Saturday Student: Liezel Rudolph

Saturday Student: Liezel Rudolph

Liezel (Elizabeth) Rudolph obtained her Geography BSc and Honours degrees at the University of Pretoria, and a MSc at Rhodes University. She also has a PGCE from UNISA, which allowed her to teach Geography at Abbott’s College in Pretoria for a few years. She is currently in the final stages of her PhD (also in Geography) at the University of Fort Hare. She currently lectures Geomorphology at the University of the Free State. Her postgraduate research focussed on glacial and peri-glacial landforms and their response to (past and present) climate change. These studies afforded her opportunities to visit the research stations on Marion Island and in the Antarctic, working with SANAP-NRF funded programmes in geomorphology – Landscape Processes in Antarctic Ecosystems and Sub-Antarctic Landscape-Climate Interactions.


Where you come from where did it all started

I grew up in Pretoria. I never knew what I wanted to be when I grow up – all my friends had career aspirations, but I had interests. I liked variety and the thought of having one, predictable job for the rest of my life scared me endless. I had a keen interest in earth and physical sciences, but I also really enjoyed the arts and design. However, I was neither a Newton nor a Michelangelo at school and the prospect of either as a career path did not sit quite well with me. By the time I finished school I could still not decide on a single career and nothing in the university catalogues seemed to tick all the boxes. So, by process of elimination, I crossed out everything that sounded boring or would involve living creatures (I faint at the sight of blood), and the only thing that was left was Geography. I should’ve known – it’s a science that allows, no, encourages, variety of thought and expression. But I didn’t end up in research straight away. After I finished my Honours in Geography, I taught high school for a few years before returning to full-time studies to pursue a Masters. During my Masters though, I truly missed teaching. There’s something magical about sharing your passion on a subject with young people, and them getting equally excited about it. Its then that I realised a career where I can actively pursue my research interests, and teach, would be my dream job. I don’t believe I could’ve reached this realisation on my own. I had many mentors (parents, teachers, bosses, supervisors) who could lead, inspire and guide me. Through my post-school adult years, I didn’t always know how things will play-out, but I stuck to things I enjoyed and tried to do everything to the best of my ability. I could have followed a more predictable career path, but I may not have been so excited about it, as I am about what I get to do now. I am now lecturing Geomorphology at the University of the Free State and pursuing a PhD in Geography which, on top of everything, is on a topic I’ve been fascinated with since I first read a short story in my English class, at age 11 – glaciers.


Why you love your career in science?

It never grows old. With new discoveries come a flood of new unanswered questions. It pushes your mental limits and if you like that sort of challenge, you won’t easily get bored.  Geography, especially, allows you to think both critically and creatively – it’s like playing a game with rules, but you are allowed to invent new rules. It allows you to visit amazing landscapes (if you’re a Geographer) and meet new and interesting people. Perhaps the best part of is, that it allows you to explore something you are very curious about, and you get to share your findings with an audience that are interested. At the same time, you benefit from what others have discovered about their own curiosity. It’s a constant learning process. In my experience I’ve gotten to work with incredible minds in the Southern African Geomorphology community, and have had the privilege to meet world-class scientists form other fields within the greater SANAP community – all who very passionate about their research fields and to whom I owe much of my passion for science. I am currently serving on the Association of Polar Early Carer Scientists’ South African National Committee (APECSSA), which has awarded me the opportunity to meet other early career scientists, not only from the Earth Science field, but from the Ocean-, Biological-, Botanical- and Space-physics sciences, to name a few. I don’t know of many other careers that would you expose you to such a variety of people and places.


Science is like art, perhaps with a few more rigorous guidelines, and it allows you to draw on your own unique talents – just like an artist has a specific style. So, you should play by the rules, but you don’t have to fit a mould. Find mentors and listen to their advice. Make your own decisions and take responsibility for yourself. Don’t do anything halfies – finish what you’ve started and do it properly, or leave it all together. I believe that no time spent doing something well, is ever time wasted – experience is what makes us human. People will always be more important than science, so value your personal and professional relationships.” – Liezel

google scholar:
Facebook:  ;
Twitter: @Apecssa; @sanaplci
Interview: GrootOntbyt /GrootFM 90.5, a community radio station in Pretoria. 
Interview: at Aktru research station, in Siberia.
Article: Early glacial maximum and deglaciation at 
sub-Antarctic Marion Island from cosmogenic 36Cl exposure dating

Text and Images: Liezel Rudolph


Saturday Student: Johan Viljoen

Saturday Student: Johan Viljoen

Johannes Jacobus Viljoen grew up in the small town of Wolseley in the upper Breede River Valley and started his tertiary education at Stellenbosch University after graduating high school in Ceres. He completed a BSc in Earth Science in 2015 and became the first member in his family with a university qualification. In 2016, he completed a BSc (Hons) Earth Science degree in Environmental Geochemistry where he gained a keen interest in marine biogeochemistry and research. He continued his studies as a graduate research student on phytoplankton distribution in the Southern Ocean at Stellenbosch University within the Centre for Trace and Experimental Biogeochemistry (TracEx ), earning a MSc degree (cum laude) in 2018.

