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The ocean’s genome: protecting and sharing it
Mon, 08 Jun 2020 - 21:00

The vast array of species that inhabit the oceans has already proven to be an important source of innovative resources, including enzymes for COVID-19 testing and a protein valuable in the fight against the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. As World Oceans Day approaches on 8 June, Professor Rachel Wynberg, a member of the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, explains how we can better protect and share the benefits from this biodiversity to ensure it continues to be a resource for future generations.

Marine microfibres: less plastic than predicted
Mon, 08 Jun 2020 - 16:45

Microfibres are fine strands of thread used to make clothing, carpeting and household items like mops. They are found in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and throughout the world’s oceans. Natural, rather than synthetic, microfibres, though, make up the majority of those found in the ocean’s surface waters – despite the fact that currently two-thirds of all human-produced fibres are synthetic.  Over the course of two years and five expeditions, University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Professor Peter Ryan and his team gathered 916 seawater samples from oceans around the world.

Antarctic ice-shelf puzzle
Mon, 08 Jun 2020 - 16:30

Ice shelves, massive floating bodies of ice, are well-known for their buffering effect on land-based ice sheets as they slow their flow towards the sea. This buffering effect plays an important role in moderating global sea level rise.

Epigenetic autism study breaks new ground
Fri, 05 Jun 2020 - 11:45

When Dr Colleen O’Ryan, from the Department of Molecular & Cell Biology at UCT, embarked on an ambitious project to research the genes associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in a cohort of South African children, she hardly expected the study to lead her right back to the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Chemical Pathology laboratory where her academic career started thirty years ago.

New study explores establishing a new Bearded Vulture population in South Africa
Wed, 03 Jun 2020 - 15:00

The Bearded Vulture is one of the most threatened vultures in Southern Africa, with only around 100 breeding pairs left in the wild. In the past, the species was once far more widespread, occurring in both the Eastern and Western Cape, all the way down to Cape Town. However, the species range is now restricted to the Maloti-Drakensberg Mountains of Lesotho and South Africa.  The new study, led by scientists at the University of Cape Town and published in the journal Ostrich explores where best to establish this new population

When giant mustelids roamed South Africa
Mon, 01 Jun 2020 - 20:15

Recent discoveries by scientists at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and Iziko Museums of South Africa show how a wolf-sized otter (Sivaonyx hendeyi) and leopard-sized wolverine (Plesiogulo aff. monspesulanus) lived along South Africa’s West Coast 5 million years ago.

Harnessing plant power to curb COVID-19
Thu, 28 May 2020 - 17:00

Here’s a different reason for tobacco to be in the news. Cape Bio Pharms, a biotech company with its origins in the Biopharming Research Unit (BRU) at the University of Cape Town (UCT), has joined the global effort to create a fast and affordable antibody test for COVID-19, using a relative of the tobacco plant.

UCT’s two 2020 WEF Young Scientists
Wed, 27 May 2020 - 13:00

Every year, the World Economic Forum (WEF) selects an elite group of researchers under the age of 40 to participate in their Young Scientists programme. This year, the University of Cape Town (UCT) is represented by two brilliant women scientists. Dr Sarah Fawcett, from the Department of Oceanography is one of them...

Siberians and First Americans go way back
Thu, 21 May 2020 - 15:30

A team of international researchers has assessed the population history of prehistoric humans that lived in the region around Lake Baikal, Russia, and found the deepest connection to date between the peoples of Siberia and the Americas. The research – which combines the fields of human population genetics, the study of ancient pathogen’s genomes and isotope analysis – also demonstrates human mobility, and hence connectivity, across Eurasia during the Early Bronze Age (around 3000 to 2100 BC). Dr Petrus Le Roux, a chief research officer in the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Cape Town (UCT), who is a co-author on the paper.  

Red algae alert! Rhodoliths discovered in SA waters
Mon, 18 May 2020 - 14:00

Scientists have discovered a bed of rhodoliths – free-living, coral-like structures that offer food, shelter and nursery space for marine animals – in the newly proclaimed Amathole Offshore Marine Protected Area off South Africa’s east coast. This underwater environment is the first of its kind found in South Africa’s ocean.

 

 


 

Exploited leopards pay long-term inbreeding costs
Mon, 18 May 2020 - 13:45

Throughout their range leopards are in rapid decline, having disappeared from North Africa, much of the Middle East and Asia. Declines have been so severe that the species is now considered vulnerable to extinction. No comprehensive estimates of the number of leopards remaining in the wild exist. A UCT study gathered over 15 years of data to reconstruct the home ranges and family pedigrees for 150 leopards.

Four of UCT’s best now 2020 FLAIR fellows
Mon, 11 May 2020 - 16:30

Four young researchers from the Faculty of Science at the University of Cape Town (UCT), have been selected to form part of the 2020 cohort of Future Leaders – African Independent Research (FLAIR) fellows. These fellowships are awarded to talented African early-career researchers whose work is focused on solving the needs of the continent.

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