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Introducing new team members at the SAEON Arid Lands Node

By Staff Writer
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Wynand Calitz – Field Technician


Wynand Calitz, the new field technician at the Arid Lands Node, is passionate about ecology (Photo: Betsie Milne)

Wynand is a plant ecologist with an MSc in Botany from the Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth. He has experience working in many different ecosystems, such as mangrove sampling in estuaries, climbing mountains looking for wild populations of honeybush and doing extensive fieldwork in the Lower Karoo for his thesis.

His undergraduate and Honours studies honed his expertise in Geographic Information Systems and specifically the mapping of vegetation using these techniques. He also assisted in laboratory analyses of water and soil nutrients.

Through his supervisors, he developed his skills as an ecological data analyser using the statistical software known as R. He has presented several in-house workshops on the use of R at the Arid Lands Node while completing his internship in 2019 and is now looking forward to further developing this proficiency among his colleagues.

His internship project at SAEON’s Arid Lands Node in 2019 was to analyse and lead the write-up of the Compassberg Altitudinal Gradient project as a scientific article. Along with this, he assisted with various other node projects and participated in several conferences and science engagement activities.

During his time as an intern, his passion for ecology grew and he became interested in developing his skills as a scientist. With SAEON being a great avenue for this, he has now joined the team as a field technician, looking to develop and learn from the many competent scientists and technicians who are part of the SAEON team.

Joanne Riet – Office Administrator

“From fighting crime and compiling safety reports to supporting botanists, scientists and ecosystems – what a huge transition that is for me,” marvels Joanne Riet, the new office administrator at the Arid Lands Node.

After five years of helping to keep the streets safe from crime at the Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison, Joanne felt it was time for a change to something completely different.


Joanne Riet joined SAEON from a stint at the Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison, where she helped to keep the streets safe from crime

Originally from Postmasburg, a small town in the Northern Cape, she moved to Kimberley in 2007, where she completed her studies in Business Management. She has always been inspired to try something different, which may explain why she completed a whole range of courses ranging from labour law and project management to computer studies.

“Perhaps a course in biodiversity and conservation would not be a bad idea!” she says with a smile.

During her first week at SAEON, the Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, the Honourable Buti Manamela, paid a visit to the node. Says Joanne: “It was a remarkable experience to be a part of it, and I knew straight away that the experience served to make me a proper staff member of SAEON.”

Joanne would like to thank the National Research Foundation and SAEON for granting her the opportunity to become part of such an extraordinary team.

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