April 2013
Contents / home
This viral ad may be contagious
A new sea view
75 years of coelacanth research
Sell your science at FameLab
Young science communicators show their mettle
Brazil nuts, bees and orchids
Winning design powers aeroplane
Journalists and scientists meet
Brainstorming solutions for tomorrow
Meet Sibongile Mokoena
SAIAB at Scifest Africa
A world in one cubic foot
Biodiversity Youth Symposium
Daveyton now has an eye to the sky
In the news
Upcoming events
It's a fact!

SAIAB makes a splash at Scifest Africa

  The Shark World exhibition featured a 3,5 metre robotic shark, the world's largest prehistoric jaws and a station where visitors could tap into underwater sounds.
  Lunga Jadi from Rhodes University's Department of Ichthyology and Fisheries Science shows the learners different methods of catching fish.
  Hands-on learning at the Rhodes University Fish Farm.
  Learners get to know more about the variety of careers available in marine science at the stand of the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON).
In celebration of the 2013 International Year of Water Co-operation, the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB) hosted a special new venue at Scifest Africa - Water World.

The innovative new venue accommodated all water-related activities at the festival, including the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the discovery of the coelacanth on South African shores.

Other popular Water World activities included talkshops on topics ranging from fish locomotion to the tracking of tagged aquatic animals through ATAP, a mega-science project monitoring the movements of aquatic animals along the southern African coastline in order to unravel some of the unknowns about fish migrations.

Coelacanth adventures

In a special lecture, Professor Mike Bruton, who had the rare privilege of seeing coelacanths live in their habitat when he dived in the JAGO submersible to a depth of 198 metres off Grande Comoro Island, shared his experiences with a rapt audience. Since 2000, when live coelacanths were first sighted off South Africa, the African Coelacanth Ecosystem Programme (ACEP) has grown from strength to strength. ACEP's display at Water World featured actual footage taken of coelacanths as well as the technology - a remotely operated submersible vehicle and all the associated computer equipment that filmed this footage in caves off Sodwana in northern KwaZulu-Natal in 2011.

Water World attracted large crowds wishing to learn more about the incredible variety of life in our oceans, taxonomy, aquaculture and fisheries, sharks, dolphins and whales, as well as environmental monitoring and the biocontrol of aliens. Members of the public also visited SAIAB's National Fish Collection and the Rhodes University Fish Farm, where they learnt more about the techniques and tools used in aquatic biodiversity research.


Exhibitors at Water World included Bayworld, Rhodes University's Department of Ichthyology and Fisheries Science and the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON). Shark World, which featured a 3,5 metre robotic shark, shark body parts, the world's largest prehistoric jaws and a station where visitors could tap into underwater sounds, was - needless to say - a favourite among learners.

Learners were offered "apprenticeships" in dissecting fish under supervision, preparing tissue samples of different kinds of fish for DNA barcoding and fish identification. Monica Mwale and Taryn Bodill of SAIAB presented a fun-filled morning where learners could discover the structure of DNA by building an edible model of a DNA helix, extracting DNA from fish, fruits or their own saliva, and discovering how valuable DNA is for biodiversity research.

Prof. Alan Whitfield, Principal Aquatic Biologist at SAIAB, took a group of Festival visitors on a field trip to the estuaries between the Great Fish and Kowie rivers, highlighting the different types of estuaries and some of the animals and plants living in these specialised systems.

The innovative science communicators of SAIAB presented workshops on gyokatu (the traditional Japanese art of fish printing), haiku (a very short form of Japanese poetry using only 17 syllables) and science communication.

What participants and visitors had to say:

Nozipiwo Hambaze from the SAEON Elwandle Node: "Water World as a separate venue was a great way of getting learners to understand that science is not only about physics, but that there is science in water too."

Lunga Jadi from Rhodes University's Department of Ichthyology and Fisheries Science: "The kids were very excited to learn about fishing and the different ways to catch different fishes."

Siyabulela Mdingi, a learner from Mthatha High School: "I never realised that there were so many facets to science in water. Learning about the coelacanth was fun and I enjoyed feeding the fish at the fish farm. I'm looking forward to coming back next year."

Ndiviwe Baliwe, a SAIAB intern who assisted on the fieldtrip to the Kowie Estuary: "Going along on the excursion was really inspiring because I never thought Grade 9 learners would be so curious to interact with nature. Some of them left being able to use throw nets and some were very interested in knowing the names of the fish."