                                 Johan is currently a PhD candidate  in Earth Science at Stellenbosch University (SU). His research focus is part of a larger project within the South African National Antarctic Programme (SANAP)  of which the main aim is to understand the biological and biogeochemical processes occurring in the Southern Ocean, how this is linked and will affect our global climate. His PhD research within TracEx revolves around marine biogeochemistry and aims to better understand phytoplankton dynamics in the Southern Ocean and their links to macro- and micronutrients distributions across various seasons and within poorly sampled regions. He specifically strives to specialize in the use of phytoplankton pigments to identifying and quantifying phytoplankton groups essential to the marine carbon cycle and assess their photoprotective abilities and adaptability within the current changing ocean environment. To date, Johan has participated in three research cruises on board South Africa’s flagship research vessel, the S.A. Agulhas II . For his first research cruise, a summer resupply cruise to Antarctica (SANAE 56: Nov 16 – Feb 17), he skipped his BSc (Hons) graduation in December 2016 to join this cruise and collect samples for multiple projects on his own. He wrote a blog tabout his experiences during this cruise and what it was like on the Antarctic ice shelf during the SANAE 56 take-over .  He participated in two further research specific cruises to the Southern Ocean during winter as a member of the TracEx team, one to the Indian sector in July 2017 (for which he had to postpone his honeymoon 😊) and another to the Atlantic sector during the SCALE winter cruise (July/Aug 2019).

He attended his first SANAP symposium in 2016. He attended the Polar 2018 conference in Davos, Switzerland in 2018  where he presented an oral presentation on his research. He later joined the South African branch of the Association for Polar Early Career Scientists (APECS-SA)  as a committee member during his second SANAP symposium in 2018. He currently serves on the APECS-SA national committee as one of the co-chairs. From 2018 – 2019, he also served as the postgraduate representative of the Department of Earth Sciences at SU on the postgraduate committee of the Faculty of Science.

Johan is driven to learn more about marine science and sharing his research and experiences with others. To date, he has published two scientific articles from his MSc research and aims to follow an academic career. In August 2017, he was awarded the opportunity by the SU International office  to attend a summer school at the University of Helsinki: Introduction to modern atmospheric science. In September 2019, he was awarded a SCOR  travel bursary to attend the 2nd International Geotraces Summer School  in Spain to further his knowledge about trace metals and their role in the marine environment.

He is also active on Twitter (@JohanSOV ), utilising social media to promote his and other marine science research. He also has a vested interest in science communication and attended a master class in science communication offered by CREST at SU in December 2019 to advance his skills in science communication.  He has volunteered at the retirement home in his hometown, talking to those less mobile about his experiences onboard the SA Agulhas II and the history of SA in Antarctica. He and other members of TracEx have participated in multiple outreach visits of primary and high schools to their department and have been volunteer guides for first year BSc student onboard the S.A. Agulhas  II.

In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his family and friends, watching documentaries and movies based on true events, reading, hiking and travelling. He considers himself to be a bit of a coffee connoisseur, a budding gardener and an experimental cook.

With determination, hard work and by accepting help when needed you can reach any goal. “Alone we can do so little; Together we can do so much.” Helen Keller

Photo Credit and Text: Johan Viljoen – Profile  

SANAP CALL: The Importance of Data Management in a Research Project

SANAP CALL: The Importance of Data Management in a Research Project

The Call for SANAP Proposal submission is 30 April. It is important that within the proposal  principal investigators need to look at data management. Below information to help with the proposal.

“The amount of time and money required for coding, checking, computerizing, and documenting the data is frequently underestimated in planning a study. Successful data management depends on a sound organization that has mapped out in advance all the data preparation, processing, and documentation steps and is ready to implement these steps when data collection is about to commence. In other words, the data management system should be fully operational before the project gets buried under an avalanche of incoming data that need to be coded, checked, and entered.” Data Collection and Analysis by M Stouthamer-Loeber & W van Kammen .

The Marine and Antarctic Research Strategy (2016) states that “Data transfer, access and reliability remain a challenge when working in this research sector.  Proper centralized management of data emanating from the ocean, Antarctica and the Islands is required to meet both national and international data requirements.  Systems that make the data available to national and international users are required.  This would require appropriate management, so as to guarantee the integrity of the data.  Obviously, reliable access to this data would also be critical.”

