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Iimbovane in brief Print

The Iimbovane Project is a science education project that uses ants as a model species to teach high school learners about biodiversity science. By using “ants” as the focus species, Iimbovane, hopes to spark learners’ interest in local biodiversity and to help them understand the science that supports the conservation our rich natural heritage.

Iimbovane aims to educate and raise awareness levels of educators and their learners on the importance of biodiversity, and to create an appreciation and understanding of biodiversity science. We do this through hands-on lessons at our participating schools, biodiversity workshops based at Stellenbosch University campus and surrounding areas, partaking in science career expos as well as tailor-made outreach activities.

The key objectives of Iimbovane are to:                                                                                                                                  
  • Educate learners on how science works through active participation in “real” research
  • Develop learners scientific and critical thinking skills
  • Educate learners on biodiversity conservation and wider environmental issues 
  • Promote careers in biodiversity science
  • Provide training and support to life science educators 
Iimbovane alumnus pursues his passion for science Print

azole klaas photo

I've always loved biology as I found it truly interesting. I was motivated by being part of Iimbovane! I saw myself at varsity after attending the project.” – Azole Klaas

These are the words of Iimbovane alumnus, Azole Klaas, who decided to pursue his passion for science after high school. Azole is currently a first year student at the University of Cape Town (UCT), and is doing a BSc degree with majors in Biochemistry, Human Anatomy and Physiology. His undergraduate degree consist of a variety subjects from basic biology to statistics.

Celebration as Iimbovane receives funding from the Mapula Trust Print

Iimbovane's efforts to deliver hands-on biodiversity education to the youth recently received a welcome boost, thanks to a generous donation from the Mapula Trust.

The Iimbovane Outreach Project is an education project of the Centre for Invasion Biology (C∙I∙B) and was established in 2006 to train Life Science teachers and learners at the Grade 10 level in biodiversity science by using the ants in their schoolyards.

Learners from Geritt du Plessis planting pitfall traps on schoolyard

Thanks to the support from the Mapula Trust, we project team will be able to expose 
approximately 1 200 Grade 10 learners from 17 schools in the Western Cape to biodiversity while helping them develop much needed practical science skills.

The project’s activities give participating learners a hands-on experiences with 
the setting up of sampling sites and the collection of biodiversity data which include the ants and plants species alongside the scientific community of Stellenbosch University.

But it goes further than that – through holiday programmes learners are invited for a weeklong campus visit during which they perform mini-research projects to explore environmental issues 
of our time.


marine study 2018

Learners from various Iimbovane schools conducting a limpet study at Blouberg Strand beach  

"Engaging the learners in mini-research projects heightens their sense of wonder and prompts them to ask questions such as 'how?' and 'why?' The need to know more about how nature works allows learners to think critical about environmental topics. . When prompted to work together as in groups outside of class, learners often draw on skills they wouldn't normally exhibit in a traditional classroom setting. For example, learners learn how to work together and communicate effectively with other learners to solve a research question," says Londiwe Msomi, C∙I∙B Education Outreach Officer.

The Mapula Trust contribution will be used to support these holiday programmes, learner workshops, classroom lessons and sampling of schoolyards at participating schools. Life Science educators can also look forward to training opportunities to clarify the concept of biodiversity, its significance and more generally to improve the quality of biodiversity science teaching in classrooms.

"Iimbovane is a one-of-a-kind project – it exposes the South African youth to the treasures of our natural environment while letting them apply their theoretical knowledge about biodiversity and the science method in a real-life setting as opposed to just reading about it in textbooks. Certainly, the most valuable educational impact of the project is the practical science skills that the learners gain and their reflection on those skills," explains Iimbovane project manager, Dorette du Plessis.
Iimbovane gives SANParks Junior Rangers a close-up look at park’s ant diversity Print

Iimbovane took to the Karoo National Park, Beaufort West, to host a workshop for their Junior Rangers on the ant diversity of the park.

The SANParks Junior Rangers are a programme for young volunteers aged between 12 and 18 that have a passion for conservation. They participate in the youth development programme of the South African National Parks (SANParks) for an entire year where they become exposed to the park’s functions and activities that include talks from experts in conservation, and after which they are awarded with a certificate of completion.

The day’s session began at the park’s community hall where the enthusiastic group of 12 attendees explored the various methods which scientists use to collect ants and had a few discussions around their advantages and disadvantages.

