First Day of the 5th SANAP Symposium

First Day of the 5th SANAP Symposium

The 5th biennial SANAP Symposium is organised by the Cape Penisula University (Kenneth Findlay) and South African National Space Agency (Michael Kosch). The symposium is held in Hermanus this year from tomorrow, 13 Augustus, until Thursday.

During this week, 134 delegates will be attending the symposium. The symposium will provide delegates the opportunity to present their research within the Southern Ocean, Antarctic and sub-Antarctic regions.

A public lecture on ‘South Africa’s legacy within the Antarctic region’ will be presented tomorrow at 19:00, in the Hermanus Municipal Auditorium (click here for more information on this event).

First day’s Programme:

For the full programme and abstracts – click here.

For a shortened version of the programme – click here.


Author: Anché Louw (Antarctic Legacy of South Africa), 12 August 2018.

Do you have a poster at the SANAP Symposium?

Do you have a poster at the SANAP Symposium?

The 5th Biannual South African National Antarctic Programme (SANAP) Symposium will be held from 13 – 16 August 2018, in Hermanus (read more here).

This year there will be a large number of 20 minute oral and digital poster presentations (in a 4 minute speed talk oral format). If you are wondering how to structure your scientific poster for this symposium, make sure to take some tips from the two South African early career scientists awarded with the 1st and 2nd prize for the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists (APECS) Poster Awards (Sector: Africa and Middle) at POLAR2018 (SCAR/IASC Open Science Conference 2018).

Winner: Luca Stirnimann, University of Cape Town, Poster Title: “The Island Mass Effect (IME) on carbon cycling in the plankton ecosystem around the Prince Edward Islands archipelago”.

Runner-up: Daniela Monsanto, University of Johannesburg, Poster Title: “Genetic patterns at fine spatial scales: complex findings in a complex landscape”.

More about Luca:

Luca is a PhD student at the University of Cape Town who will use the samples collected on the Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition (ACE) cruise to investigate zooplankton and phytoplankton dynamics in the Southern Ocean in the context of nutrient cycling and primary production. He will compare ecosystem dynamics in the vicinity of Subantarctic island systems with the open Southern Ocean. Luca graduated summa cum laude in Marine Sciences from the University of Genova – Italy and then spent one year at the Plymouth University – UK pursuing an internship and participating in scientific cruises and volunteer schemes. He is passionate about marine life and thinks plankton are important for healthy marine ecosystems and as an indicator of global environmental change.

The goal of Luca’s PhD is to investigate zooplankton and phytoplankton dynamics in the Southern Ocean, in the context of nutrient cycling and primary production, in the vicinity of Subantarctic island systems and in the open Southern Ocean (including within ocean mesoscale features such as eddies). Expected outcomes of this work include a fundamental understanding of the role of zooplankton in the Southern Ocean nitrogen and carbon cycles, as well as information on the functioning of food webs in response to environmental drivers such as changing nutrients concentrations. The major motivation for this work is a better understanding of Antarctic fertility and planktonic system dynamics and their response to the environmental drivers such as changes in nutrient dynamics. Luca’s results will be of value for developing and improving models of plankton and nutrients dynamics, which will ultimately be important for marine policy development, environmental management, particularly for the Prince Edward Islands, a South African Marine Protected Area (MPA), and for a well-developed ocean economy in the context of the Antarctic fisheries.

Luca’s project falls under the current SANAP Project: “A nitrogen cycle view of atmospheric CO2 sequestration in the Antarctic Ocean” (Principal Investigator: Dr SE Fawcett, University of Cape Town).

More about Daniela:

Daniela Monsanto is a young, vibrant researcher working in the Centre for Ecological Genomics and Wildlife Conservation at the University of Johannesburg. She completed her undergraduate and BSc (Hons) studies at UJ, majoring in Zoology and Biochemistry, and when not working on her MSc, is a passionate soccer player (provincial level).