The South African Antarctic and Southern Ocean Research Plan. 2014-2024 highlights data dynamics within SANAP. “Data transfer, access and reliability remain a challenge when working in the region.  Proper centralized management of data emanating from the Southern Ocean and Antarctic is required, to meet both national and international data requirements.  Systems that make the data available to national and international users are required.  This would require appropriate management, so as to guarantee the integrity of the data.  Obviously, reliable access to this data would also be critical.”

Scientific Committee on Antarctic Data Management. “Data and information are valuable and irreplaceable resources. Proper management of data and information is not an “add-on” or an additional task; it is a fundamental aspect of modern science”.

From the Department of Science and Innovation: “To complement the focus on global infrastructure in South Africa, a South African Research Infrastructure Roadmap (SARIR) has been developed to facilitate a research infrastructure investment programme. At the very least, information and communication technologies and data management services will be a fundamental part of every type of research infrastructure. Data-driven science implies that many of the research teams will base their scientific activity on the processing of collected data and remote access. Data management services are therefore essential to ensure the competitiveness of research groups.”

NICIS And DIRISA  Function within the department of Science and Innovation. The Data Intensive Research Initiative of South Africa(DIRISA) forms part of the National Integrated Cyber Infrastructure System(NICIS). DIRISA aims to Implement a Certified Trusted Repository for research data and to operationally deploy and maintain data services and virtual research environments. They aim to initiate the establishment of federated data repositories. DIRISA is required to formulate national strategic frameworks for data intensive research and data stewardship

The Research Management Services of South Africa provide support for qualitative Data Analysis. Qualitative data analysis for empirical and theoretical data for students and staff using ATLAS.ti. They offer analysis for any research project that includes code qualitative data, categorise data, provide thematic reports and offer advice on how to interpret these themes by invoking the theory/literature. (Contact

Research Data Alliance announce that with the recent cancellation of Plenary 15 in Melbourne, Australia, the local organising committee, RDA Technical Advisory Board and RDA Secretariat the RDA Virtual Plenary 15 (VP 15), taking place 18 March – 10 April 2020. VP 15 will offer remote access to many of the sessions that were planned to take place in Melbourne.

New South Africa National Committee for SCAR

New South Africa National Committee for SCAR

South Africa has been involved in Antarctic research since the geophysical year of 1957. The first 10 years of South Africa’s science and research in the Antarctic is highlighted in an article by  DG Kingwell, at that stage the secretary of the South African Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research (SASCAR).

The Antarctic Research of South Africa is  part of The International Science Council (ISC), South Africa.

South Africa is a national member of ISC through the National Research Foundation (NRF) and the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) supported by the Department of Science and Technology (DST). The South African ISC -Secretariat serves the scientific community and the ISC scientific unions and affiliates to which South Africa adheres. The SA ISC Secretariat provides support and organisational services for the ISC National Board of SA, and to the SA ISC National Committees to advance South Africa’s position in international platforms. The total membership of these committees is in excess of 200 scientists.  Approximately 100 South Africans serve on ICS-related commissions and working groups. The ISC activities in South Africa are focused on the following principals:

  • Science-for-policy: Stimulate and support national and international scientific research and scholarship, and to communicate science that is relevant to national and international policy issues;
  • Policy-for-science: Promote developments that enable science to contribute more effectively to major issues in the national and international public domain;
  • Science-for-society: Stimulate science engagement with society;
  • Scientific freedom and responsibility: Support the free and responsible practice of science;
  • Adherence: Support committees through payment of ISC membership dues.

South Africa Science and Research is also part of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) where the committee members will represent South Africa at SCAR meetings.

The new National Committee has been announced  in a letter by Tracy Klarenbeek – Professional Officer, Knowledge Advancement and Support (KAS) and their first meeting took place at Stellenbosch University on 6 March 2019.

Dear SANAP Community,

It gives me great pleasure in sharing the names of the individuals selected to represent us all at SCAR. Of course, these individuals will rely heavily on inputs from the entire community, so I sincerely hope that you will be available to support them in their endeavours. Members of the community that are not an the steering committee are still strongly encouraged to participate in SCAR and SCAR-related activities. The DST and the NRF are planning a follow-up meeting with the whole community, hopefully by the middle of the year (academic and other schedules permitting), so as to give feedback on a number of initiatives ongoing that will possibly impact on us all, including plans for current and future SA participation in SCAR. We look forward to seeing you there.

