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New Field Technicians already hard at work in the Arid Lands

Newly appointed Arid Lands Field Technicians Tshililo Ramaswiela and Iain Olivier conduct vegetation surveys with co-workers at the Grootfontein Agricultural Development Institute in the Karoo (Picture: Yolandi Els)
Tshililo Ramaswiela spent a year on Marion Island where he conducted field work for a research project on the distribution of alien plants.
Iain Olivier receives the award for ‘Outstanding Environmental Intern 2010’ from the City of Cape Town in February 2011.
- Yolandi Els, Coordinator, SAEON Node for Arid Lands


Iain Olivier and Tshililo Ramaswiela started work as Field Technicians for SAEON’s Arid Lands Node in February this year. Based in Kimberley, they are tasked with conducting field work for the various in-situ research projects at the newly established node.

Iain and Tshililo have both had a busy first month on the job. They have attended an Advanced Grass Identification Course and spent time consolidating and capturing historical data to be used in a collaborative project with the Grootfontein Agricultural Development Institute. They have also started the vegetation surveys for this project in the Karoo.

Both Iain and Tshililo contribute a valuable set of skills and expertise to the Arid Lands team and have expressed a keen interest in being involved with producing scientific products for the various research endeavours planned for the new node.

Tshililo Ramaswiela completed his first degree, a Bachelor of Environmental Management at the University of Venda, after which he was selected as an overwintering member of the South African National Antarctic Programme on Marion Island. Here he completed the field work for his Masters degree at the Centre of Invasion Biology at the University of Stellenbosch. Due to the harsh environmental conditions on the island the simplest of research activities were often extremely challenging to perform. His time on the sub- Antarctic Island has equipped him with specialist knowledge on the distribution of alien plants within an island system.

Having presented his research at various scientific symposiums and conferences, he has also been involved with the assessment of elephant damage on Marula trees in the Kruger National Park. His skills in data collection, capturing and management as well as experience in mapping and implementing strategies to control invasive plants will be amply incorporated in the activities of the newly established node for arid lands.

Iain Olivier has been actively involved in conservation activities since his early student years. Having worked and volunteered at various national parks, nature reserves and game farms across the country (from Namibia to Mpumalanga and the Western Cape), he went on to complete his National Diploma in Nature Conservation cum laude at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT).

Following the completion of his diploma, Iain was employed as a Nature Conservation Intern at the Helderberg Nature Reserve - a position for which he recently received an award as “Outstanding Environmental Intern 2010” from the City of Cape Town.

Iain’s experience has equipped him in several monitoring techniques. He has conducted various small mammal surveys, intensive bird surveys and bird ringing, as well as phytosociological surveys. He has a keen interest in research, having conducted and presented a still-to-be-published study on “Habitat suitability of Helderberg Nature Reserve for Geometric tortoise: Psammobates geometricus”, as well as a study on the selection of a suitable bird census technique to be used in the Helderberg Nature Reserve.

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