Back row: Sinethemba Mabone (WESSA Beach Stewards) and Siphelele Dyantyi.
There is a global shift towards making research findings freely available to society, through what is called ‘Open Access’. This approach is recognised for making research results more accessible as well as contributing to better and more relevant science in the public sphere. Scientific research often helps to answer some of society’s most significant challenges, and not all scientists convey their research findings to society. When they do, the outcome of scientific studies is often only published in peer-reviewed journals, which most citizens never see. A student registered at Rhodes University, supervised by the South African Institute of Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB), Siphelele Dyantyi has demonstrated that effective cooperation between science and society is an achievable goal. He has taken up the Responsible Research and Innovation (#RRI)’s objective of ‘Science with and for Society’ through reporting the results from his master’s research project to the community of Ndlambe Municipality, in Port Alfred.
Dyantyi presentation focused on how marine invertebrate larvae (babies) are transported from the ocean to the rocky shores on the Kenton-on-Sea and Cannon Rocks coastlines. His presentation attracted members of the public and conservation awareness personnel working along this coastline. Dyantyi’s research found that adult larval populations along the south coast receive different numbers of larvae (babies) depending on where they are located geographically. “Such differences need to be considered and investigated more closely through long-term monitoring efforts. This consideration would be to determine the regional role of this dominant shore species and the necessary conservation needs should there be any to take place to maintain a healthy coastline,” he said.
Dyantyi spoke about the importance of sharing this information with the Ndlambe Municipality. “Sharing knowledge with the public will increase awareness of how marine ecosystems work,” he said, explaining that his results are adding to the already existing South African literature about marine mussels on the south-east coast. “Engaging with the community creates a mutual benefit as both scientists/researchers and community members can learn from each other. Researchers can learn the indigenous knowledge from the community, and the community can learn from scientific knowledge about coastal environments,” said Dyantyi.
Such initiatives make science more attractive to society and increase society’s appetite for science, conservation and protection of our natural heritage and resources. Dyantyi shared sentiments that “General awareness through education and outreach is important as the community of Port Alfred will place a value on and respect the environment, ultimately leading to better care of the coastal ecosystem in their region.”
Four beach stewards from the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) were part of the audience and shared pleasant sentiments about Dyantyi’s presentation as it links to their work of environmental education and awareness projects in the Ndlambe Municipality. One of the beach stewards said, “I was happy that Kenton was one of the sites that Dyantyi researched on as it is where some of our colleagues are stationed; therefore, they will benefit from this knowledge. I think that presentations like these should continue as they are very educational.” This opinion demonstrates that such engagement efforts become spaces to share knowledge, this positively affects society, and the decisions people make in everyday interaction with nature and its habitats. As one beach steward expressed, “I learned a lot, I never knew that there were larvae in our oceans, and this attracted my mind.”