Prizes for best postgraduate talks

18 November 2014

Eighteen presentations in November by the Department of Biological Science's postgraduate students showcased some of the department's best research. It was the first postgraduate research day for the department, now almost two years old.

"It was truly impressive to see such high quality of work presented by our students," said head of department, Professor Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan. Prizes were awarded for the best MSc and PhD talks.

MSc candidate Jannes Landschoff won the prize for his talk, titled 'Insights into the brooding of a brittle star' (brittle stars are echinoderms, closely related to starfish), and Robert Skelton took the best PhD talk award for his topic, 'The remarkable diversity of fynbos hydraulic responses to drought'.

Landschoff CT-scanned several brittle stars and showed juveniles within brooding pouches (located between each of the brittle star's arms), which were miniatures of the adults. "There are no larval forms," Chinsamy-Turan explained. "Thus, these brittle stars give birth to live young (they are viviparous) that are miniatures of the adults."

Skelton's PhD found that different fynbos species display different 'hydraulic strategies': distinct reliance on summer rainfall, cloud moisture and different responses to summer drought. He used this knowledge to determine how vulnerable these plant communities are to potential long-term changes in environmental conditions.

Photographed here are (from left) Dr Adam West, Jannes Landschoff, Robert Skelton and Prof Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan.

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