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INVAXEN video now out

27 May 2020

BiodivERsA has officially released the INVAXEN video

Yes, it's the moment that you've been waiting for so long. The INVAXEN video was the result of winning a competition to publicise the outcome of the project. The output was a collaboration between INVAXEN researchers, BiodivERsA and the company Squarefish. It was quite illuminating to see the process of the script, storyboard, animation and then hiring the voice-over and music. 

Here's the finished product:

And the blurb underneath:

This animated movie shows the results of the INVAXEN project (“INVAsive biology of XENopus laevis in Europe”) which studied the biology, ecology, and impact of the highly invasive African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis). The scientists developed models to predict future invasion patterns and passed on their scientific findings to local stakeholders to collaborate with them on conservation actions. The video shows how BiodivERsA-funded projects not only excel in their scientific research, but also how relevant they are at societal level, and how they can help with management practices on the field. ~ This research was funded by the ERA-Net BiodivERsA, with the national funders ANR (France), BelSPO (Belgium), DFG (Germany), FCT (Portugal), part of the 2012-13 joint call for research proposals on invasive species and biological invasions. The Belgian Biodiversity Platform & BiodivERsA led the production of this video, along with the INVAXEN researchers and the animation & motion design studio Squarefish.

  Frogs  Lab  Xenopus

Keep productive during lockdown

03 April 2020

Making a schedule of work to do...

Lockdown has come to us all. At the time of writing, we (in South Africa) have just completed our first full week of lockdown due to the emerging Covid-19 pandemic. Almost everyone has returned home to self isolate. Some lab members are back with their families, others are in their accommodation in Stellenbosch. The university has closed its doors during this period, and all experiments and practical work has stopped. 

Whether we wanted it or not, we now have an opportunity to write up completed projects, or plan the work that we want to do. While the lockdown might come with many unwanted restrictions, it does allow all MeaseyLab members to concentrate on analysis and writing.

But how should we remain productive, or (for some of us) how do we even start getting into a productive cycle? 

Try to enjoy your lockdown period, and make it as productive as you can. Everyone has their own way of working, but if you are struggling here are some tips that I find useful:

Schedule your work & mix it up

There are some tasks that we have that are more fun than others, and it's nice to have something that you can look forward to. Thus, making a simple schedule for your work where you indicate what you are doing and when can really help.

  • Know when you are more productive, and plan accordingly
    • some of us work better first thing in the morning, and others in the evening. Get to know yourself and plan to do the difficult stuff when you're fresh - or warmed up!
  • Make a "To Do" list
    • this will help you know what some of the little tasks are as well as bigger blocks.
    • If you really only have one thing to do (e.g. write PhD proposal), then break this up into smaller workable chunks so that you can start ticking them off
    • don't underestimate the importance and satisfaction of ticking off items on a to do list. Put it up on your wall, use coloured pens. Anything that makes it more satisfying for you
  • Don't become a slave to any schedule that you make
    • when you are being really productive, don't stop just because your time is up. 
    • conversely, when you're failing on a task don't stay with it when its time is up. Move on and come back to it soon. Even when you aren't doing this task, your brain will continue working on the problem.
    • Some problems do much better after a nights sleep, so if something is really bugging you then distill it and read this summary before you go to bed. Let your brain work on it overnight and reflect on what you think in the morning. It's worth having a go!
  • Be aware of what eats into your time (e.g. social media!)
    • if you really need to do this, then put it into your schedule for a less productive time when you know that you'll be flagging. 
    • When it's not scheduled, keep it off your desktop and avoid having alerts on your phone
  • Be logical in what you choose to do when. 
    • Don't plan to write your results when you haven't analysed your data.
  • Include items that are non-work into your schedule: 
    • such as coffee/tea breaks, social media fixes or exercise slots, and communicate these with anyone that you are in lockdown with (especially if they are prone to interrupting your most productive periods).
    • and include little things like writing or updating your profile for this website or the CIB website. Part of remaining productive is achieving little things on your to do list, as well as the really big items.
  • Plan meetings with other lab members (on zoom, skype or whatsapp), and keep communicating with your advisor, even if it's just to check in. It does help to chat about what you are doing as it helps you to verbalise and forces you to put it into another perspective. 
  • Don't spend too much time in this scheduling - it could end up eating all your time!

Don't forget that there is information on writing elsewhere on this website: 


The book is published!

11 March 2020

Published: Biological Invasions in South Africa

In what is actually a big event for the Centre for Invasion Biology, and invasion biologists all over South Africa, our book "Biological Invasions in South Africa" is published today! Moreover, it is Open Access and therefore free for anyone to download.

With 104 authors contributing to 31 chapters, there are nearly 1000 pages of text in this volume. The idea is that this book represents an encyclopaedic approach to covering all aspects of invasions in South Africa.

I wrote 2 chapters in the book that cover the invasive vertebrates in South Africa, as well as the invasive animals that have been donated from South Africa to the rest of the world. I also contributed to seven more chapters that cover many different aspects of invasions. Below you'll find the citations to my chapters, but I recommend downloading the entire book and looking through it all.

