SAAB Webinar Recordings – 2021

Tenth Webinar: 11 November 2021

Prof. Stephen Keller: Can genomics predict population vulnerability to maladaptation under environmental change? Concepts, case studies, and cautions

About the speaker: Prof. Stephen R. Keller

Steve got his B.S. from Juniata College in Pennsylvania (USA) before working as a biologist for the National Park Service in Colorado. From there, he ventured northward to do a master’s in biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks with Kent Schwaegerle, where he studied breeding system evolution in arctic-alpine plants. Steve got his Ph.D. at the University of Virginia with Doug Taylor on the population genetics of invasive species, followed by postdoc research at the University of Minnesota in Peter Tiffin’s lab working on population genomics in Populus. After three years (2011-2014) on the faculty at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Steve joined the Department of Plant Biology at the University of Vermont.

His lab researches the interaction between genomic variation in natural populations and environmental change, focusing on how human impacts on the environment, such as climate change and biological invasions, can abruptly alter both the genetic and ecological context within which species evolve. His primary study is on the genetics of forest trees and invasive plants.

Ninth Webinar: 20 October 2021

Prof. Florian Schiestl: The role of biotic interactions in plant evolutionary divergence

About the Speaker: Prof. Florian Schiestl

Prof Florian Schiestl, a Professor in Ecology at University of Zurich, is a leading researcher of ecological and evolutionary questions on plant-pollinator interactions, specifically on pollinator-driven speciation, deceptive pollination systems (where pollinators are “tricked” into visiting flowers without being given a reward) and the chemistry of floral scent. Having completed his masters and doctorate degrees in evolutionary biology at the University of Vienna in 1999, he teaches plant diversity and species interactions (particularly pollination and floral biology), has given 23 invited talks for conferences and workshops, and 58 guest seminars at universities around the world. Prof Schiestl has served on the editorial board of Oecologia for 6 years and is currently on the editorial boards for Communicative and Integrative Biology, and Frontiers of Ecology and Evolution. He has supervised 15 Masters and 13 PhD projects, with 5 more PhD candidates busy with research at the moment.

With an H-index of 57 and an astounding i10-index of 104, Prof Schiestl has attained a leading role in research on the evolution of floral scent on the global stage. His work on pollination and sexual deception of orchids has been published in Science, Nature, Ecology Letters, Evolution and other highly acclaimed scientific journal with an accumulative 9357 citations to date. Feel free to explore more of Prof Schiestl’s research interests at the following link:

Eight Webinar: 15 September 2021

Prof. Jannice Friedman: Ecological genetics of reproductive variation in plants:  the seed to succeed across spatial scales

About the speaker: Prof. Jannice Friedman

Dr Jannice Friedman is an Associate Professor of Evolutionary Biology at Queens University in Ontario, Canada. Jannice obtained her PhD at the University of Toronto in 2009, working with Spencer Barrett, and did a postdoc at Duke University with John Willis. Her research interests are focused on understanding the maintenance of phenotypic evolution and adaptation, mostly in the context of plant reproduction and life history strategies. Jannice also offers courses in Evolution and Evolutionary Genetics at Queens University.

Seventh Webinar: 18 August 2021

Dr. Kelsey Glennon: Drakensberg confetti: what drives flower colour variation in a mountain endemic?

About the speaker: Dr Kelsey Glennon

Dr Kelsey Glennon is a Senior Lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand. Her research interests include plant speciation processes, notably polyploidy and hybridization. Her lab group also explores the role of chromosome evolution and flower colour evolution in the Star Grasses (Hypoxidaceae). She obtained her PhD from The George Washington University, Washington, D.C. She teaches courses on Molecular Ecology, Evolution, and Current Topics in Evolutionary Biology at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Her specific research interests include the role of polyploidy in the speciation and evolution of the Drakensberg plant genus, Rhodohypoxis and the reproductive ecology and population genetics of the African baobab (Adansonia digitata). She has also been involved in research on the genetic diversity, population structure, and polyploid nature of certain invasive plants.


Sixth Webinar: 23 June 2021

Prof. Jake M. Alexander: Plant range expansions in mountains

About the speaker: Prof. Jake M. Alexander

Jake Alexander is Professor of Plant Ecology at ETH Zürich, Switzerland. He is fascinated by the ecological and evolutionary processes that determine species’ distribution limits, and what drives species’ redistributions in response to environmental change. Work in the Plant Ecology group combines experiments with observations across environmental gradients, asking how biotic interactions influence the responses of species and ecosystems to climate change, and what limits the spread and impacts of invasive species.


