Student research @ Gobabeb

Natanael Ndilenga. Student Associate.

Natanael studies the pollination biology and demography of Welwitschia mirabilis.

He is using a combination of using time-lapse photography, direct observation, fluorescent tracers, and other methods to clarify what is pollinating Welwitschia. Surprisingly, little is known of the pollination ecology, reproduction, and populations of this iconic plant.

Supervisors: Allan Ellis (University of Stellenbosch); Eugene Marais (Gobabeb); Gillian Maggs-Kölling (Gobabeb)

Paulina Pomwene Fendinat. Student Associate.

Paulina is studying the ecohydrology and ecophysiology of the Namib Desert plant, Welwitschia mirabilis. She wants to understand where Welwitschia gets its water and how efficiently it uses it. Her research will help clarify the risks that mining, tourism, land use, and climate change may pose to the species, and help in mitigating those risks.

Paulina is a PhD candidate at the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST).

Supervisors: Theo Wassenaar (NUST); Heather Throop, (Arizona State University - ASU, USA)

Jessica Roberts. MSc Student. Hot Birds Project.

Jess is exploring how behaviour (such as panting, wing drooping and shade seeking) of free-ranging dune larks help them adapt to the harsh thermal environment of their dune habitat.

Her observations, in addition an analysis of microhabitats and thermal refuges, will be used to create a mathematical model of dune lark biophysical ecology.

Jess is studying for the MSc in zoology at the University of Pretoria (UP).

Supervisors: Andrew McKechnie (UP); Susan Cunningham (University of Cape Town)

Martin Handjaba. Junior Researcher.

Martin is modeling the biophysical ecology two nocturnal gerbil species that are endemic to the Namib Desert: Gerbillurus tytonis (a dune-dweller) and Gerbillurus setzeri (occupying gravel plains.

His research will contribute to our understanding of how Namib fauna may respond to changing climatic conditions.

Supervisors: Stuart Piketh (North-West University); Eugene Marais (Gobabeb)

Ndapandula (Kapandu) Shihepo. Training Coordinator.

Kapandu studies environmental policy and social ecology, in particular the effectiveness of policies to reduce plastic bag use and pollution at central coastal towns in Namibia.

She also organizes and oversees Gobabeb’s training programs for students at all educational levels (primary, secondary and tertiary).

Kapandu is studying for the Master in Natural Resource Management at Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST).

Supervisors: Clarence Ntisa (NUST), Gillian Maggs-Kölling and Eugene Marais (Gobabeb)

Saima Shikesho. Junior Researcher.

Saima is studying seed dispersal of endemic Namib plant, the !nara (Acanthosicyos horridus) by black-backed jackals and gerbils.

She hopes better to understand how the !nara’s disjunct distribution along the riparian corridor of the Kuiseb River comes to be.

Saima is studying for the PhD at Dartmouth University.

Supervisors:  Doug Bolger (Dartmouth); Eugene Marais (Gobabeb).

Brendan Luyanda. Student Associate.

Brendan is investigating demographic parameters, habitat suitability and population dynamics between barking geckos (Ptenopus garrulus, P. kochi and P. maculutus) in the central Namib Desert.

The aim is to provide essential scientific information for monitoring and conservation management of these geckos.

Brendan is studying for the MSc at UNAM (Wildlife Management & Ecotourism).

Supervisors: Ezequiel Fabiano (UNAM); Eugene Marais (Gobabeb)

Rosa-Stella Mbulu. Student Associate.

Rosa is interested in evolutionary processes and genetic diversity of selected desert-living beetles (Tenebrionidae) and angiosperms (Kissenia capensis, Huidobria fruticosa and Zygophyllum stapfii collected from the Atacama and Namib deserts.

Rosa will perform sequencing to study genetic desert adaptation enhancing mechanisms.

Rosa is pursuing a PhD in Biology at the University of Cologne (UoC), Germany.

Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Thomas Wiehe (UoC); Co-supervisors: Prof. Dr. Dietmar Quandt (University of Bonn) and Prof. Dr. Reinhard Predel (UoC)

Ulrich E Bezuidenhoudt. Student Associate.

Ulrich is using drone technology/remote sensing to investigate the key aspects of Welwitschia mirabilis demography in the central Namib Desert. His research will aid the developing and testing of species-specific demographic models to understand and predict conservation and management of Welwitschia populations.

Ulrich is studying for a Masters degree in Natural Resources Management at the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST).

Supervisors: Jonathan Kamwi and Ben Strohbach (NUST); Eugene Marais (Gobabeb)

Brave Mukena. Intern.

Brave is a recent graduate in Wildlife Management & Ecotourism (Hons) from the University of Namibia. He is seeking to gain industry experience and further his career growth. He will be assisting in various tasks while at Gobabeb, such as research, data capturing and working closely with different team members to learn more about the institute.

He hopes to further his studies either in Namibia or South Africa come 2023.

Mentor: Eugene Marais

Michael M. Disho. Student Intern.

Michael is doing his Work-Integrated Learning opportunity at Gobabeb. He will be learning relevant scientific technologies for rural development, mapping selected settlements within the Namib-Naukluft National Park, helping with environmental monitoring, data management, and technical support for various in-house and international research projects.

He is studying Regional and Rural Development at NUST.

Mentor: Ulrich E Bezuidenhoudt (Gobabeb). Supervisors: Jane Gold (NUST); Eugene Marais (Gobabeb)

Antonia Müller-Harboe. Student Intern.

Antonia is studying Oceanography at the University of Hamburg, Germany, and is broadly interested in climate change.

She will be designing and executing a project for her bachelor thesis, addressing her main interest in connecting the upwelling system along the Namibian coast with the climate in the Namib Desert.

Supervisors: Prof. Dr Johanna Baehr (University of Hamburg); Dr Peter Landschützer (University of Hamburg); Eugene Marais (Gobabeb)

Nelao N Hauulu. Student Intern.

Nelao is a recent graduate with a BA (Hons) in Geography and Environmental Studies from the University of Namibia (UNAM).

She is currently an intern at Gobabeb, assisting with routine research tasks, while being mentored to assume a training coordination role.

With a broad interest in environmental issues and sustainability, she will be investigating indoor air pollution and solid fuel emission risks in vulnerable communities in Namibia for her MSc studies at North-West University in South Africa.