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And they're off! Student scientists head to South Africa

South Africa

A group of seven students and two staff members have headed to South Africa on a multi-faceted science trip that will see them working alongside world experts to get a glimpse into what research projects are like at tertiary level.

Students in Year 12 and above had the opportunity to attend the trip, which starts with a project in Dinokeng Reserve to monitor the impact of elephants on the area’s landscape, using various sampling techniques to collect data.

ACG Sunderland Science Faculty Coordinator Teresa Barlow said South African reserves can be unique areas to study, with land privately donated and different communities living within their boundaries.

“Encouraging biodiversity can bring much-needed income into an area through ecotourism, but this has to be balanced by the need for food production and houses,” she said. “Our students will learn about the local ecology as well as the problems and advantages of wild life co-habiting so closely with people.”

The second week of the trip sees students scuba diving and snorkelling in the Sodwana wetlands to collect data on the biodiversity of marine life in the reefs and rocky shores. They will have the opportunity to gain their PADI open water diving qualification and a certificate of participation recognised by some international universities.

It’s a completely different experience to that of a tourist, Ms Barlow said.

“Our students are experiencing an aspect of South Africa that many tourists do not get to see, and making a contribution to the hard work of research teams that will contribute greatly to understanding.”