Esther (Gwash) Uushona
After working as a research technician for a year at Gobabeb, Gwash enrolled as a B.Sc.Honours student at the University of Cape Town. Her interests lie in natural product chemistry, and how we may derive meaningful biologically active substrates by studying 'natural compounds' and their metabolistic pathways. Currently she is doing scope work on !nara(Acanthosicyos horridus) cucurbitacins and their derivatives- a class of oxygenated tetracyclic triterpernoids that are cytoxic and of chemotaxonomic importance. Apart from gaining insight into the cucurbitacin selectivity in !nara, we are hoping to use this information as a baseline for monitoring and identification of any changes in selectivity as an indication of genetic variation.
This research is being supported by the Benefit-Sharing Project of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, through the UNDP and in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism. The results of this research will inform the development of a Strategic Action Plan for the conservation of PGRFA in Namibia, particularly within the context of the challenges of climate change.
Novald Kandali Iiyambo
After being introduced to reptile research in 2012 by Prof. Douglas Eifler, a herpetologist from Kansas, USA; Kandali decided to supplement her reptile knowledge by taking up a position as a Research Technician at Gobabeb. At the end of 2015, she left Gobabeb to further her MSc studies in herpetology at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. Her profound interest in reptiles drives her passion to protect and conserve them, given the myths regarding reptiles within African cultures.
The topic for her MSc research is Ecological niche partitioning, home-range and resource utilization in sympatric lacertid lizard species, Meroles anchietae and M. cuneirostris of the Namib Desert, Namibia. The study aims to investigate the ecological niche differences between the two species within a fog gradient. She will be considering the effects of fog on the distribution of the two species by comparing the contribution of the three niche dimensions (time, space, food), as well as their home ranges, to access the degree of overlap within their habitats. The results of the study will be used to predict effects of climate change on the survival of desert reptiles, given that temperatures are anticipated to rise and production of fog as a source of water will decrease.
Her study is sponsored by DAAD, the NCRST and the NSFAF.
Having recently attended the Summer Dryland Programme 20 (2016/2017), with the theme “Impacts of artificial water points for wildlife conservation in the Namib Desert” in the Namib-Naukluft Park, it was clear to me that plants as primary producers are the foundation of the desert ecosystem. These resources need to be managed or the entire ecological pyramid will collapse. Much more work should be done regarding the conservation of rangelands in Namibia. This has motivated me to enroll for MSc studies in Rangeland resource & Management at the University of Namibia.
The topic for my MSc research must still be defined, but it will contribute to a bigger programme that focuses on “Evaluation of livestock and rangeland resilience to climate variability.” Under this research capacity-building initiative, behavioural responses of different livestock species and breeds on Namibian rangelands will be investigated, using the strong climatic gradients across the country as a natural laboratory. A transdisciplinary approach will combine cutting-edge geospatial technologies with biodiversity assessments and local agricultural knowledge to evaluate and model potential effects of climate change on arid-land livestock management. The innovative tools developed will have broader application in other arid-zone livestock production systems.
The study is sponsored by the National Commission on Research Science and Technology and Gobabeb Research and Training Centre.