Student research @ Gobabeb

Ndelimona Iipinge. Student Associate.

Ndelimona is working to understand the foraging behaviour of one of the Namib’s most elusive creatures: Namib Golden Moles (Eremitalpa granti namibensis).

These small, blind, nocturnal insectivores range widely on and below the surface of the Namib sand dunes at night in search of prey: the sand-swimming “shark” of the Namib dune sea.

Supervisors: Gary Bronner (UCT); Eugene Marais (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)

Ailly Nanguloshi Nambwandja. Student Associate.

Ailly is using drone / remote sensing to monitor photosynthesis in Namibia’s distinct lichen communities. Her research will provide a low impact method for monitoring of lichen flora, and lead to better conservation strategies, identifying in particular where surface traffic (on foot or in vehicles) should be avoided.

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

Supervisors: Ben Strohbach (NUST); Eugene Marais (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)

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)

Leandri Wessels. Student Associate.

Leandri is exploring how topography, frequency and incidence of fog events affect the composition of biological soil crust communities, in particular gypsum soils of the coastal plains along a gradient of fog incidence with distance from the ocean.

Her project makes extensive use of Gobabeb’s FogNet weather station array.

Leandri is studying for the MSc at North-West University (NWU) Potchefstroom campus.

Supervisors: Roelof Burger (NWU); Stuart Piketh (NWU); Stefan Siebert (NWU).

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 MSc at the University of Cape Town (Biological Sciences).

Supervisors:  Jeremy Midgley (UCT); Eugene Marais (Gobabeb).

Elbe Brunette. Senior Researcher.

Elbe is investigating human-induced water stress in the riparian trees of the central Namib Desert.

Through her project, Elbe aims to provide the scientific basis for future decision–making around the allocation of water to societies and ecosystems.

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

Supervisors: Theo Wassenaar (NUST); Lixin Wang (Indiana University-Purdue, USA)

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)

Madeleine Bolton. Intern. University of Manchester

Madeleine (‘Maddy’) Bolton is working as an intern at Gobabeb, assisting with environmental monitoring activities and providing technical support to research projects. She is also undertaking a small project mapping the distribution of flightless dung beetles in the Namib and studying their behaviour.

Maddy has recently completed her second year studying for the BSc in Biology at the University of Manchester.

Julian Menge. Intern. Ruprecht-Karls University.

Julian is establishing marketing activities for Gobabeb, specialising in Social Media marketing.

Within his project, he is developing an end-to-end Social Media strategy with a focus on sustainability, and launching its roll-out.

In this project, Julian is working to increase the visibility of Gobabeb world-wide.

Julian is a Bachelor student of Molecular Biotechnology at the Ruprecht-Karls University in Heidelberg, Germany. He is also a student consultant at GalileiConsult e.V.


Monique Tredoux. Intern. Namibia University of Science and Technology.

Monique is assessing the inselberg and gravel plains species composition and diversity, to identify how this might change along the climatic gradient of the central Namib Desert.

Monique is a third-year student studying for a Bachelor’s Degree in Natural Resource Management focusing on nature conservation, and is doing her Work-Integrated Learning period at Gobabeb.

Mentor: Jessica Roberts (Gobabeb). Supervisor: Dr Jonathan Kamwi (NUST).