal and Peposition Characteristics of Vegetation Communities of the Cathedral Peak area, KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg”.  Duthie said research aimed to improve the reliability of interpretations from long-term palaeoecological data, particularly with regards to pollen analysis, through modelling pollen dispersal and deposition characteristics in the Drakensberg.

Duthie and his supervisor, Professor Trevor Hill, recently returned from a workshop on modern pollen modelling at Hull University in the United Kingdom where they presented a paper titled: “Potential for Modern Pollen Modelling in the Drakensberg Mountains, South Africa”.

Strachan delivered an oral presentation titled: “A late Holocene Sea-Level Curve for the East Coast of South Africa”. Her research, which explored the application of salt-marsh foraminifera as sea-level indicators in the southern African context, is being supervised by Hill, Finch and Dr Peter Frenzel of the University of Jena in Germany.

Strachan said the highlight of her trip was a visit to the Sea Technology Services Workshop facilitated by Dr Charles von der Meden. ‘It was fascinating to hear and see what monitoring and research is taking place regarding biodiversity in deeper parts of the ocean,’ said Strachan. 

For the UKZN team the SAEON-GSN Indibano Conference provided an invaluable opportunity to meet and interact with other students involved in long-term environmental observational research, in addition to professionals in the field.

author : Barrington Marais
author email : maraisb@ukzn.ac.za