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On Monday 26 August 2013, SAEON, SAIAB and NMMU formalised a collaborative research partnership that will have far-reaching benefits for coastal and marine research in South Africa.

For the last seven years, SAIAB has hosted the SAEON Elwandle Node in Grahamstown. In this time, their joint ventures have included establishing a variety of research platforms, including the Algoa Bay Sentinel Site. Numerous probes, buoys and stations have been deployed and maintained across the Bay to monitor variables such as sea temperature, ocean currents, wave heights, and sea levels. In fact, the coverage is so comprehensive that Algoa Bay is the most extensively monitored bay in Africa; possibly even in the Southern Hemisphere.

The focus of SAEON in particular is primarily long-term monitoring. This is a wonderful opportunity for research institutions, such as NMMU, where the data collected can contribute to coastal and marine research, particularly in Algoa Bay. Such work is of keen interest to SAIAB, who is keenly interested in long-term research that contributes to our understanding of coastal systems. While a strong working relationship already exists among SAEON, SAIAB and NMMU, the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding represents a key step towards a truly synergistic partnership. It provides a formal platform for resources in the form of equipment, data, funding, laboratory space, expertise and the like to be shared for the greater benefit of all.

While the MoU was signed between SAEON, SAIAB and NMMU, the National Research Foundation (NRF) plays a key underlying role. Not only does it support many students with bursaries, scholarships and fellowships, but SAEON and SAIAB are also both NRF entities. Dr van Jaarsveld, Director of NRF, expressed great delight and support for the MoU at the signing ceremony, as did Prof Derick Swartz (Vice Chancellor of NMMU), Prof Andrew Leitch (NMMU Dean of Science), Dr Angus Patterson (Director of SAIAB) and Dr Tommy Bornman (Manager of SAEON Elwandle).

CMR scientists are also in keen support of the MoU, and thoroughly look forward to a productive future of high-impact research that will contribute to our understanding of key ecological processes, biological diversity and species' behaviour. This research, in turn, will help inform conservation of the rich natural coastal and marine resources that bound the South African shoreline, and beyond.

See also this news feed on the NMMU website.

"Bottlenose dolphins are dying in their hundreds off the East Coast of the US in what is believed to be an outbreak of a virus. South African dolphins have so far been spared." Read the full article from Sunday Times Live here)
Some Dolphin news

Symposium of Contempory Conservation Practice in Howick, KwaZulu-Natal, from the 4th to the 8th of November 2013.

Red Tide 2014

For the past six weeks or so, a major red tide event has been the focus of much media attention in the Port Elizabeth press. This red tide extends from Knysna through to Port Alfred and all the way from the coast to about 15 km offshore. The culprint is a tiny microalga belonging to a group of algae called dinoflagellates. It is about 20 micrometres in size (about 20 thousandths of a mm) and has the awkward sounding scientific name of Lingulodinium polyedrum. In very concentrated parts of the red tide there are about 20 million of these tiny cells per litre of seawater. You can imagine how many of them there must be in the area described above!!

Red tides are badly named because they are not always red (they can be orange, brown, yellow and even green in colour) and they have nothing to do with the tide. Under favourable conditions, in this case upwelled, nutrient rich water, and warmer than usual water temperature, the cells divide rapidly and result in a bloom of these microalgae. 

At this stage we, at NMMU, together with our colleagues at SAEON, are still studying the phenomenon and trying to understand why it has occurred now and never before in recorded history. This does not mean that it has never occurred anywhere else in the world before. Blooms of Lingulodinium polyedrum are reasonably common around the world, but have never been recorded off our coast before. 

As we learn more about the bloom we will provide more information and insights and make them available here.

Derek du Preez, Head - CMR

The harmful bloom forming dinoflagellate Lingulodinium polyedrum is back in the coastal waters off the Eastern Cape coast.

In the latest SAEON (South African Environmental Observation Network) newsletter there is an article about the red tide that has been dominating the marine environment for the past seven or so weeks. The article was written by Dr Tommy Bornman from SAEON and Dr Paul-Pierre Steyn from the CMR at NMMU. You can read the article by clicking on the following link: 

It has been reported by various people that red tide is back in Algoa Bay. People have assumed that it is the same as the red tide that occurred at the beginning of 2014, but it isn't. 

The invaluable contributions of two CMR scientists were celebrated at the NMMU Research, Teaching and Engagement Awards 2013, held at the Boardwalk Convention Centre last week. Prof Janine Adams was awarded the Science Faculty Researcher of the Year, and also, across the institution, as the NMMU Researcher of the Year, in recognition of her fantastic, high-impact work in the field of marine botany and shallow water ecosystems, particularly estuaries in South Africa. Dr Ronel Nel was presented with the NMMU Emerging Engagement Award because of her numerous multi-national interactions and collaborations, particularly in her sandy beach and sea turtle work. CMR congratulates both Janine and Ronel on their well-deserved awards, and wish them continued successes in the future.