Fifth Webinar: 26 May 2021

Prof. Şerban Procheş: Global plant geography: Diversity patterns, kingdoms and biomes

(Talk starts at 4:50)

About the Speaker: Prof. Şerban Procheş

Şerban Procheş is Professor of Biogeography at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Westville Campus. He hails from Bucharest, Romania, where he did his undergraduate and Masters studies, following on with a PhD at UKZN.  Prof Procheş is particularly interested in ecological and evolutionary drivers of biogeography. He has explored such patterns across different taxa for South Africa with a special interest in the Cape Flora, but has also included other regions, both locally and globally. He has also published conceptual and applied research dealing with alien invasive plants. 


Fourth Webinar 21 April 2021

Prof RJ Scholes: Taking an ecosystems view


Third Webinar 17 February

SAAB Best Young Scientist Awardee 2020: Zaynab Shaik

About the speaker: Zaynab Shaik

Zaynab Shaik won the ‘Best Young Botanist’ award at the 46th Annual SAAB conference at University of the Free State, QwaQwa Campus in January 2020 for her presentation about adding molecular data to the problem of species delimitation in plants. This follows on from her award for the Best MSc oral presentation (in systematics) at the 45th Annual SAAB, AMA and SASSB Joint congress in 2019. Her MSc was on ‘Species delimitation and speciation process in the slangbos, the Seriphium plumosum L. complex (Gnaphalieae, Asteraceae) in South Africa’, wherein she explored the hypothesis that this widespread, variable species houses multiple independent lineages. She applied an integrative taxonomic approach, combining evidence from next-gen sequencing, morphology, ecology and geographic distribution.  Zaynab’s main interests are in plant molecular phylogenetics and systematics. She studied at UCT to Masters level, followed by an internship at SANBI Kirstenbosch. Zaynab is currently a junior lecturer in plant genomics at the University of Stellenbosch, and her PhD is based at Gothenburg University, Sweden, under the supervision of Prof. Bengt Oxelman (GU), Prof Tony Verboom (UCT) and Dr. Nicola Bergh (SANBI).


Second Webinar 27 January 2021:

SAAB Silver medalist webinar: Prof Timm Hoffman

About the Speaker: Prof. Timm Hoffman- SAAB Silver medalist 2020

Timm Hoffman holds the Leslie Hill Chair in Plant Conservation in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Cape Town. After completing his PhD at UCT in 1989 he spent a post-doc at the Jornada Long Term Ecological Research program in New Mexico, USA before joining the South African National Biodiversity Institute in 1991. He led a national review of land degradation in South Africa which was published as a co-authored book in 2000. He has been at UCT since 2001 where he is the Director of the Plant Conservation Unit. Timm is interested in how southern African environments have changed over time primarily in response to land use and climate. He has a special interest in the arid parts of southern Africa and uses repeat photography to understand the nature, extent and rate of long-term vegetation change in the region. He takes an interdisciplinary approach to the study of environmental change and includes elements from the historical, anthropological and social sciences in his research. In recognition of the interdisciplinary nature of his contributions, especially in the communal areas of Namaqualand, Timm was the recipient of the WWF Living Planet Award in 2020. He also received the SAAB 2021 Silver Medal Award for his research and other contributions to the advancement of botany in South Africa. Further details about his research and teaching interests can be found at:


First Webinar 20 January 2021:

SAAB Bronze medalist webinar: Dr Blair Cowie

About the speaker: Dr. Blair Cowie – SAAB Bronze Medalist 2020

Dr Blair Cowie

Dr. Blair Cowie, our SAAB Bronze Medal winner for 2021, undertook his PhD studies at the University of the Witwatersrand from 2017 to 2020 under the supervision of Professors Ed Witkowski and Marcus Byrne.  The focus of his study was the noxious “famine weed” Parthenium hysterophorus,one of South Africa’s most damaging invasive weeds, which threatens food security, our native biodiversity and hence human livelihoods and well-being. All of Blair’s undergraduate and postgraduate years were spent at Wits, where he developed a reputation for being an outstanding student. During his postgraduate years of study, Blair worked on a range of invasive alien plants in South Africa (Eichhornia crassipes, Lantana camara, Opuntia spp., Solanum mauritianum) – contributing to an understanding of their invasive ecology and assessing control programmes for them. Blair has also contributed to policy developing an integrated management strategy for the control of Solanum mauritianum (bugweed) in South Africa, and already published 12 articles in international journals and presented his work at many conferences, both local and international. Blair has also co-supervised two Honours students and helped numerous others during his time at Wits.  He is currently a Post-Doctoral Researcher at the Centre for Biological Control in the Department of Zoology and Entomology at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, where he is continuing his work on invasive alien plants, namely the biological control of Mesquite (Prosopis spp.).