#03 2023

Meet the new members of the GSN steering committee

By Buster Mogonong, External Communication Liaison, Graduate Student Network

With what has been an exciting and busy 2022 for the SAEON Graduate Student Network (GSN) steering committee; in 2023, the body of the student network is determined to continue its great work that seeks to build and promote the sustainability and academic and technical excellence of long-term environmental research among postgraduate students in South Africa through interactions with SAEON. 

The SAEON GSN steering committee is excited to welcome two new additional members (Conor and Jordan) to its body. The new members are joining the steering committee as replacements for the outgoing members who have left the committee after completing their studies and venturing into other activities for their career paths. The outgoing members are Craig Mahlasi (outgoing chairperson), Thobeka Nsibande (website management) and Gigi Birkett (capacity building liaison).

Meet the two new members 

Conor Eastment is a PhD researcher based at the SAEON Grasslands Node and Utrecht University in the Netherlands. He is studying the impact of experimental warming and fire frequency on grassland productivity and diversity within the Cathedral Peak, Drakensberg system.

“I love this work because (other than being a great excuse to spend months outdoors) I feel it is going to contribute towards conserving South Africa’s unique natural environment, which I am so grateful for,” says Colin. ”Likewise, my role in the GSN is a great opportunity to give back to an institution which does so much for South Africa and I look forward to working with like-minded people within this space.”

Jordan van Stavel is currently completing her MSc with Nelson Mandela University but based in Cape Town at SAEON’s Egagasini Node. Her research focuses on the distribution of functional traits and potential physical environmental drivers of offshore benthic epifauna (invertebrates living on the seafloor) on the west and south coasts of South Africa. This research contributes to our knowledge and understanding of the importance of epifauna, and their contribution to healthy functioning benthic ecosystems. “My journey with the Egagasini family began in 2017 and has evolved from intern to employee and now student, affording me amazing opportunities and growth along the way,” says Jordan.

SAEON GSN induction

With the addition of the new members to the steering committee, it was necessary for the team to have an induction to:

  • introduce the team members and define their roles;
  • restructure the committee to fill vacant roles; and
  • plan for the upcoming Indibano.

The induction was held at the Pheasant Hill boutique hotel in Johannesburg on 24 and 25 April.

Roles assumed by the steering committee in 2023 

  • Chairperson – PhD student Tsumbedzo Ramalevha (Ndlovu Node)
  • Vice Chairperson and Secretariat – PhD student Brishan Kalyan (Elwandle Node)
  • Internal Stakeholder Communication – MSc student Jordan van Stavel (Egagasini Node)
  • External Stakeholder Communication – PhD student Buster Mogonong (Arid Lands Node)
  • Indibano Logistics Coordinator – PhD student Tamryn Hamilton (EFTEON/SAEON Head Office)
  • Capacity Building Liaison –PhD Conor Eastment (Grasslands-Forests-Wetlands Node)

Portfolio overview

To ensure that the new steering committee members fully understand the GSN and its constitution, an overview of the GSN focus was outlined while highlighting challenges and lessons learned from the previous years.

Each member of the incoming steering committee was given an overview of their respective portfolio which provided them with a roadmap of what they are expected to do as a GSN steering committee member.

A continuation of the great work  

The steering committee vowed to continue their hard work to achieve the objectives of the student network and to position the GSN as an important training hub of future South African Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) scientists.

“The outgoing steering committee would like to thank Kogie Govender for her guidance throughout our tenure,” says Buster Mogonong. “We would also like to extend our gratitude for her assistance in setting up, organising and coordinating the induction process for 2023.”

Get in touch…  

Postgraduate students should keep their eyes open for exciting opportunities and progress updates on the annual Indibano 2023. Follow us on our Twitter page @SAEON_GSN and like the SAEON GSN Facebook page.

For more information about the GSN activities and how to become a member, please visit our website: gsn.dirisa.org

Conor Eastment is a PhD researcher based at the SAEON Grasslands Node and Utrecht University in the Netherlands

Jordan van Stavel is currently completing her MSc with Nelson Mandela University, but is based in Cape Town at SAEON’s Egagasini Node

SAEON GSN members who were present at the induction. Clockwise from top left: Tsumbedzo Ramalevha, Conor Eastment (new member), Tamryn Hamilton and Brishan Kalyan