April 2014
Contents / home
FameLabSA 2014
Science Lens winners
Young, innovative and gifted
Intern receives Fellowship in Paris
Transformation in marine science
Looking for the brainiacs of yesteryear
Skies alive with space activities
Training the trainers
On your marks ... Get SET Go!
Schools debates advisory committee
Science community volunteers
The science of giving back
New science communication resource
Bringing nanotech to the disabled
Meet media guru Daryl Ilbury
Water World @ Scifest Africa 2014
Exploring marine science
Sharks, vegetables and alien fish
SAIAB cares
In the news
Upcoming events
It's a fact!

Water World @ Scifest Africa 2014

  Fascinated learners get to know more about sharks
  Learners explore DNA guided by Dr Albert Chakona
  The intriguing world of the very small
  Kerry van der Watt tells learners more about invasive species
  The SASSI singing fish was a hit with Water World visitors
What is water? Why is it so special? Why is it necessary for life? Where does water come from? How big is the ocean? How rich is marine and freshwater biodiversity? What IS biodiversity? Why do sharks have so many teeth? Why should we study the sea? What is an alien fish?

These are just some of the questions that teased the enquiring minds of young and old alike at Water World, hosted by the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB) at Scifest Africa 2014.

Water World first appeared on the Scifest scene as an official venue in 2013. Professor Mike Bruton, who is a long-standing contributor and well-known face at Scifest and who has spent a life-time studying fish and things that live in water, is also an expert science communicator and currently Director of Imagineering at MTE Studios. After Water World 2013, he had this to say:

"Congratulations on this excellent initiative, which works very well. I am sometimes concerned that science festivals (and science centres) underplay the biological and environmental sciences but, with the addition of Water World, there is no danger that Scifest will do this. After all, the sea covers about 2/3 of the world but, more importantly, being the most three-dimensional environment, it provides more than 90% of the habitable volume on our planet."

Visitors young and old came to Water World to find out why sharks do indeed have so many teeth and even touched them at Shark World with its amazing robotic shark presented by Dr Matt Dicken and colleagues from Bayworld and the KZN Sharks Board. Some intrepid adventurers put on board shorts and took a day-trip to the coast and were rewarded with a day in the company of South Africa's premier A-rated estuarine scientist, Professor Alan Whitfield, who explained how the intricate and complex ecosystems of our estuaries sustain and nurture fishes and other aquatic creatures, while having to cope with the increasing demands of human development.

Karen Anderson, who has been diving the reefs of Cozumel in the Gulf of Mexico for over 30 years, presented workshops that showed how the beautiful, but highly venomous lion fish is taking over and depleting the biodiversity of those reefs. Newcomers to Water World were Rhodes University's environmental advocacy society, RU Green, and a hit with all our visitors was the South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative's (SASSI's) Singing Fish which was "all alone" on the second leg of its South African tour having travelled from uShaka Marine World in Durban.

Physics, chemistry and biology

As visitors entered the Water World tent, an interactive exhibit by Rose Thornycroft explained the 'physics of water'. A very popular attraction was 'Practical Aquaponics', a new commercial venture that uses fish waste to fertilise organic herbs, vegetables and flowers, all in a portable unit that can be set up in classrooms, on verandas or in the home. Rhodes University's Zoology Department presented a fantastic porta-pool freshwater exhibition complete with alien fish and vegetation to explain the impact of alien invasive aquatic plants and fish on our indigenous aquatic fauna and flora.

Exciting displays on marine research in the western Indian Ocean and South Africa's coast were presented by James Stapley of the Agulhas and Somali Current Large Marine Ecosystem Programme (ASCLME) and the Elwandle and Egagasini Nodes of the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON). SAIAB researchers and staff came to the fore offering displays on SAIAB's various research platforms, including the African Coelacanth Ecosystem Programme (ACEP) which highlighted the submersible ROV and coelacanth footage, the ACEP Phuhlisa Programme, the Acoustic Tracking Array Platform (ATAP), the SAIAB Natural History Collection and Molecular Biology and Genetics.

In total some 13 displays kept visitors enthralled for hours. Plans are already afoot to develop a bigger and better Water World for Scifest 2015!

By Penny Haworth, Manager: Communications and Governance, SAIAB