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SAEON Special Awards encourage future environmental scientists

By Caitlin Ransom, NRF SAEON Science Engagement Intern
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The 2019 Eskom Expo International Science Fair (ISF), held in September, brought young scientists from all over the country and around the world together to showcase their projects.

SAEON had the opportunity to encourage and acknowledge these bright young future scientists through the SAEON Special Awards, a regular feature at the ISF.

Professor Tracy McKay (Unisa), Dr Thando Ndarana (University of Pretoria) and Nozi Hambaze (SAEON) searched the Expo to identify the best environmental monitoring projects that complement the SAEON mandate.


SAEON staff members with the winners of the SAEON Special Awards. Front row, from left: Pertunia Ntswaki, Nozi Hambaze, Kogie Govender, Sisanda Mthiyane and Thomas Mtontsi. Back row, from left: Caitlin Ransom, Lindelihle Manyati and Nicolaas Moolman.

And the winners were…

Sisanda Mthiyane, a grade 6 learner from Mayville Primary School, won the award in the grade 6 and 7 category for her project, “Grass houses: an investigation of the nesting habits of the southern masked weaver (Ploceus velatus)”. Sisanda found that southern masked weavers prefer to build their nests near a river rather than near buildings away from a river.

Nicolaas Moolman, a grade 9 learner from Volksrust High, won the award in the grade 8 and 9 category for his project, “Acidic or Alkaline? Let Lemna Blow the Whistle!” He investigated whether duckweed (Lemna) can be used as a bio-indicator for water quality. He showed that duckweed grows at different rates in various solutions (indicating different levels of water quality) and that it can be used as a bio-indicator.

Lindelihle Manyati, a grade 11 learner from Ntsika Senior Secondary School, won the award in the grade 10 to 12 category for his project, “Understanding estuaries using fish as an indicator species”. He found that most fish species prefer the vegetated areas of the estuary, which also had higher temperature and higher salinity than the sandy and rocky areas.


From left: Lindelihle Manyati, Nozi Hambaze, Nicolaas Moolman, Caitlin Ransom and Sisanda Mthiyane

Sisanda Mthiyane, Nicolaas Moolman and Lindelihle Manyati each received a SAEON special award and a pair of binoculars – to inspire these promising young scientists to remain curious and keep observing the world around them.

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