From 2021, the CMR will host a quarterly seminar to showcase research done by a prominent CMR member or collaborator.



Quarter 1: Prof Sophie Von Der Heyden

12 March, 13:00 - 14:00 via Zoom and Venue (Hybrid event)

Evolving Molecular Approaches for Conserving Southern Africa's (Marine) Biodiversity: From Data Generation to Supporting Conservation and Management

The past 15 years have seen a concerted effort in generating phylogenetic and phylogeographic data for southern African marine systems, which has provided unique insights into the evolutionary history and processes driving the patterns of marine biogeography and biodiversity in the region. In South Africa, molecular tools, including mtDNA microsatellites and more recently analyses based on Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms and environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding, have progressively been used to study a large variety of invertebrate and vertebrate taxa (and the odd angiosperm), however the uptake into the conservation and management of species and environments have been slow. This talk provides an overview of our state of knowledge of marine genetics and genomics in the region, including recent development in community genetics and the first attempts of biodiversity monitoring using environmental DNA. Further, Prof von der Heyden will provide examples of how seascape analyses can support the management of cross boundary fisheries and how genomic data can contribute to coastal spatial planning that could enhance the resilience of populations to ongoing climate and anthropogenically driven changes.

Prof von der Heyden is a marine molecular ecologist Her research is by necessity broad, but primarily focusses on the conservation and sustainable utilisation of species and the marine environment. Her particular interests lie in the applicability of molecular ecological and genomics tools to inform marine spatial planning, understanding MPA connectivity patterns and resilience and adaptation of marine species to ongoing and future change, as well as the impacts of changing marine communities on society.

Prof Von Der Heyden's presentation is available via this link. Please click here to access the recordng of her presentation. 


Quarter 2: Prof Lorien Pichegru

05 June, 13:00 - 14:00 via Zoom and Venue (Hybrid event)

A Decade of Biodiversity Management Plan for African Penguins - Lessons Learnt

The African Penguin Biodiversity Management Plangazetted in 2013, was the first Biodiversity Management Plan (BMP) for a marine species in SouthAfrica. It was gazetted in 2013 to “halt the decline of the African penguin population(…)” within the five years of its implementation, by “establishing guidelines around various aspects of African penguin conservation and consolidating existing conservation work”. Many conservation actions were implemented or strengthened, with scientific monitoring, strong engagement took place across institutions. Despite these efforts, African Penguins numbers continued decreasing and the species is currently being considered for up-listing to “Critically Endangered” on the IUCN Red List. Reviewing the success and failures of this BMP allows to pave the way for successfully implementation stronger conservation actions for African penguins.

Professor Pichegru is currently an Adjunct Professor with the CMR. Her research focus is on seabird foraging ecology and life history traits in relation to prey availability and local competition with industrial fisheries. She is involved in marine waste initiatives and is active in public and community engagement. Professor Pichegru works closely with governmental institutions, NGOs and civic society to improve the conservation of these charismatic species.

Prof Pichegru's presentation is available via this link. Please click here to access the recordng of her presentation. 



Quarter 1: Dr Tegan Carpenter-Kling

22 February, 13:00 - 13:30 via Zoom and Venue (Hybrid event)

From High Seas to Coastal Islands: From Counting Seabirds to Spatial Analysis in R

Dr Carpenter-Kling is a new post-doctoral fellow at the CMR working with Professor Mandy Lombard on the Algoa Bay Project. She specializes in working with spatial data in R and developed her spatial analysis skills during her PhD research in which she worked with tracking data from 8 seabird species. Dr Carpenter-Kling’s research included correlating seabird movements to oceanographic variables, creating multispecies ‘isoscapes’ and developing an agent-based movement model in R. More recently, she worked for BirdLife South Africa, where she applied her skills to provide or support scientific evidence for at-sea management and conservation strategies of South Africa’s Endangered coastal seabirds.

