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Change the world

18/12/2023

“As a career (and also a lifestyle) we aspire to actively protect nature, whether through rescuing and stabilising wildlife in need, conducting research or raising environmental awareness through education”.

 

Husband and wife team Tiaan and Zanri Strydom both graduated with their PhD in Nature Conservation at Nelson Mandela University’s Graduation on 13 December.

After their PhD studies they both went on to obtain experience in management and are now both employed as the reserve managers of Dunefields Private Nature Reserve, east of Wilderness, near George.

“The reserve is still in its infant stage, and we are tasked with growing the conservation work, and ensuring this piece of paradise stays pristine, and is protected into perpetuity”, they say.  

“We are currently experiencing what it feels like to have a dream job. At Dunefields we get to protect a unique and near pristine ecosystem which is located on the highest fossilised and vegetated sand dune in South Africa”.  

For her doctorate Zanri assessed the effects of fish stock management on Cape gannet foraging behaviour in South Africa and determined how age and gender influenced energy expenditure in Cape gannets, while feeding at sea.

In many marine species, bodily functions deteriorate with age (leading to them hunting less efficiently and therefore expending more energy while hunting) but this deterioration has never been studied in Cape gannets.

She found that female gannets older than 17 years spent significantly more energy while foraging compared to males of that age, which made them more vulnerable to a change in the distribution and abundance of fish.

These findings lead to a better understanding of gannets’ vulnerability, and therefore for better planning and decision-making for the future persistence of gannet populations.

Tiaan researched the effects of fire on the architecture and composition of canopy shrubs in subtropical dune thicket of the southeastern Cape Floristic Region for his doctorate.

He classified subtropical thicket shrubs and trees’ grass roots framework, based on their structural traits (for example, stem size, number of stems, height and canopy size), something that has never been done before.

He also studied the different levels of fire exposure in older and younger trees to determine the thicket species’ composition. Also, how well young thicket shrubs that experienced consecutive fires within five years, survived and resprout after fire.

Zanri and Tiaan met as first-year students in 2013, where they fell in love in February. She comes from the West Coast (Vredenburg) and he from the East Coast (Kariega). They studied for their diploma, BTech, master’s and PhD together. They are both 29 years old and married in 2020.

Contact information
Ms Elma de Koker
Internal Communication Practitioner
Tel: 041-504 2160
elma.dekoker@mandela.ac.za