Last week SAAMBR staff were delighted to host UNISA 3rd and 4th year students on their annual week-long training course on Marine, Estuarine and Coastal Ecology and Coastal Zone Management.
Their training included participation in field trips with experts to learn about the marine complexities, understanding environmental challenges, and to start thinking about management solutions for these spaces.
On their second day, they joined ORI Senior Scientist, Fiona MacKay at the Beachwood Mangroves Nature Reserve to take a closer look at the microbenthic organisms inhabiting the mangroves. Fiona has been closely monitoring the recovery of the Beachwood mangroves since the life-saving re-opening of the Umgeni River estuary post the April 2022 floods.
Using instruments, the students began with water sampling, to check salinity levels, water clarity and to estimate the contribution the mangrove organic matter had on the systems ecology. The next step was to sift mud through the finest of sieves so that students could begin looking in earnest for signs of organisms no bigger than .5mm. Organisms this size are not easily seen with the naked eye, even young eyes! Peering intently and wondering, “do we have life???!!!”, they were determined to find movement to prove that the estuary mud was, indeed, capable of supporting life in the mangroves.
The sampled mud was duly packaged and transported back to ORI’s laboratory to find, identify (with the help of microscopes) and categorise the myriad organisms.
We are looking forward welcoming next year’s 3rd and 4th year UNISA students and sharing our world with them.