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Pint of Science, South Africa (Day Three)

Pint of Science, South Africa (Day Three)

Rather than a series of formal talks, Pint of Science aims to recreate the buzz that allows leading experts in various scientific fields to present, discuss and take questions on their latest discoveries and research with members of the public over a drink and a packet of snacks.

The format is simple, talks in a bar/venue for the public over three nights in May 2018 at the UCT Club on the Upper Campus from 18h30-21h00.


Jessleena Suri - Ornithology in the city

  • Ecological research that has traditionally been carried out in the wild places of the world is increasingly moving into new and challenging spaces where the need for biodiversity conservation must be balanced with human land-use requirements. In an age of rapid urbanisation, the growing field of urban ecology strives to reconcile these needs and understand how we can make our cities into healthy ecosystems that are able to meet the needs of both human and non-human residents.
  • Birds are ideal indicator species for understanding how biodiversity responds to environmental change, as they are highly visible, mobile and sensitive to habitat quality. By studying how urban birds cope with living in highly disturbed environments, we can understand how species endure the massive transformation that occurs in urban areas and thus how we can better design our cities to accommodate wildlife. Jessleena Suri will talk us through some of the urban ornithology research that she has been involved in, from sparrowhawks and starlings to her current PhD work, and hopefully convince you that there is more to urban wildlife than just pigeons (although the greater Cape Town area is incidentally home to not one but nine pigeon and dove species)!

Jessleena Suri is a PhD student with a passion for birds and urban ecology. Though originally from New Delhi, India, she has been living in South Africa for the last 12 years and studying towards a career in nature conservation. She is interested in how we can make our cities into functional ecosystems and provide habitat for urban wildlife, with a particular focus on birds.

Ruan van Mazijk - Does having more DNA change the way plants use water?

  • Exploring how genome size alters plant physiology in the Cape. The plant kingdom hosts an immense diversity of living forms and functions. Genome size varies especially among plants. Ranging from plants with very little DNA, to those with enormous amounts of (sometimes functionless) genetic material, plants display perplexing variation in genome size. This contrasts with other major groups of life, such as animals, which do not to the same extent.
  • What makes some plants have little DNA and others much more? Genetic and genomic research shows us how. But, Van Mazijk’s work focusses on the consequences of genome size in the plant body. The ecology of an organism can be affected greatly by its genome size. Simplistically, more DNA has to fit in bigger cells, making the plant body larger in some organs. This can radically alter how plants function—particularly when it comes to water-use! Van Mazijk is investigating these sorts of effects of genome size in a Cape plant group known as the Schoenoid sedges—a group of plants some of which have small genomes, and some have large genomes. However, he carries out this analysis with consideration for the evolutionary relationships within this group.

Ruan van Mazijk is an MSc student in the Department of Biological Sciences, at the Univerisity of Cape Town. A passionate botanist and statistics nerd, he works on plant physiology, systematics, and evolution. But, Van Mazijk is also excited by birds, insects, whales, and molluscs. Essentially raised in the garden, by the sea, or watching David Attenborough, he has been incredibly interested in evolutionary biology and ecology (and science generally) most of his life. He happily works here, in the center of the Cape Floristic Region, a global biodiversity hotspot, and treasure trove of botanical and evolutionary questions.

Inge Pietersen - The future is here and it's plantastic!

  • Plants form an integral part of our lives, providing us with food, medicine, and even cleaning our waters and the air we breathe, but these amazingly versatile organisms also have other amazing features, which allow us to use their machinery to form production systems to make biological substances. These can be used for medicinal or a wide range of other purposes, and these systems are referred to as plant expression systems, as the plants are used to express proteins encoded on foreign genes that are introduced into them.
  • Some of these include proteins which can be used to naturally enhance the flavour of food; important enzymes and proteins which can be used to treat or study diseases; and even some very cool particles such as virus-like particles and pseudovirions, which mimic the structure and mechanisms of naturally occurring viruses, and can be used as vaccines to prevent disease, or as nanoparticles delivery systems to target drugs to specific cells or tissues. This talk explores the methods and mechanisms by which we use plants as production systems, some of the products and utilities of the proteins expressed, and the relevance and potential of these systems for the future.

Inge Pietersen is a budding microbiologist / biotechnologist / virologist / molecular biologist. Pietersen currently pursuing her Master's at the University of Cape Town, with the aim of developing a candidate vaccine against Bovine papillomavirus through the expression of virus-like particles and pseudovirions in plants.


Book your tickets for Day Three here: Tickets for Pint of Science Day3 (Tickets also available at the door on the day)

Wednesday, May 16, 2018
6:00pm - 9:00pm
Upper Campus

Event Organizer

Dumisa Dlodlo



Room 2.04  Level 2 Otto Beit Building

University Avenue, Upper Campus

University of Cape Town

Rondebosch 7700


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