Zoology students sweep the board

01 August 2005

The folks at the Small Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) in the Department of Zoology make a point of being an ambitious but down-to-earth lot.

But they can be forgiven a few airs after their performance at the June conference of the Zoological Society of South Africa (ZSSA), hosted by Rhodes University as part of the university's centenary. In addition to the honour of having zoology's Professors Charles Griffiths and John Field (who also won the ZSSA's Gold Medal) deliver plenary lectures and seeing many of their other zoology colleagues on the speakers list, all but a few of SMRU's staff and postgraduate contingent also took to the podium at the conference, held every second year.

And then of course there were the spoils. Samantha Stoffberg of the unit's bat group walked away with two of the three prizes on offer. She won the award for best oral presentation by a student in the physiology/genetics category and for best overall presentation by a student for her paper, The Evolution of Echolocation in the Bat Genus Rhinolophus. Corrie Schoeman, also of the bat group, was runner-up in the ecology and evolution category for his paper The Distribution Range of Rhinolophus Clivosus in Africa may be the Result of an Adaptive Shift to an Alternative Prey Type and not a Consequence of its Niche Breadth. Finally, Erin Tuomi, of the mole-rat group, was runner-up in the physiology/genetics category for her paper Sex Under the City: Reproductive Suppression in Female Naked Mole-Rats.

Not bad given that there were some 100 postgraduates at the conference, reports the unit's director, Associate Professor David Jacobs. "This was a phenomenal year for UCT at the conference," he said.

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