In this seminar, Dr Tegan Carpenter-Kling presented highlights of her past, present and future research. This has included her work on sub-Antarctic seabird species as well as how she applied her skills to contribute towards efforts to conserve South Africa's seabirds. She has briefly touched on the work she will be doing for the Algoa Bay Project and other future research plans.

Dr Carpenter-Kling's presentation is available via this link. Please click here to access the recordng of her presentation. 


Quarter 2: Dr Heidi van Deventer

18 April, 13:00 - 14:00 via Zoom and Venue (Hybrid event)

Using GIS and Earth Observation to Report Changes in Extent and Integrity of Aquatic Ecosystems Aligned with Global Biodiversity Framework Targets

Four new Goals and 23 Targets have been set for the years 2030 and 2050 under the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF). Goal A focus on changes in the extent, integrity and connectivity of systems, including of Inland Waters, that includes rivers, estuarine and freshwater wetlands. Target 2 focus on ensuring that 30% of the extent of degraded ecosystems are under effective restoration, whereas Target 3 aims at 30% of the extent of systems are effectively conserved and managed. GIS and remote sensing play a key role in being able to track changes over time for reporting to these two targets of Goal A. The use of GIS and remote sensing in mapping and typing of Inland Waters for South Africa will be presented, demonstrating progress and challenges with ongoing projects. Challenges in the reporting to these targets will be raised, both from a South African and global perspective.

Dr Heidi van Deventer is a principal researcher at Natural Resources Enabling Infrastructure & Professional Services of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). She focuses on the use of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and Earth Observation (EO) technology or Remote Sensing (RS) for the mapping, classification, and monitoring of Inland Waters for the Post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, related to both estuarine and freshwater ecosystems.

Dr van Deventer's presentation is available via this link. Please click here to access the recording of her presentation.  


Quarter 3: Prof Lara van Niekerk

15 August, 13:00-14:00 via Zoom and Venue (Hybrid)

2030 Global Biodiversity. Framework: Opportunities for Estuary Protection and Restoration

In this seminar, Prof Lara van Niekerk has presented the 2030 Global Biodiversity Framework focussing on the estuarine targets. She has discussed the challenges and solutions related to these proposed targets, as well as the immediate next steps. 
Prof van Niekerk is a principal researcher at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa. She specialises in the physical dynamics of estuaries; estuarine condition assessments; environmental flow requirements; climate change impacts on estuaries; and estuary management and policy. Prof van Niekerk led the team of national specialists that assessed the health and ecosystem conditions of all the South African estuaries as part of the National Biodiversity Assessment in 2011, 2018 and will lead the planned assessment in 2024/5. She conceptualises the South African National Estuarine Management Protocol and forms part of the core team that developed the related planning guidelines. Prof van Niekerk is an author / co author of about +-50 papers in national/international peer reviewed journals and has published more than 70 scientific reports.
Prof van Niekerk's presentation is available via this link. Please click here to access the recording of her presentation.  

Quarter 4: Prof Helmut Hillebrand

08 November 2023, 13:00-14:00 via Zoom and Venue (Hybrid)

Are there tipping points for biodiversity change?

Understanding the anthropogenic transformation of biodiversity is a key target of current ecology and mitigating this transformation a major aspect of environmental policies. So far, our efforts to reduce the rate of change has not been successful as shown by the lack to fully achieve any of the 2020 Aichi targets. Ever increasing pressures on Earth’s biodiversity has led to concerns that we may exceed thresholds of impacts leading to a “tipping” in the biodiversity response.
In this overview seminar presentation, Prof Helmut Hillebrand has first explored whether we see indications of such threshold transgression and disproportional change in diversity in ecological data. In this context, he has addressed the scale sensitivity of biodiversity responses to environmental change and interpret these in the context of tipping risks. Then Prof Hillebrand turned the question around and asks whether diverse ecological systems have a lower risk of reaching tipping points in central ecosystem processes and whether we see erosion of this insurance effect. Finally, he has asked whether delimiting safe operating spaces for biodiversity (change) can be a valid strategy for environmental management – and if so at which scales this approach can be useful.
Prof Hillebrand is the director of Helmholtz Institute for Functional Marine Biodiversity at the University of Oldenburg, HIFMB, Germany. He is generally very interested in the mechanisms that constrain and alter biodiversity in a variety of ecosystems. Prof Hillebrand likes to think about the complex nature of biodiversity change and ecological stability. Trained as an experimental ecologist, recently he has focused more on research syntheses and data analyses.
Prof Hillebrand's presentation is available via this link. Please click here to access the recording of his presentation.  


