Botany and zoology union reflects trend

12 November 2012

Prof Anusuya Chinsamy-TuranTwo into one: Prof Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan heads up the newly-created Department of Biological Sciences.

Fauna and flora go hand in hand.

That's now also the case at UCT, following the merger of the Departments of Botany and Zoology into the new Department of Biological Sciences.

The move is in line with global trends in which the teaching and research of life sciences has moved out of the domain of specialist departments and is increasingly organised under umbrella departments or schools. Similarly, UCT's undergraduate biological science courses have been restructured to consolidate course content in such a way that it will give graduates a big-picture view of the critical environmental challenges facing Africa and the rest of the world, explains Professor Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan, who heads up the new department.

The historical organisation of biology into zoology and botany, as distinct and separate disciplines, is now deemed artificial, says Chinsamy-Turan.

"The modern biologist needs to have a multifaceted platform on which to build specialist skills. The merger of the two departments will therefore assist in efforts to equip graduates to develop specialist skills."

In practice, much of this has been happening already, she explains. Relevant new courses and majors were already being shared by both departments.

"Biologists around the world are increasingly being expected to confront the challenges that society faces, including climate change, pollution, conservation of biodiversity, overexploitation of natural resources and human-wildlife conflicts. Tackling these issues requires a global and systems approach, rather than a taxon-centred approach."

The merger will encourage collaboration between academics and researchers with specialist interests and will enable relevant training for the next generation of biologists, Chinsamy-Turan says.

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