Dr Desale Yosief Okubamichael
Research focus: Cycad Conservation
Former PCU Postdoc (2014-2016)
Collaborating Institution: South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI)
Telephone: +27 (0)794 522 770 (cell)
Desale was a post-doc at the Plant Conservation Unit from 2014-2016. He worked on a cycad conservation project that is jointly run by SANBI and the PCU. The project involved repeat photography, population demography, spatial pattern distribution and market values of cycads of South Africa. Please see each section below for more information on his qualifications, educational background and work experience. Desale is currently working on starting his own business.
PhD Plant Ecology, UKZN
MSc Plant Ecology (Cum Laude), UKZN
BSc Degree in Biology (Distinction), UOA
2010-2013 PhD, UKZN, South Africa
2008-2009 MSc, UKZN, South Africa
1999-2003 BSc, UOA, Eritrea
1996-1999 The Nuesan Yehwat Capuchini Secondary School, Eritrea
1993-1996 Adi Ugri Middle and Secondary School (St. George), Eritrea
1989-1993 Adi Ugri Elementary School, Eritrea
1988-1989 Adi Gawl Elementary School, Eritrea
Honors and awards
2010 Cum Laude Distinction for MSc, UKZN.
2008 Honorary mention in the poster competition for the age of under 35 (51st Annual symposium of the International Association for Vegetation Science (IAVS)), Stellenbosch, South Africa, 2008.
2003 Distinction award for BSc degree, UOA.
2002-2003 (semester II) Deans honors list with “excellent performance”, University of Asmara, UOA.
2001-2002 (semester I) Gustafson Award, University of Asmara, UOA.
2000-2001 (semester I) Deans honors list with “excellent performance”, University of Asmara, UOA
Computer and software skills
I have excellent computer skills and have extensive experience with several programs:
- Microsoft offices (Word, PowerPoint, Publisher, and Excel)
- Statistical packages (GenStat, R and SPSS)
- Scientific graphic programs (Sigma plot, Graphic pad and Analysis)
- Graphic software (Adobe Photoshop, U Lead Photo Express, XP Movie Maker and Print Master)
- Some experience in Web site designing and Networking as well as some hardware maintenance
I wrote my senior essay (final year research project) on Hamadryas Baboons of Eritrea, focusing on their survival mechanisms. In this study I collected a variety of behavioral and ecological data. I enjoyed the research and appreciated the opportunity to gain experience in both observation and data analysis. Thereafter, I worked for four years as a graduate assistant in the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology in the University of Asmara. I assisted with lectures, gave tutorials and led lab sessions for many courses. I was also involved in multi-national research projects.
In 2010, I completed my MSc in Plant Ecology at University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa, under the supervision of Prof. David Ward and Dr. Megan Griffiths. This research was focusing on host specificity in native mistletoes in two distinct mistletoe populations at Highover and Mtontwane (about 110 km apart) in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa and Pniel (near Kimberly). I investigated the distribution, abundance and community composition of woody species that host the mistletoe. I assessed the effect of light on germination and early survival of the mistletoes in a greenhouse experiment. I conducted field reciprocal transplant experiments at both sites to investigate the compatibility of these mistletoes with their hosts Acacia karroo and A. during early development. I then analysed the nutrient and water contents of the mistletoe-host pairs to investigate the role of nutrient and water status in directing host specificity in mistletoes as well as other potential host species. I further studied avian dispersal in the field and in captivity to investigate optimal dispersal distance and germination success, and evaluated their role in determining mistletoe host specificity.
I have completed my PhD in Plant Ecology at University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, under the supervision of Prof. David Ward and Dr. Megan Griffiths. I used a series of field and laboratory experiments to examine the features affecting host specificity in two families of mistletoes. In my research I quantified the mistletoe-host composition, nutrient and water content, and host physical features (height, diameter at breast height, twig size and mistletoe position in the canopy). I then tested mistletoe-host compatibility by conducting reciprocal transplant germination experiments in the field and in the greenhouse. To simulate the conditions encountered by mistletoes during the dry and cold South African winter, mistletoe seedlings were monitored at different levels of microclimate (light, moisture and temperature). I also studied the leaf stomata of mistletoe-host pairs using a scanning electron microscope to investigate the underlying mechanisms that enable mistletoes to maintain more negative water potentials than their host trees and at the same time control water loss.
During my MSc and PhD studies I demonstrated undergraduate classes: first year module, Biol 101 and 102 (Introduction to Biology), and I also demonstrated third year module Biol 303 (Population and Community Ecology).