Daniela has been involved in research on sub-Antarctic Marion Island for the past 3 years (her Honours project introduced her to the Southern Ocean jewels). She has a strong passion for her study area, and understanding how the changing climate impacts sub-Antarctic islands and the species inhabiting them. To this end, her Masters project aims to understand how individuals perceive their specific habitat matrix and how this matrix, and changes within it, might affect local movement (in essence, a landscape ecology/genetic approach). Her study organism is Cryptopygus antarcticus travei, a springtail endemic to the Prince Edward Islands. Her results uncovered complex genetic patterns at the scale of tens to hundreds of meters, with genetic discontinuities between sites separated by less than 20 meters. These complex spatial patterns are potentially driven by microhabitat preferences and/or local adaptations to a heterogeneous landscape across Marion Island. Daniela is taking her research a step further and is in the process of annotating the full genome of C. a. travei; once done, she will be able to identify regions that may be linked to adaptive genes/traits, and use this information to better understand genomic adaptations across different environmental gradients.

Daniela’s project falls under the current SANAP Project: “Biocomplexity: Understanding biological patterns in space and time” (Principal Investigator: Prof B van Vuuren, University of Johannesburg).


Authors: Anché Louw (Antarctic Legacy of South Africa), Luca Stirnimann (University of Cape Town) and Daniela Monsanto (University of Johannesburg), 10 July 2018.

Wednesday Women: Michelle Greve

Wednesday Women: Michelle Greve

I grew up in Hermannsburg, a small village in KwaZulu-Natal, which has a school, lots of space to roam and explore, and not much else. Growing up outdoors (and having a passionate biology-teacher-father) sparked my interest in the natural sciences – and I have had the privilege of pursuing a career in the field. I completed my undergraduate degree at Stellenbosch University.

In my third-year I saw an advert for a Marion Island-based honours project being advertised by a new lecturer in our department, Steven Chown. From a young age I had had the dream of visiting the island, so I had to apply for the honours position for the chance to visit the island! And visit the island I did – for a four-week take-over during my honours year. This was a seminal experience for me: I had never been to a place so remote, so wild, so volcanic (and so windy and cold)! Also, I got out of the year more than a visit to Marion Island; I was exposed the field of biogeography: the study of how biodiversity is distributed in space and time – a new interest developed for me.

 I continued pursuing an MSc and PhD in the biogeography of birds and plants in Africa: somewhat warmer and greener places (I completed these degrees in Stellenbosch and in Denmark respectively). Here I developed my second passion: savanna ecology. After taking up my position in the Plant and Soil Sciences Department at the University of Pretoria in 2013, I had a renewed opportunity to get involved in the sub-Antarctic sciences when I was awarded a SANAP grant.

            Much of the work that we have been doing on Marion Island deals with invasive species (especially plants) and what determines their distribution and success. Even though sub-Antarctic islands like Marion Island are some of the most isolated places on Earth, they have not been totally spared from human activities. Invasive species constitute one of the largest threats to the islands. These have mostly been introduced accidentally in e.g. building rubble, stuck in people’s shoes or the Velcro of their jackets, or in food supplies. Not all exotic species that have arrived at the islands have survived, but those that have, have often managed to spread and in some cases have had large negative impacts on the native species and ecosystem. Additionally, Marion Island is rapidly warming, and this is benefitting invasive species which are able to better survive under the mild conditions. How invasive species will be affected by climate change compared to native species forms a further particular interest. There is already some evidence of invasive species benefitting more than native species; but together with Prof Michael Cramer from UCT and Brad Ripley from Rhodes University, we are also studying how factors other than climate, e.g. soil characteristics, may limit the spread  of invasive species, even under climate change. (image below during The POLAR2018 symposium in Davos, Siwtzerland)

There are many things I enjoy about my career. I am always learning more, and by conducting research, I am also contributing to new knowledge. As an ecologist, I enjoy the opportunities to see wild places all over South Africa and beyond, to understand how they function, and to hopefully contribute to their protection and appropriate management. I have also met, and made friends with, many wonderful, kind and intelligent people through my work. I especially enjoy the interactions I get to have with students: it is rewarding to see them develop skills and self-confidence, and learning from them as people who possess different world views from me, have skills different to mine, and in many cases overtake me in their scientific skills and knowledge.

A research career is a varied and fulfilling career. Science can be used to make evidence-based decisions to improve society, and it accommodates many different ‘types’ of people: good writers, geeks, extroverts who can communicate science, teachers, modellers, outdoor-types, etc. A career in science will usually not make you very rich nor be without stress: it is competitive, often requires long hours and perseverance, and requires the scientist to excel at many different things and juggle several balls at once. However, the life of a scientist is interesting!” 


Text and Images : Michelle Greve

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