UCT students scoop top botany awards

10 August 2007 | Story by Myolisi Gophe

Four students in the Department of Botany, Julia Wakeling, Diane Southey, Ryan Blanchard and Heidi Hawkins, have scooped accolades at two different congresses recently.

Southey and Hawkins were named as the best student and winner of the best talk, respectively, at the Fynbos Forum held in Langebaan last week. Ryan Blanchard won an award for the best poster.

Southey is working on the factors that determine wildfires in the Western Cape, an important topic considering the spate of wild fynbos fires in recent years. Hawkins, who is working on her postdoc, is looking at how proteas distribute water from deep in the soil to shallow soil layers, creating moister conditions for smaller shrubs and Cape reeds. Ryan Blanchard is looking at options for restoring fynbos after invasion by alien plants.

Their accolades followed that of Wakeling, who was chosen as the best student at the congress of the Grasslands Society of Southern Africa in Grahamstown in July.

Wakeling is working on Why There are no Savannah Trees in High-Lying Areas of South Africa, using novel experimental approaches to an old ecological question in South Africa.

Southey and Wakeling are both supervised by Professor William Bond. “The awards reflect well on graduate training being done at UCT,” he commented.

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