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Master’s students (from left) Willem Matthee, Aneri Vlok, Tatenda Mapeto, Taniia Strauss, Kate Southey, Albert Ackhurst, Hannes van Zyl and Barry Muller celebrate their success after graduating with MSc and MTech research degrees from NMMU George Campus.

A 10% growth in graduates at both postgraduate and undergraduate level, and a 44% increase (compared to 2014) in the number of qualifications gained with distinction, was cause for celebration at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s recent graduation ceremony in George.

Master of Technology degrees awarded in the Faculty of Science (George Campus) focused on research in the areas of agriculture, forestry and nature conservation, while Master of Science degrees were awarded for research in the areas of botany and zoology.

“NMMU George is poised for significant growth at postgraduate level. While the number of postgraduate degrees awarded from George Campus this year had doubled since 2014, the quality of academic mentorship/leadership is evident in the excellent graduate outcomes, with half of the postgraduate degrees being attained Cum Laude” says Prof Jos Louw, Director of the School of Natural Resource Management.

“Furthermore, we take pride in the fact that the School of Natural Resource Management continues to contribute competent graduates at National Diploma level. This year the Science Faculty programmes offered at NMMU George rendered a record number of BTech graduates for various niche sectors such as agricultural management, game ranch management, nature conservation, wood technology and forestry”, said Prof Louw.

Excellence in Forestry

The prestigious industry accolade for excellence in forestry – the Schlich Medal, Gold – was again awarded to a graduate from the NMMU George Campus, Ms Noxolo Ndlovu, who completed her National Diploma in Forestry Cum Laude, with an average of more than 80% annually for the duration of the three year qualification. Noxolo is currently registered for the BTech Forestry degree at NMMU.

Noxolo

Prof Quinton Johnson, NMMU George Campus Principal, Noxolo Ndlovu (recipient of the Schlich medal, Gold) and Prof Jos Louw, Director of the School of Natural Resource Management.

Recent Masters research at NMMU

  • Hannes van Zyl, MTech Forestry (Research) Cum Laude, developed a set of equations quantifying the biomass of different tree components (stemwood, bark, branches and needles) under various site conditions, ranging from poor to fast growing. The nutrient content of these components was also investigated. These models can be used by planners to evaluate the viability of utilising Pinus radiata biomass for bioenergy (a cleaner source of energy). This will help to address the current energy shortfall experienced in South Africa and create new employment opportunities, while ensuring environmental sustainability. The title of Van Zyl’s dissertation is ‘Biomass potential and nutrient export of mature Pinus radiata in the Southern Cape region of South Africa’. Supervisors: Dr S Dovey and Andrew McEwan.
  • Albert Ackhurst, MTech Forestry (Research), invented a novel method and device for the determination of soil organic carbon (SOC) levels. The study found that RIFT was as effective as, but even more stable than current reference methods and if tested more widely and adopted, will lead to a method that is cheaper, less energy dependent, faster and safer. The method has the potential to drastically reduce the cost of soil carbon determination for carbon sequestration projects and general agricultural purposes.
  • Tatenda Mapeto, MTech Forestry (Research) Cum Laude investigated annual single-tree water use and water-use efficiencies (biomass gained per litre of water transpired) of important indigenous forestry species (Yellowwood, Stinkwood and Cape Holly) and a commercial, introduced species (Cape Pine) in the southern Cape region. This is in the context of a water-scarce South Africa, where the impacts of various land uses on water resources have become a key factor influencing allocation. The exploratory study set a platform for developing further insights on the interactions between environmental variables that express moisture and energy availability, tree water use and water balance. These concepts influence management approaches for developing water use efficient tree production systems.
  • Barry Muller, MTech Forestry (Research), studied wood property variation in Pinus patula from different physiographic sites, the interrelationship between wood properties and the effects of some forest site factors on wood properties and their within-tree variation. The wood properties considered were density, transverse shrinkage, grain angle and stiffness (modulus of elasticity). The key finding of the study was that the effect of radial distance from the pith (i.e. the age of the tree) was highly significant and accounted for most of the variation of the trees sampled. Regression models were also developed to predict wood density and grain angle from growth variables. The results show that those wood properties that correlate with geographic representable site variables can be included in site classification and evaluation systems, to assist in predicting growth in terms of volume yield and wood quality.
  • Willem Matthee, MSc (Research – Botany) Cum Laude, evaluated the success of various methods commonly used in Karoo vegetation rehabilitation through field surveys and experimental trials. The factors that have the greatest influence on the degree of success achieved with vegetation rehabilitation in the Karoo, an unpredictable and unforgiving environment, were determined. The results obtained will help landowners increase the likelihood of successfully rehabilitating degraded areas on their properties, and save costs in the process.
  • Wim Troosters, MTech Agriculture (Research) Cum Laude from Belgium had volunteered as rural development co-ordinator in various parts of South Africa for 15 years. He helped to set up an award-winning sustainable community investment programme in southern KwaZulu-Natal. He identified five factors which prevent small scale farmers from accessing markets, and by removing these constraints, the Siyavuna Development Centre was able to help smallholder farmers to grow and make money from organic vegetables. This work formed the basis of his Master of Technology study titled: ‘Demand driven rural agricultural development in South Africa: the case of the Agricultural Community Investment Programme’.
  • The study of Kate Southey, MSc (Research – Zoology) focused on ‘Approaches in the prioritization of areas for biodiversity conservation: a case study from the Western Cape of South Africa’. Supervisors: Prof Graham Kerley and Prof Christo Fabricius, who heads up NMMU’s Sustainability Research Institute located at the George Campus.
  • The study of Abigail Crisp, Mtech Nature Conservation (Research) investigated ‘Development role players’ knowledge of ecological infrastructure in Eden district, South Africa’. Supervisors: Prof Christo Fabricius and Prof Dirk Roux.
  • The study of Taniia Strauss, Mtech Nature Conservation (Research) Cum Laude was titled ‘Cape mountain zebra (equus zebra zebra) habitat use and diet in the Bontebok National Park, South Africa. Supervisor: Prof Laurence Watson. 
  • The study of Aneri Roos, MSc (Research – Botany) was titled ‘Perspective of stakeholders on engagement around benefits and use of the Wilderness and Swartvlei lakes. Supervisors: Prof JB Adams and Prof Dirk Roux.


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