IntroductionThe Wilderness Trust is already acknowledged as a leader in the educational process thanks to innovative programmes that aim to educate the youth of Africa, inspiring and assisting them so that they can continue to preserve their magnificent natural heritage.
Coordinator: Dr Jennifer LalleyDr. Jennifer Lalley has worked in environmental conservation since the mid-1990s through research, consulting and academic lecturing with African, British and American institutions. Originally a recipient of Trust research funds, she joined the Trust as an advisor and then a Trustee in 2007.
BackgroundIn its continuing efforts to educate the youth of Africa, the Trust initiated the Education Bursaries Programme in 2006, funding bursaries for students at the post-graduate level in the wildlife and environmental fields. The first recipient, over 2006-7, was Gayle Pedersen who completed her Master’s thesis in late 2008.Enos Mngomezulu was the recipient of a bursary in 2008. With the funding he duly completed his studies in Natural Resource and Protected Area Management at the Southern African Wildlife College, passing with distinction. The overall aim was to have someone within the Makuleke community trained with the knowledge necessary to manage the resources of the Makuleke Concession in the Kruger National Park.In 2008, the project was expanded and more funding devoted to it so that more than one student per year could be assisted. It was decided that bursaries would be offered at the following universities in South Africa: University of the Witwatersrand, Pretoria University and University of Cape Town.
In addition, many of the Trust’s other projects are assisting researchers – whether directly or indirectly – in completing their MSc. or PhD. studies, so that the Trust is not only helping individuals with their continuing education but aids in the progress or completion of their research projects so that conservation in Africa as a whole benefits.
UpdateBursaries given for 2014
Sheila is employing three methods to assess the sustainability of the Olifants River through sampling the water and comparing it with legislated water standards; using the DPSIR model to see what pressures are being put on the river; and interviewing local people who are dependent on this fresh water resource.
University of Pretoria recipient: Carin Strauss
Carin looked into local and regional processes as determinants of millipede assemblages in coastal forests.In the study, she developed a framework for disentangling the relative importance of local and regional processes in generating millipede beta diversity along a successional and spatial gradient.
University of the Witwatersrand recipient: Renata Lawton-Misra, Honours student
The aim of Renata’s research was to determine the health and main uses of the Jukskei and Klein Jukskei Rivers in Alexandra Township and Bryanston (Johannesburg) respectively, and possible treatment and prevention solutions that could improve the water quality. It was determined that the Jukskei River water is of a poor quality, with high nutrient concentrations, and it should be treated, as the residents of the Township are dependent on it for personal use. The Klein Jukskei River water is of a better quality than the Jukskei River, however it also contains high nutrient concentrations and decreasing dissolved oxygen levels. The residents of Bryanston are not dependent on the river water, as it serves recreational purposes only.
Victor S. Samalumo, Higher Certificate, South African Wildlife College
The Trust sponsored Victor, hailing from Zambia, in his studies towards a Higher Certificate Course in Nature Conservation, Conservation Implementation and Leadership at Southern African Wildlife College in South Africa. The Southern African Wildlife College is one of the few institutions where people from across the Southern African Development Communities (SADC) spend time together while learning and sharing new ideas on the same subject: conservation of the environment. Victor’s first semester research report focused on devising a management plan for Chunga Area Management Unit.
Bobby Rakaru, Diploma in Nature Conservation, University of South Africa
Thanks to donations by Madeleine Delman-Cohen, Bobby has been studying for his Diploma in Nature Conservation through UNISA. So far, he has achieved excellent results.
Bursaries given for 2013
University of Cape Town recipient: Penelope Waller, MSc student
Penelope Waller is carrying out her Master’s degree in Environmental and Geographical Science at the University of Cape Town. Her research is entitled “Towards restoration strategies for Peninsula Shale Renosterveld: testing the effects of disturbance-intervention treatments on seed germination on Devil’s Peak, Cape Town.” In her first year, she has researched the background of 688 plant species and selected 31 key restorative species for an in-situ application of treatments, namely fire, tillage, herbicide, seeding and rodent exclosure. Results will shed light on best recovery measures for disturbed areas of this critically endangered ecosystem within the unique fynbos biome.
