#06 2020

Fynbos Node cleans up prizes at first online Fynbos Forum 2020 conference

By Martina Treurnicht (SAEON Fynbos Node and Vice Chair of Fynbos Forum) and Jasper Slingsby (SAEON Fynbos Node and Fynbos Forum Committee member)

The SAEON Fynbos Node recently co-organised and participated in the first online conference of the Fynbos Forum (https://fynbosforum2020.co.za) held from  9–11 September.

The theme of this year’s online event, “Connection, Community, Commitment’’, captured the spirit of the times we find ourselves in as researchers and practitioners seek to overcome isolation to explore new opportunities to connect with each other and communicate their science under the Covid-19 pandemic.

SAEON’s Fynbos Node team of researchers and students contributed nine exciting research talks, one virtual poster contribution, as well as a mini-symposium to the scientific programme. Research talks were submitted as pre-recorded presentations (see list of talks with links to online videos below). They covered biodiversity-relevant topics ranging from exploring the link between drought impacts and plant hydraulic traits, plant functional traits and demography, the impacts of altered land use on fire and biodiversity, as well as a novel remote sensing tool to rapidly detect land cover change from satellite imagery in highly threatened Renosterveld.

These contributions were well-received by the participants as well as the panel of adjudicators and SAEON cleaned up most of the prizes awarded at the event. Harry Randell, Fynbos Node undergraduate student, walked away with the best poster prize for his contribution on monitoring populations of the iconic Snow Protea in the Cederberg (read more about the project here). Poster presenters were asked to adapt the usual pdf poster for a virtual audience by submitting two-minute audio recordings explaining the content of their posters. This was a welcome refreshment to the traditional way of poster presentations!

Harry also submitted two winning photographic entries to the online photo competition of the conference.

Fynbos Node MSc student Shonese Bloy was runner up for the best student presentation for her talk “Hydraulic segmentation assisting in tree survival post-fire” – talk available here. SAEON’s Glenn Moncrieff was rewarded with the prize for best oral presentation for his talk on his work using remote sensing to locate and date land cover change events in the Renosterveld.

An overview of SAEON Fynbos Node staff and postdoctoral researchers that presented their research virtually at the first online Fynbos Forum 2020 conference. (Photo insets courtesy Fynbos Forum 2020)

Harry Randell’s photograph relating to the study species of his undergraduate project, the Snowball Protea (Protea cryophila), captured the attention of the Fynbos Forum audience and was awarded first prize in the online photograph competition for the ‘Fynbos Processes’ category! Harry’s project focuses on ‘Detecting changes in the local population abundance and distribution of the Snowball Protea (Protea cryophila) in the Cederberg Wilderness Area’. This photograph captured a partially burnt Snowball Protea plant still with open, pink flowerheads shortly after fire. Photo credit: Harry Randell

Other contributions from the Fynbos Node included a mini-symposium organised and chaired by Jasper Slingsby, acting manager of the Fynbos Node, to present all the EFTEON landscape proposals from the Fynbos Biome to the Fynbos community. A recording of the mini-symposium is available here.

The theme “Connection, Community, Commitment” of the online event was achieved in various forms and networking opportunities. The online event offered five excellent keynote talks delivered by local and international researchers, as well as symposia and workshop sessions on fynbos-related topics (browse the event website for full details and replays). In particular, several exciting virtual field trips from different geographical areas of the fynbos biome highlighted the important partnerships between people and fynbos.

Interestingly, the online conference platform allowed for casual conversation in the virtual lounge at ‘digital’ tables (with group video calls) and delegates could comment and interact with each other via chat or video options during the conference. These were welcome tools that helped to solve the initial fear that networking and interaction could be limited at an online event. This conference truly did achieve the goals of retaining the connection and reiterating the commitment of the community of Fynmense (Fynbos people).

List of talks with links to videos and indicating prizes

  • Harry Randell (BSc student) presented his poster “Detecting changes in the population abundance and geographical distribution of the Snowball Protea (Protea cryophila) in the Cederberg Wilderness Area” – Prize for best poster at the conference
  • Shonese Bloy (MSc student), “Hydraulic segmentation assisting in tree survival post-fire” – talk available here Runner up: best student presentation
  • Glenn Moncrieff (Data scientist), “I know what you did last summer: locating and dating land cover change events in the Renosterveld”  – talk available herePrize for best oral presentation
  • Lungile Khuzwayo (MSc candidate), “Mapping invasive trees in the Western Cape Water Supply System” – talk available here.
  • Peni Metho (MSc candidate), “Exploring the representation of wetlands in hydrological models and their applicability to palmiet wetlands of the upper Kromme catchment” – talk available here.
  • Julia Glenday (Postdoctoral researcher), “Connectivity clues: hydrological monitoring to understand surface and groundwater flows in the Kromme and Baviaanskloof catchments, the eastern end of the Table Mountain Group” – talk available here.
  • Kayla Atkins (MSc student), “Investigating vulnerability to cavitation and mortality thresholds in Restionaceae” – talk available here.
  • Robert Skelton (FLAIR Research Fellow), “Local convergence in drought impacts in a diverse Southern African evergreen sclerophyll community” – talk available here.
  • Martina Treurnicht (Postdoctoral researcher), “Functional traits explain the Hutchinsonian Niches of plant species” – talk available here.
  • Jasper Slingsby (Biodiversity scientist and Acting Fynbos Node manager), “Using the ignition catchment concept to predict human impacts on fire” – talk available here.