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Max and James get set up in Durban

08 December 2019

Max and James get set-up in Durban

A couple of weeks back, Max and James set off from Stellenbosch in James' Landy with 20 tubs to go to Durban. They almost made it, but the Landy gave out just before Durban and they had to get recovered Landy on one truck and tubs on another. And so all good adventures start! 

The reason for the trip was to set up a common garden experiment in Durban with Guttural Toads (Sclerophrys gutturalis) from their native and invasive ranges. The idea is to breed all toads to produce tadpoles, and then rear up the tadpoles in our mesocosms (regular readers will be familiar with these from past blogs: see here). Max will monitor their growth rate, morphology and behaviour of the different groups. 

The set up in a green house in Durban includes cameras for watching tadpole behaviour, blue bins for rearing tadpoles (under benches) and a 'pint of science' growing algae to kick start the mesocosms.

Once everything is set up, all you need is toads. Here you see Max and James scoping out urban and rural areas of Durban to see whether there are appropriate numbers of toads. 

Obviously, you've got to be quite whacky to hunt toads in Durban, and James and Max certainly fit the bill...

So near, and yet so far. The Landy almost made it to Durban with all the tubs, but not quite.


Welcome Max Mühlenhaupt

18 November 2019

The MeaseyLab welcomes Max Mühlenhaupt

Max Mühlenhaupt (think windmill) comes from the Free University in Berlin (Freie Universität Berlin) where he is studying for a MSc in Biology (Masterstudiengang Biologie). Max previously spent time with Dr James Baxter-Gilbert, when James was conducting his PhD in Australia. Max was responsible for chasing dragons in circles. I know it sounds like a fantasy, but I'm assured that this is what he did.


Max Mühlenhaupt with Dr James Baxter-Gilbert outside the Department for Botany & Zoology, Stellenbosch University

Max is in Stellenbosch to conduct his project: Examining the potential for evolutionary drivers behind biological invasions of Guttural Toads. He will focus on the early life-history stages of these toads: tadpoles and metamorphs. This will take place in a mesocosm experiment in Durban. Watch this space to learn more of Max and his adventures in South Africa.

Max reminds us that he is not an intern, but a co-investigator, and of course we are very happy to have him on board in this capacity.


The CIB Annual Research Meeting 2019

15 November 2019

CIB ARM 2019

Another year has gone by, and it is time for another Annual Research Meeting (see some previous years here: 2018, 2017. Following directly on from the frameworks workshop, the ARM featured all the usual Core Team Members, and all of the wonderful CIB post-docs and students. 

This year, the post-docs decided on a theme of pictures in pods for the students to present on. Each student talk was 5 minutes, and was composed of pictures (photos, graphs, conceptual frameworks, etc.) with a legend. The talks were arranged into themed pods, and each pod was led by a post-doc.

As usual, the students raised to the challenge with excellence. The MeaseyLab had excellent talks from Natasha Kruger and Carla Wagener, as well as excellent pods led by James Baxter-Gilbert and Nitya #MohantyMagic. 

It was a special day for Nitya, as not only was he staring in the proceedings of the ARM, but it was his last day in South Africa. He has now flown to Bangalore to start his new post-doc position on December 2nd. We are hoping that it won’t be the last we see of Nitya, and hopefully soon we’ll be seeing some more publications from his productive post-doc in the MeaseyLab.

Once again, the entire ARM was an uplifting experience. The CIB students do such a great job. I was especially pleased to see Nathi Ntuli receiving a commendation from the judges for his MSc presentation on feral pigs in South Africa. Go Nathi go!

  Lab  meetings

Goodbye Nitya!

15 November 2019

Goodbye Nitya

Last Friday, we had a lab braai to say goodbye to Nitya Mohanty, who leaves us today for his new post-doc in the lab orMaria Thaker in Bangalore

Nitya first appeared in an email in late 2015. If you’ve ever wanted to know what to say in an email to get someone to take you on as a PhD student, sight unseen, then you’d have to ask him. Because that’s what happened, eventually.

In early 2016, Nitya began to develop his PhD proposal and eventually arrived and registered at SU in July 2016 to present his proposal to the department. Nitya had won a partial bursary from the department that would cover the cost of a flight to and from South Africa each year, and some extra monies for registering for a PhD at SU. 

We’ve seen many blog posts over the years since then about Nitya, as he’s been a busy student. Here’s a small selection of highlights: 

First trip into the field

A conference in Scotland

Advisor visits the Andamans field sites

Producing papers&Popular articles

More papers

Nitya graduated inMarch 2019, and by then had already started his first post-doc in the MeaseyLab. He developed the theme of pet invasions, as well as finishing some of his PhD chapters, turning them into manuscripts for submission. 

We’ve had a lot of fun having Nitya in the MeaseyLab. We wish him all the best in his new endeavours, wherever they take him.  We are really happy that Nitya will be studying sleep ecology in a more formal framework. Sleep is something that is very close to Nitya’s heart. He’s the one person who has shown time and again that he can perform sleep wherever he goes. It’s great to see that all that practice has finally paid off!

  Frogs  Lab

Another stimulating CIB workshop

12 November 2019

Framework workshop

Every year, the CIB hosts a workshop on a particular theme in invasion biology. The workshop is timed to coincide with the CIB Annual Research Meeting (ARM - more on that later). Regular readers of this blog will remember workshops on Functional Response (see here), urban invasions (see here) invasion syndromes (see here) and BRICS networks (see here). This year the theme of the workshop was frameworks in invasion biology.


If you’ve not noticed yet, invasion biology has an awful lot of frameworks, and some folks just love constructing and refining them. John Wilson got a whole bunch of these framework lovers together for a workshop with several aims over 3 days at Spier wine farm, near Stellenbosch.


The first aim was to have everyone contribute a paper on some aspect of frameworks for a special issue of the journal NeoBiota. The MeaseyLab contribution is aimed at calculating the cost of making impact studies that can be scored with EICAT and SEICAT. I hope that you’ll be seeing some more of this study as time goes by. The special issue should be out toward the end of 2020… watch this space.


The second aim was to create a framework for all of the other frameworks out there, and to see how they all fit in. This was a task that took most of our time over the workshop, and was very challenging trying to get what are large multi-dimensional concepts onto sheets of 2 dimensional paper. But it was also fun to see how different people could see this happening, and it’ll be even more interesting to see what comes out of this.

Lastly, the workshop aimed to streamline some thoughts on existing frameworks to make them more workable in terms of policy, management and implementation. See if you can see some familiar faces from MeaseyLab days gone by...

  Lab  meetings
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