The final list is below, the details of which will be communicated to SCAR in due course.  Professor Bettine van Vuuren was nominated as the Committee Chair, Tracy Klarenbeek as Vice-Chair and Dr Gilbert Siko representing the Department of Science and technology.

Life Sciences Standing Committee of SCAR

  • Thulani Makhalanyane (South African Representative)
  • Bettine van Vuuren
  • Anne Treasure

Physical Sciences Standing Committee of SCAR

  • Sandy Thomalla
  • Sarah Fawcett (South African Representative)
  • Stefan Lotz

Geosciences Standing Committee of SCAR

  • Christel Hansen
  • Werner Nel
  • Geoff Grantham (South African Representative)

Social Sciences and Humanities Standing Committee of SCAR

  • Anché Louw
  • Ria Olivier (South African Representative)
  • Charne Lavery

Please give this committee your support in their efforts to take South African science to the world via SCAR.



Monday Men : Werner Nel

Monday Men : Werner Nel

Werner Nel was born and raised in East London. He was educated at the University of Pretoria with a BSc in Earth Sciences: Atmospheric Science, BSc Hons in Environmental Analysis and Management and an MSc and PhD in Geography. His MSc was on the Quaternary landforms on Marion Island (overwintered with M56) while his PhD was on the climate attributes and its geomorphic effect in the Drakensberg.

Why you love your career in science?

                              Very simply for the fact that science take me places and allows me to meet new people. (Above L-R: Aktru Glazier in Siberia, Huangshwen in China, Abisko mountains in Sweden) Since I was a young boy I always yearned for adventure (I still do) and field research gives you that. There are very few careers which allow you to be creative (making maps and figures and writing papers), work with your hands (setting up and maintaining field equipment) and challenges you intellectually. However more importantly, being able to work with people is the best thing about my career. I have had the honour of mentoring some wonderful students, each unique in their personality and approach to life. I have also met some magnificent people through research and travel. My best friends are my research partners and colleagues. I have had the privilege to be on numerous expeditions and travels to far off places with some of the best people, and even though we have different nationalities and come from different cultural backgrounds, I have learned that people are just people and field scientists (young and old) are the best of them all.  

Latest research or study you’re working on ?  

        I am involved in many things. (Above fieldwork in Antarctica L-R; Flarjuvan, Robbertskollen and Lorenzpiggen) Firstly, at Fort Hare, I supervise many students across diverse fields of research interests in Geography and Environmental Science and to keep abreast of all this work takes a large chunk of my research time, but is the best part of my job. Then as for my own current research, I am involved in a very exciting collaboration with colleagues from Nanjing University in China where we are looking at the effect of weathering and human activities on heavy metal pollution in the Pearl River Basin. Then I am also involved in some climate and landscape interactions work on Mauritius and it’s off shore islets with SA colleagues (Paul Sumner, David Hedding and Jay le Roux) and our friends from the University of Mauritius and the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation. Then of course my SANAP sub-Antarctic research with Dave Hedding and students are the most important to me. We are currently busy with a number of ongoing research projects on the contemporary periglacial geomorphology of the island. We are also re-examining the glacial reconstruction and timing of deglaciation on Marion Island through the use of new funky cosmogenic dating techniques in collaboration with colleagues from SUERC in Scotland and the British Antarctic Survey.

Werner’s Message:

Ja, well there are better paying jobs out there and I guess jobs that give you more status in society (if this is what you are looking for). But I think no other career gives you more freedom to express yourself. Also, unlike what most people think, you don’t need to be particularly clever. Most of the top researchers that I know are just ordinary people that have a passion for what they do and they just put in the time. A willingness to learn (and read), to explore, and not be scared of new things are all you need. Science also allows you to break free from stereotypes and permits (actually insists) you to be who you are. And the rewards are amazing. To see your students graduate and go on to do wonderful things (and be great in their jobs) and to meet truly inspiring and interesting people are way more rewarding I think. And even though it seems that every academic in the universe is perpetually broke you can make a decent living from being an academic. However more importantly, given the flexibility a lot of us enjoy, you can still be there for your family when they need you, and you can always count on a fellow field researcher to buy you a beer.  

Werner Nel is a Professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Science at the University of Fort Hare. He lectures climatology to first, second and third year students and geomorphology to post-graduates.  He has successfully supervised more than 20 Masters students and seven PhD students and serves on the joint International Association of Geomorphology/ International Geographical Union steering committee for Geomorphology and Society and he is a member of the South African National Committee for SCAR. He has been actively involved with SANAP research since 1999 and has been Chief Scientist for shore-based science on relief expeditions to Marion Island and Antarctica.

See profile on Google Scholar and Researchgate and an interview with Russian media at the Aktru research station in Siberia.

Photo Credits: Werner Nel 


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