List of publications that I involved in research project in Buia, Eritrea (to view the publications please see the link here: http://www.geo.unifi.it/ricerca/eritrea_online/index.html)
Delfino M., Segid A., Yosief D., Shoshani J., Rook L. & Libsekal Y. (2004) - Fossil reptiles from the Pleistocene Homo-bearing locality of Buia (Eritrea, northern Danakil Depression). Riv. Ital. Paleont. Strat., 110(supplement): 51–62, Milano.
Martini F., Libsekal Y., Filippi O., Ghebre/her A., Kashay H., Kiros A., Martino G., Okubatsion D., Segid A., Solomon T., Teka Z., Yosief D. & Yamane S. (2004) - Characterization of lithic complexes from Buia (Dandiero Basin, Danakil Depression, Eritrea). Riv. It. Paleont. Strat., 110 (supplement): 99–132, Milano.
Martínez-Navarro B., Rook L., Segid A., Yosieph D., Ferretti M.P., Shoshani J., Tecle T.M. & Libsekal Y. (2004) - The large fossil mammals from Buia (Eritrea): Systematics, Biochronology and Paleoenvironments. Riv. It. Paleont. Strat., 110 (supplement): 61– 88, Milano.
Desale Y. Okubamichael. 2009. Host specificity of the hemiparasitic mistletoe, Agelanthus natalitius. MSc thesis, submitted to School of Biological and Conservation Sciences, Faculty of Science and Agriculture, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, SA.
Desale Y. Okubamichael. 2012. Mistletoe host specificity in two families of mistletoes. PhD thesis, submitted for examination in the School of Life Sciences, College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, SA.
Desale Y. Okubamichael, M. Z. Rasheed, M. E. Griffiths & D. Ward. 2011. Avian consumption and seed germination of the hemiparasitic mistletoe Agelanthus natalitius (Loranthaceae). Journal of Ornithology 152: 643–649.
Desale Y. Okubamichael, M. E. Griffiths & D. Ward. 2011. Host specificity, nutrient and water dynamics of the mistletoe Viscum rotundifolium and its potential host species in the Kalahari of South Africa. Journal of Arid Environments, 75, 898–902.
Desale Y. Okubamichael, M. E. Griffiths & D. Ward. 2012. Reciprocal transplant experiment suggests host specificity of a mistletoe Agelanthus natalitius in South Africa. Provisionally accepted for publication by Journal of Tropical Ecology.
CONFERENCE CONTRIBUTIONS (Poster and oral presentations in pre-reviewed conference proceedings)
Host specificity and bird dispersal in the hemiparasitic mistletoe, Tapinanthus natalitius (Loranthaceae). Desale Y Okubamichael, Megan E Griffiths and David Ward. 7 – 12, September, 2008, 51st Annual symposium of the International Association for Vegetation Science (IAVS), Stellenbosch, South Africa.
Host specificity in a savanna mistletoe, Viscum rotundifolium (Viscaceae). Desale Y Okubamichael, Megan E Griffiths and David Ward. 20 – 24, July, 2009, 44th Annual Congress of the Grassland Society of Southern Africa (GSSA), UNISA Campus, Florida, Roodepoort, Gauteng.
Rooipoort mistletoes on the De Beers diamond route. Desale Y Okubamichael, Megan E Griffiths and David Ward. 9 – 10, November, 2010, 1st Annual Diamond route research conference, De Beers Johannesburg campus, Gauteng.
Host abundance can direct local host specificity in the hemiparasitic mistletoe, Tapinanthus natalitius (Loranthaceae). Desale Y. Okubamichael, M. E. Griffiths & D. Ward. 2009: University of KwaZulu-Natal Westville campus, Faculty of Science and Agriculture Postgraduate Research day.
Host specificity of mistletoes. Desale Y Okubamichael, Megan E Griffiths and David Ward. 19 – 23, July, 2012, 45th Annual congress Grassland Society of South Africa (GSSA), Kimberley, Northern Cape.
Viscum rotundifolium is very specific on Ziziphus mucronata in the Kimberley area. Desale Y. Okubamichael, Megan E. Griffiths and David Ward. 4th September, 2012, 9th Kimberley Biodiversity Research Symposium (KBRS), Kimberley, Northern Cape.
Do mistletoes close their stomata and respond to abscisic acid? Desale Y Okubamichael, Megan E Griffiths and David Ward. 17 – 19, October, 2012, Arid Zone Ecology Forum (AZEF), Worcester, Western Cape.