Quarter 1: Prof Kerry Sink

30 March, 13:00-14:00 via Zoom and Venue (Hybrid event)

Deep Secrets, Deep Forests and Deep Connections: Progress and Plans in Advancing Marine Ecosystem Protection in South Africa

Professor Sink is a principal scientist and the marine programme manager at the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and serves as an associate professor at Nelson Mandela University.

This presentation draws from 16 years of team work to improve marine ecosystem protection in South Africa. Prof Sink shared stories, imagery, and lessons from efforts to classify and map marine ecosystems, engage stakeholders and build the knowledge base to support the development of an effective and fair Marine Protected Area (MPA) network. These lessons included the value of systematic conservation planning, recognising, and addressing stakeholder complexity and the value of transdisciplinary research. Prof Sink has shared research results and plans from work undertaken through the African Coelacanth Ecosystem Programme including cruises to sample proposed and established protected ateas, map and manage Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems and better address connectivity in MPA expansion efforts.

Prof Sink's presentation is available via this link. Please click here to access the recording of her presentation.  


Quarter 2: Dr Christo Rautenbach

06 June, 13:00-14:00 via Zoom and Venue (Hybrid event)

Modelling of low- and high frequency sea level variability and their drivers around the southern African coast

Dr Rautenbach has completed two PhDs, the first in Applied Mathematics and the second in Physical Oceanography, with a broad range of numerical modelling experience. His main interests are coastal and ocean hydro- and wave dynamics. Dr Rautenbach has over 10 years experience as a senior scientist in the disciplines of operational physical oceanography, coastal engineering and coastal dynamics research. Dr Rautenbach is currently a senior scientist at the New Zealand, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, Centre for Coasts and Estuaries and a Research Associate at the CMR.

Recent surveys indicate that marine operational forecasting is becoming increasingly important due the pressure to manage impacts associated with our changing climate. The methods with which forecasts are being produced are also changing as computational power is becoming more accessible. Nevertheless, understanding and improving the incorporation of oceanographic dynamics, underpinning hind- and forecasting models, will remain fundamental to the accurate prediction of physical ocean and coastal dynamics. Numerous recent studies have investigated current and possible future Southern Ocean dynamics. However, these dynamics are under studied in the continental shelf areas of southern Africa. Dr Rautenbach presented on how his study aimed to address this knowledge gap and will report results of a methodical exploration of water level and wave dynamics in these waters.

Dr Rautenbach's presentation is available via this link. Please click here to access the recording of his presentation.  


Quarter 3: Dr Ernita Flynn

26 September, 13:00-14:00 via Zoom and Venue (Hybrid event)

Science-policy links for coastal research: an urban, multi-level governance perspective

The science community’s contract with society puts a premium on knowledge generation to support societal well-being. In a world of climate change impacts, pressure on ecosystem services and unprecedented levels of urbanization, the importance of informed action at the level of local and sub-national governments is gaining traction in the global policy arena. This evolving and increasingly impactful world of sub-national sustainability policy relies on new knowledge to inform policy and action. But, how does science get to influence this complex space across different levels of urban sustainability policy from the local, to national to global? Using mainly coastal examples, this presentation offers reflections from two ICLEI scientists, focused on the supply of and demand for science in a complex, multi-level governance policy context.