Byrne MJ et al. (2020) Education, training and capacity building in the field of biological invasions in South Africa. In: van Wilgen BW, Measey J, Richardson DM, Wilson JR, van Wilgen BW (eds) Biological invasions in South Africa. Springer, Berlin, pp 731-755. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-030-32394-3_25

Davies SJ et al. (2020) Experience and lessons from invasive and alien animal control projects carried out in South Africa. In: van Wilgen BW, Measey J, Richardson DM, Wilson JR, van Wilgen BW (eds) Biological invasions in South Africa. Springer, Berlin, pp 629-663. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-030-32394-3_22

Measey J, Hui C, Somers M (2020) Terrestrial vertebrate invasions in South Africa. In: van Wilgen BW, Measey J, Richardson DM, Wilson JR, van Wilgen BW (eds) Biological invasions in South Africa. Springer, Berlin, pp 115-151. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-030-32394-3_5

Measey J, Robinson TB, Kruger N, Zengeya TA, Hurley BP (2020) South Africa as a donor of alien animals to other parts of the world. In: van Wilgen BW, Measey J, Richardson DM, Wilson JR, van Wilgen BW (eds) Biological invasions in South Africa. Springer, Berlin, pp 787-830. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-030-32394-3_27

Potgieter LJ et al. (2020) Biological invasions in South Africa’s urban ecosystems: Patterns, processes, impacts and management. In: van Wilgen BW, Measey J, Richardson DM, Wilson JR, van Wilgen BW (eds) Biological invasions in South Africa. Springer, Berlin, pp 275-309. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-030-32394-3_11

Richardson DM, Abrahams B, Boshoff N, Davies SJ, Measey J, van Wilgen B (2020) South Africa’s Centre for Invasion Biology: An Experiment in Invasion Science for Society. In: van Wilgen BW, Measey J, Richardson DM, Wilson JR, van Wilgen BW (eds) Biological Invasions in South Africa pp 879-914 https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-030-32394-3_30

van Wilgen BW, Measey J, Richardson DM, Wilson JR, Zengeya T (2020) Overview of biological invasions in South Africa. In: van Wilgen BW, Measey J, Richardson DM, Wilson JR, van Wilgen BW (eds) Biological invasions in South Africa. Springer, Berlin pp 3-31. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-030-32394-3_1

Wilson JR et al. (2020) The role of environmental factors in promoting and limiting biological invasions in South Africa. In: van Wilgen BW, Measey J, Richardson DM, Wilson JR, van Wilgen BW (eds) Biological invasions in South Africa. Springer, Berlin pp 355-385. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-030-32394-3_13

Wilson JR, Measey J, Richardson DM, van Wilgen BW, Zengeya TA (2020) Potential futures of biological invasions in South Africa. In: van Wilgen BW, Measey J, Richardson DM, Wilson JR, van Wilgen BW (eds) Biological invasions in South Africa. Springer,  Berlin pp 917-946 https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-030-32394-3_31


Natasha becomes Dr Kruger

09 March 2020

Natasha's PhD defense in Lyon

The defense of a PhD has different sets of rules in different countries. Usually, you become familiar with the rules in your own country because you've seen plenty of people conduct defenses before in your own department. However, Natasha had a co-tutelle agreement with Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1, and the co-tutelle agreement specified that she had to conduct her defense in Lyon, France (even though she'd never been there!).

This led to a a whole chain of events with a lot of travel for her defense jury (although Rui Rebelo was stopped from coming from Portugal by his university in case he caught a virus).

Natasha might have hoped that the most difficult part of her defense was going to be pronouncing the title in French...

The jury convened at 14h30 to listen to Natasha give her talk. She was then grilled with questions for around 1.5 hours by members of the jury who wanted to know more details of her study. It's not easy to become a dr. 

Finally, Natasha heard the words: "Congratulations - you're a doctor!"

Natasha will also graduate from Stellenbosch University in December, so watch this space to see pictures from that event.

  Frogs  Lab  Xenopus

Natasha defends her PhD thesis (unofficially in Stellenbosch)

14 February 2020

Natasha defends her thesis

Doing a thesis defense is always a bit nerve wracking, but imagine if you had to do it twice? Luckly, for Natasha, it turned out that she did only have to defend her thesis once, but after we'd organised a defense in Stellenbosch, we decided to go ahead with the defense as a good practice for the real defense in Lyon. Whether or not it was actually going to be a defense seemed to be beyond our control. The faculty flip-flopped several times on the issue. 

Then, at the last minute it looked like even the dry run wouldn't happen as we were forced out of our building for a small fire on the first floor.

We got back into the department shortly after 13h00, when the defense was due to start. We had a diminished audience as many people had disappeared during the evacuation, but all of the important people were there to listen.

In time honoured fashion, after the defense, the lab all went down to the pub to celebrate.

  Lab  Xenopus
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