From Stellenbosch to Saskatchewan: microbes across the globe

by Marcelle van Niekerk   A whiteboard dominates the wall of Professor Gideon Wolfaardt’s office. Permanent markers leave trails of colourful writing, bleeding into hastily drawn sketches. In the corner there’s a drawing of what looks like a bullet. Wolfaardt himself finishes typing on his computer and pushes it away. “Sorry, I was busy with…

What is in the water that great white sharks swim in? #Scibraai Monday Menu

Skin samples of great white sharks contain worrying levels of environmental and biological contaminants. This is among the findings of a recent study in the journal Expert Opinion on Environmental Biology. Skin biopsies were taken from 15 great white sharks near Dyer Island off the Overberg coastline. The Italian and South African researchers involved ascribe…

Putting mealie pap under the spotlight

Anina Guelpa talks about the properties of maize in this article from the 2015 New Voices in Science publication.  For the next few weeks, Scibraai will be featuring a few articles from this publication, written by postgraduate students of Stellenbosch University. These tell the stories of what the students found out during the course of…

Rocking with Namaqualand’s daisies

For the next few weeks, Scibraai will be featuring a few articles that appeared in the 2015 New Voices in Science publication. The articles are all written by postgraduate students of Stellenbosch University, and tell the stories of what they found out during the course of their research. First up is Caroli de Waal, who…

#Scibraai Monday Menu: About #Feesmustfall, soccer and spit, and cancers

Today’s @Scibraai Monday Menu should probably be called the Scibraai Tuesday Treat. Better late than never! So here’s this week’s snippets of interesting local South African science: an economic perspective on rising university fees, the value of soccer in reducing stress, and some of the reasons for the high incidence of esophageal cancer in the Eastern…

Bees can make farming better

Dr Ruan Veldtman is an ecological entomologist, which means that he has a keen interest in the positive and negative role of insects in the environment. On the negative side, this researcher of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and Stellenbosch University is involved in efforts to eradicate invasive wasp species from urban areas.…

Keep calm and be a blue wildebeest

So just how stressed are blue wildebeest when they are kept in a boma? If you’d like to know the answer, ask Dr Liesel Laubscher of Komatipoort. She used infrared video recorders and biotelemetry belts used by athletes to find out just exactly that, as part of her doctoral research in animal science at Stellenbosch…

How translocating rhinos promotes genetic health and keeps them safe

The translocation of rhinos can help conservation and build their populations, writes Nikki le Roex of Stellenbosch University in The Conversation Africa.   Rhino poaching is one of the largest threats of the illegal wildlife trade. The animals are slaughtered for their horns, believed in some Asian cultures to have medicinal properties. Rhino populations across southern…

In search of a true Karoo chop test

Recent food scandals have shown that consumers cannot simply assume anymore that what is described on a label is actually what they will be eating. They often buy something at a premium, but are in the process duped – at a price. This is where scientists, and food scientists in particular, come in. Many are…

A bridge builder of note – even into the past

From invasive plants clogging up rivers to ecological restoration, from Karoo and fynbos veld to palaeontology, bulbs and early man – these are some of the diverse topics that energise and interest plant ecologist Prof Karen Esler. “My whole career is marked by a collaborative approach, working on the interface of different disciplines,” explains Prof…