Welcome Gina Arena
We would like to give a warm welcome to Gina Arena who has recently joined us as a PhD Candidate in rangeland ecology under the co-supervision of Prof. Timm Hoffman (PCU), Helga van der Merwe (SAEON and PCU Honorary Research Associate) and Tim O’Connor (SAEON). Gina's research will focus on the long-term vegetation change on rangelands influenced by historical and current land use practices and climate change in the Eastern Cape’s Nama Karoo-Grasslands biome interface.
Born and raised in Johannesburg, Gina completed her BSc in Ecology and Conservation at the University of the Witwatersrand before she went on to do an Honours in Freshwater Ecology. For her Honours project, she constructed and tested a bioassay method of assessing levels of nutrient limitation in two tributaries of the Komati and Elands rivers in Mpumalanga, South Africa. During her Honours year she was selected to attend the Organization of Tropical Studies (OTS) programme in South Africa where her interest in ecology and passion for conservation deepened. She went on to complete a Masters dissertation on the pollination biology and microhabitat suitability of an Endangered species, Aloe peglerae, endemic to the Magaliesberg Mountain range, from which two papers have been published. Gina spread her wings thereafter, and lived and travelled abroad in North America for two years. She returned to South Africa in 2015 to pursue a career in ecology and conservation. In 2016, Gina completed a one year internship through the NRF/DST Internship programme, hosted by SAEON’s Arid Lands Node, where she worked in the Karoo at a long-term ecological research facility, Tierberg-LTER. Through this internship she has gained several new skills in plant identification and vegetation surveys, facilitated environmental education activities for school children, presented at conferences from which three papers were produced, and assisted with ongoing research activities for the research facility and the Wolwekraal Nature Reserve. It was through her exposure to the Karoo landscape, environment and its people that birthed a passion to continue her research in the Karoo to help contribute towards protecting and conserving it as it faces various future large-scale developments.