SAAB Student Council 2015

The 2015 office bearers were as follows:

Genevieve Theron – President Genevieve

I grew up in Mossel Bay where the sea and the mountains are ones playground. My parents have always been passionate about camping, hiking and just the outdoors in general and this was definitely passed on to me as a child. My love for science and evolutionary biology in particular on developed later in life where it was nurtured at Stellenbosch University during my undergrad degree in Biodiversity and ecology.

I have just completed my honours at Stellenbosch University with Bruce Anderson and am planning on starting an NRF internship in Botany at Stellenbosch

University later this year. The focus of my honours thesis was the geographic variation in size of Babiana ringens plants. I am very passionate about plant-animal interaction and especially the reasons why these may have come about. I wish to start my Masters degree on the relationship of pollination and scent once my internship is complete in 2016.

During my time as the student council president I hope to facilitate the communication between botanists and like-minded people. I would like to do this in the hopes that this will inspire further collaboration and new exciting research topics in the future.

Andria Rautenbach – Vice Presidentandria rautenbach

I am currently doing my final year Masters in Botany at Stellenbosch University. The focus of my thesis is medicinal plant research, as I am passionate about innovation and contributing to society in the health sector especially (in this case developing a safe adjunct remedy to treat cancer). I love nature, expanding my scientific knowledge and undergoing new experiences. I also enjoy meeting new people and networking and thus I strongly feel we need more activities and interaction among students from SAAB.


Emma Mostert – Secretary

Originally from East London, I didn’t have to travel far to Emma Mostertreach Rhodes University where I’ve spent the last four years discovering how cool the province that I’ve always called home really is (Don’t believe me? Check out “East of the Cape” by Cowling and Pierce). While I originally wanted to be a Zoologist I soon realised that my real passion lay with plant-animal interactions, particularly pollination biology, and how these interactions may have evolved. I’m currently undertaking my first year of Masters under the supervision of Prof. Craig Peter and Dr. Susi Vetter, looking at the reproductive biology and general ecology of Oldenburgia grandis, a tree Asteraceae and rare Eastern Cape endemic. I am excited to serve as student secretary as I would ultimately like to work in Science Media and I am hopeful that the skills I will learn during my tenure this year will be useful towards this end.

Devashan Naidoo – Treasurer

I’m Devashan Naidoo, the current treasurer of the SAAB student council. I’m a final year PhD candidate at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and my work focuses on the medicinal importance of members of the Amaryllidaceae in South Africa. Some aspects which I am interested in is the elicitation and production of medicinally important alkaloids in suspension cultures, which combines biotechnological and ethnobotanical techniques, two fields becoming increasingly popular in South Africa. It’s ironic that I’d previously had little fascination for plants, but after being introduced to the field by my supervisor Prof Jeffrey Finnie, it’s become a passion. SAAB and its annual conference is another avenue for young scientists to be exposed to the vastness that is botany in South Africa. As such, I am proud to be a representative of the University of KwaZulu-Natal and also the treasurer of the student council, and wish to inspire the next generation of botanists.

Student Representatives

Corné Niemandt – University of Pretoriacorne niemandt

I am Corné Niemandt, a MSc candidate at the Department of Plant Science, University of Pretoria. My research focuses on anthropogenic impacts on the critically endangered Woodbush Granite Grasslands which is currently the most threatened vegetation unit in Limpopo province with no protection status. To my knowledge it is the most transformed grassland unit in the country, with less than 10% in a natural state. Applying habitat fragmentation theory we investigated the degree to which the grassland has changed over a 60 year period, characterising the landscape structure by assessing various patch characteristics and investigating the impacts of habitat fragmentation on biodiversity as well as ecosystem functioning. My research interests extend to conservation biology, restoration ecology and biodiversity management. I also believe in environmental education for school learners and the general public as well as community development. My interests include outdoor activities such as hiking and camping, travelling, reading, running and volley ball. I believe in living a balanced life, spending time with friends and family and enjoying life to its fullest.

DSC03496Andre Patrick Tiawoun – University of Venda

My name is Andre Patrick Tiawoun. I am currently completing my Masters in Botany at the University of Venda. The title of my research thesis is “Improved reproduction towards the conservation of Securidaca longepedunculata in the Nylsvley Nature Reserve, Limpopo Province, South Africa”. My research interests extend to conservation biology, biodiversity management, the sustainable use of natural resources, impacts of climate change and ecological restoration. I am English and French speaking. My hobbies include playing soccer and volley-ball. I enjoyed travelling and meeting new people, so as to exchange cultural values learnt from people of different ethnic background and outdoors research is my passion. The willingness to learn and teach others is one of my key principles. My motivation for being part of the student council came after attending this year, the 41st annual SAAB Conference held in Venda and I believed that being a student council will equip me with more skills. The conference was an eye opener for me and would help me to contributing to the success of such gathering of young and up-coming group of scholars.

Blessing Mdaka – University of LimpopoWP_20140405_028

My name is Blessing Mdaka, currently a 2nd year Masters student at the University of Limpopo in the department of Biodiversity (Botany). My research focuses on the use of plant secondary products to alleviate gas emissions by ruminants. This is also a way of substantially reducing biogenic methane gas emission as livestock production contributes large amounts of the greenhouse gas (methane). As the demand for food increases due to population growth, there is a need for the agricultural livestock industry to develop good farming practices with less impact to the environment. If biogenic contributors to climate change are decreased on a global scale, one of the major drivers of global warming will be decreased. The research has enabled me to embrace my passion for phytochemistry, environmental awareness and protecting our biodiversity, tackling issues such as the impacts of global warming and food security. Its a great honour to be part of the SAAB student council, after a very great conference was hosted by the University of Venda. I live by the simple but great words of Sophocles “always desire to learn something useful”.