University of Pretoria recipient: Andrew Purdon, MSc student
Andrew Purdon is carrying out his Master’s degree in Zoology at the University of Pretoria. His research is entitled “Hair cortisol concentration as an index of chronic stress in mammals.” Andrew used a laboratory setting to examine how cortisol in a mammal’s hair reflects the level of cortisol (an indicator of stress) in the body. This study revealed that hair cortisol concentrations can be useful in measuring short-term stress in wild animals but it cannot be confidently used to measure the chronic stress that leads to decreased fitness in wildlife populations.
University of Witwatersrand recipient: Kelly Nesbitt, MSc student
Kelly Nesbitt is carrying out her Master’s degree in Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand. Her research is entitled “An investigation into pans in the Makuleke Concession, Northern Kruger, South Africa.” The research assesses biotope characteristics associated with aquatic macro-invertebrates in seven perennial pans of this important Ramsar Wetland Site.
Bursaries given for 2012
2011 saw bursaries given to Francis Buhle (Stellenbosch University), Maxine Whitfield (University of Pretoria), Rorisang Mokoena (University of Witwatersrand) and Jessica Kavonic (University of Cape Town).
Rorisang Mokoena studied the effect of monkey pests on subsistence farmers in rural South Africa. Her project considers the interaction between poverty and biodiversity, specifically subsistence farmers and primate pests. The results of this study can serve to better inform poverty alleviation and conservation strategies implemented in the rural areas of South Africa.
Maxine Whitfield’s Honours study looked at whether colour cue learning can improve selectivity and foraging efficiency in amethyst sunbirds (Chalcomitra amethystina), effectively adding to the evidence supporting the significance of learning within a foraging environment.
Jessica Kavonic’s research dealt with the effect of extreme rainfall events on soil infiltration and the potential effects on terrestrial ecosystems. Her study showed that precipitation is a major determinant for vegetation productivity in the Namaqualand region and that changing rainfall regimes could potentially lead to huge shifts in ecosystem functioning. The results of this study, the complex interactions and the multiple limitation of the study are key considerations for further studies on future climate change and ecosystem responses.
Francis Buhle completed her study investigating the influence of the invasive alien Opuntia fulgida on diversity, abundance of indigenous woody plants and soil nutrients, in south-western Zimbabwe. She found that Opuntia was indeed detrimental to ecosystems and the environment and proposed that Zimbabwe intervene either by using bio-controls or consider the economic benefits of the species as a way to manage it.
Bursaries given for 2010
In its continuing efforts to educate the youth of Africa, the Trust’s Education Bursaries Programme funds bursaries for students at the post-graduate level in the wildlife and environmental fields. In 2010, the Trust funded Buhle Francis in her M.Phil. degree on Environmental Economics.
Honours student Miranda Muller wrote a paper on “Using spatial distribution and leaf vegetation indices (VIs) of evergreen phreatophyte trees to identify potential sinkholes on dolomitic grasslands.” In this study, Muller looked at methods to map zones of likely sinkhole formation as by-products of mining, but also collected data during the dry season when plants without access to the phreatic zone (via developing sinkholes or other discontinuities) are predicted to show plant drought stress.
Kelly Nesbit completed her Honours in Geography. Her report subject was “The analysis of five Wild dog packs by the use of spatial techniques: Northern Botswana.” This paper attempts to quantify the space utilised by five wild dog packs in the northern Botswana region and assesses their movements according to natural and human-associated landscape features. The results yielded that there was a strong tendency towards natural boundaries creating barriers, namely river systems and the associated vegetation as well as extensive evidence to support denning periods through the notion of site fidelity.
Recipient Bakker Manuel attended and passed a B.Tech in Nature Conservation at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University for the 2010 academic year.
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