Following initial training in ecology and conservation, Dr Flynn’s interests and work have focused on the design and implementation of research in the fields of invasive species, adaptive management, biodiversity mainstreaming and environmental stewardship, over a period of 25 years. She has a particular interest in estuary social-ecological systems and approaches that incorporate nature and biodiversity into urban planning and governance in developing country contexts. Dr Flynn holds a PhD in Environment and Development from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Dr Flynn's presentation is available via this link. Please click here to access the recording of his presentation. 



Quarter 1: Dr Olivier Bousquet

3 March, 13:00-14:00 via Zoom

Research activities in atmospheric, oceanic, marine ecology and climate sciences in the SWIO: Examples of recent projects initiated in RĂ©union Island

Over the last five years, the University of RĂ©union Island, in collaboration with the European Union and numerous French and international research organisations, developed several ambitious and original research programmes in the fields of oceanic, atmospheric and climate sciences, and marine ecology. These include the ReNovRisk Project (impact of tropical cyclone activity on the inhabited territories of the SWIO basin at present and future horizons), SPY and STORM (use of seabirds and turtles as oceanographic samplers to collect hydrographic data in the western Indian Ocean), and IOGA4MET (monitoring the water vapour field and sea level rise on a regional scale), amonst others. The aim of this presentation was to provide an overview of the objectives and preliminary results of these major research projects, and to discuss other research activities and upcoming funding opportunities, to develop ocean science research programmes in the tropical and subtropical western Indian Ocean.

Dr Bousquet is the Director of Research for the French Ministry of Sustainable Development (MTES), and a Research Associate with the CMR.

Dr Bousquet's presentation is available via this link. Please click here to access the recording of his presentation.  


Quarter 2: Prof Rose Boswell

22 June, 13:00-14:00 via Zoom

Professor Rosabelle (Rose) Boswell is an anthropologist and a poet. She serves on the editorial board of SHIMA, a global journal on maritime societies. She has written several books, as well as more than 30 sole-authored papers on heritage, identity, sensory ethnography and the Indian Ocean World.

Prof Boswell holds the DSI-NRF Research Chair for Ocean Cultures and Heritage at the Nelson Mandela University.

In this seminar, Professor Boswell discussed the role of art and the senses in indigenous forms of ocean conservation. The presentation draws on the work of two artists who featured in the One Ocean Hub (OOH) Art and the Oceans webinar held during the UN World Ocean Week in 2020. Prof. Boswell discusses the sensorial nature of art and human beings, as well as the role that art can play in transforming ocean governance. It is argued human artistic endeavour is important to ocean conservation and should be considered in national ocean conservation plans and policy. By using art to leverage human sensory expression, ocean conservation advocates can refine and produce contextually relevant communication for ocean conservation. Recognising the senses and arts is fundamental to reorienting humanity as it enters a post-anthropocentric age, which is marked by dramatic ecological change.

Prof Boswell’s presentation is available via this link. Please click here to access the recording of her presentation.


Quarter 3: Dr Jean Harris

6 October, 11:00-12:00 via Zoom

Dr Jean Harris directs WILDOCEANS, the marine programme of the WILDTRUST, an NGO focused on biodiversity protection and building socio-ecological resilience in Southern Africa and the Western Indian Ocean.

Over the last 7 years, the classic research vessel RV Angra Pequena has been used for offshore research cruises along the east coast of South Africa, and up into Mozambique, Tanzania and Comoros. She has been the platform for some of the first mesophotic surveys (40-250m) in South Africa and in the WIO region. Equipment deployments, supported the South African Institute of Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB) team, have included the African Coelacanth Ecosystem Programme (ACEP) Remotely Operated Video, Stereo BRUVs, plankton nets, drop cameras, oceanographic instruments and multibeam and boomer geoscience work. The team have also found and filmed coelacanths in sub-marine canyons on three cruises to the iSimangaliso MPA.  She is also the ocean home for the Ocean Stewards initiative, providing opportunity for young marine scientists to go to sea and to engage directly with scientists.

Dr Harris’s presentation is available via this link. Please click here to access the recording of her presentation.