I began my MSc degree in Arid Zone Ecology in February 2016 at the University of Cape Town. My current research interests are (broadly) plant community ecology, vegetation dynamics, and conservation biology. I am based at the Plant Conservation Unit – a research group within the Department of Biological Sciences at UCT.

During my Honours year I made sure to explore both zoology- and botany-oriented projects. I ended up looking at context-specificity in acoustic social communication in Geoffrey’s horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus clivosus) with the Animal Evolution and Systematics Group, and then working with my current supervisor on a repeat ground photography study of vegetation change in the Tanqua Karoo (with the Plant Conservation Unit).

My Masters research forms part of a larger group of projects coordinated and funded by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) called the Karoo BioGaps Project, which broadly aims to address the biodiversity information gaps in the Karoo region of South Africa, to inform more effective conservation. My role in this is to evaluate critical habitats (for flora), through conducting an environmental gradient analysis of the dolerite ‘koppies’ in the Upper Karoo Hardeveld vegetation unit in the Nama-karoo and Succulent karoo biomes. I will assess how plant species richness, diversity and growth forms (among a whole bunch of other ecological variables) change as one moves from the arid western reaches (around Sutherland, Williston, etc. in the Northern Cape) to the more mesic east (around Middelburg in the Eastern Cape). All of my study sites are located within the Shale Gas Exploration area, and will hopefully inform and serve as a baseline for subsequent ecological studies in the region.

The aim of this blog (if I manage to update it regularly) is mainly to document my journey through my MSc and to share my ideas and thoughts as a scientist with the broader scientific community, through a far less scrutinized platform.