PCU attends 11th Annual Science Postgraduate Symposium

1 Oct 2018 - 08:00

On 10 September 2018, the Science Postgraduate Students Council (SPSC) and the Faculty of Science Committee on Postgraduate Affairs (FSCPA) hosted the 11th Annual Science Symposium titled, ‘Communicate to Collaborate: Reaching scientists across all disciplines at the University of Cape Town (UCT)'. For the first time in the symposium’s history students from Stellenbosch University (SU) were invited to contend in the event.

The symposium was centred on cultivating an event that would encourage interactions between scientists from a diversity of disciplines to enable networking and potential future collaborations. The idea to create an interdisciplinary meeting was borne out of the SPSCs and FSCPAs recognition that in science it is becoming increasingly urgent to integrate and exchange knowledge of natural systems to address pressing questions in society. The hosts of the event also expressed an interest in fostering a sense of community among postgraduate students between UCT and SU Faculties of Science to form future alliances across both universities. Professor Louise Warnich, Dean of Science at SU, opened and welcomed the students and audience, and Professor Resia Pretorius from the Department of Physiological Science at SU delivered the keynote address titled, ‘Making the world a better place: Science in action’. Professor Susan Bourne, Dean of Science at UCT, gave the closing address, and thanked the SU and UCT contributors for ensuring it was the first of many interdisciplinary successful events to come.

Glynis Humphrey (left) presenting on her research and (middle) during the discussion session; Ruan De Wet (right) presenting on his research. Photo credit: Samantha Venter.

Ruan De Wet, an M.Sc. candidate supervised by A/Prof Adam West and Prof Chris Harris presented a talk titled, ‘The stories in our taps: Using stable tap water isotopes for water resource management'. His talk focused on the challenges to sustainable water management that are currently faced in South Africa and how these could be addressed using stable tap water isotopes. He outlined how improved methods for tap water sampling and isotope analysis that were used for his M.Sc. research allow for the efficient monitoring of national water resources and suggested how the operationalising of these approaches could provide insights to changes in the natural and managed hydrological systems. The outcome of his talk was the highlighting of the need for improved resource monitoring and how technological advances could facilitate this in the future.

Glynis Humphrey, a Ph.D. candidate at the Plant Conservation Unit supervised by A/Prof Lindsey Gillson, presented her research in a talk titled, 'Connecting "Savanna-woodland Societies" across diverse fire knowledge and governance scales in north-east Namibia’. She showed the value of integrating the knowledge of historical and current uses of fire among the Khwe-San, former nomadic hunter-gatherers, and Mbukushu people (agriculturalists), alongside Namibian government and non-government stakeholders to address fire management policies, livelihoods, and conservation in Bwabwata National Park. The outcome of her talk was about the importance of communication between disparate cultural groups, respect for diverse knowledge systems, and governance structures for improving livelihoods and adapting fire management strategies for the future where politics, history and ecology intersect.

The Postgrad Symposium team (left) together with some of the attendees and presenters (right). Photo credit: Katherine Wilson.

Great appreciation is extended to the hosts, SPSC and FSCPA, and the sponsors of the event which included the Faculty of Science at UCT, SU, Celtic Molecular Diagnostics, Ascendis Medical, Merck and Labotec. The lunchtime break provided a conversational opportunity for the students to mingle, relax and discuss their research and interests. Overall, Glynis and Ruan thought it was fantastic to participate in an interdisciplinary environment at UCT and meet fellow students from across the bay, from SU!

~ Article provided by Glynis Humphrey and Ruan De Wet