It was then time to go outside in search for ants with our guide Jan Jacobs, and what a pleasure it was to have Jan share his extensive knowledge of medicinal and edible plants.
Geared with their aspirators or ‘pooters’, and other sampling equipment, the group scrambled through succulents in search of different species of ants. A ‘pooter’ is a small jar used for collecting insects. It has two tubes - one goes into your mouth so one can apply suction, and the other goes over the ant so that it gets sucked into the jar. A fine mesh over the end of the first tube stops one from swallowing the ant. Without doubt the ants gave group a good game of scramble and what a thrill to see those ‘Balbyter’ or Camponotus fulvopilosus species attacking their fingers.

The day ended with close observations of ants under the microscope during which the group were exposed to ant morphology and the scientific naming of ants.

The busy day of sampling gave the rangers a chance to appreciate that ant species come in all different forms, sizes and colors.

A special thanks to the People and Parks Officer, Esna van Zyl for keeping the adventure alive amidst the pandemic.


New addition to Iimbovane Project Team Print

Etienne grew up in Stellenbosch, where he studied Biodiversity and Ecology at the Stellenbosch University. After graduation, Etienne worked with various NGOs, including Gondwana Alive(www.gondwanaalive.org) , Rim of Africa (https://rimofafrica.co.za/) and Earthchild Project (http://www.earthchildproject.org/), where he was responsible for coordinating and facilitating their environmental programmes.

Gardening for biodiversity Print

Summer is here and where could be a better place to experience authentic natural beauty than our local botanical gardens?

Although the ants were out and about, we wanted to entice a community of residents from the Camphill Village West Coast, a community for adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities, to the remarkable diversity of plants and the importance of their conservation.

Iimbovane keeps inspiring young biodiversity enthusiasts Print

Another school holiday means another Iimbovane workshop! In the first week of October, 19 learners from six Western Cape schools were invited to spend part of the October school holiday camping amongst the pines with the Iimbovane team.

Clearing Acacias for Mandela Day Print

In celebration of Mandela Day on July 18th, staff members of DST-NRF Centre for Invasion Biology (C·I·B) joined a group of 150 volunteers who gave their time to help with projects at Camphill Village West Coast.

Biodiversity beyond what the eye can see Print

On the 2nd July 2018, 20 intrepid learners, from ten schools across Western Cape, braved icy temperatures to travel to Stellenbosch for Iimbovane’s “Biodiversity beyond what the eye can see” workshop.

Mobilising next generation woman scientists Print

On 25 May 2018, a group of ten highly motivated Grade 11 girls, visited the C·I·B and the Department of Botany and Zoology to learn more about women in science. This event, which forms part of the annual Cell- C Take a Girl Child initiative, gave the girls from Vusisizwe Secondary School in Worcester, the opportunity to interview a variety of women about their careers, the highlights and challenges that come with their jobs and why they chose these careers.

Iimbovane educates on “Water Matters” Print

Early April brought about the successful execution of Iimbovane’s first ever water-focused workshop, in Stanford, Western Cape. Seventeen Grade 10 ladies from five Cape town-based schools joined us for a week out in nature - the best classroom.

Marching on… Print

The month of March was an exciting time for the Iimbovane team, filled with outreach activities, school visits and capacity building. Here below are some of the highlights.

Iimbovane assists in creating an educational resource on aliens and invasions for all Print

Last year Iimbovane collaborated with WESSA to produce an issue of the EnviroKids magazine, themed “Understanding alien plants and animals in South Africa”.

Celebrating Environmental Day with Rijk Tulbagh Primary Print

Word of mouth took Iimbovane and the Cape Leopard Trust to the beautiful foothills of Tulbagh to visit the Rijk Tulbagh Primary School on their Environmental Day. On the agenda was exploring biodiversity and the threats posed by invasive plants and animals with Iimbovane and raising awareness about Cape leopards with the Cape Leopard Trust.
From Spotted Cats to Hairy Ants! Print

The Cape Leopard Trust is, a well-known non-governmental, non-profit organisation that focuses on innovative research, conservation and education projects, all established to facilitate and promote biodiversity conservation (https://capeleopard.org.za/about).  It was co-founded by Dr Quinton Martin. Sharing the same funder as Iimbovane, Rand Merchant Bank- we decided to join forces and see what we can learn from each other’s holiday programs. The month of July saw the first collaborative activity between Iimbovane and the Cape Leopard Trust.


Biodiversity training from a learner’s perspective Print

After her first encounter with an Iimbovane workshop at Scifest 2017, Ayla van der Merwe, a Gr.10 learner from St Patricks Christian Brothers' College (Kimberly) came to visit the Iimbovane Outreach Project for two weeks as a volunteer to experience life as a scientist.

During her visit she was part of the Big on Biodiversity holiday program presented by the Iimbovane project team.

At the end of her stay with Iimbovane Ayla gave a summary of her experience:

Book donation boosts Iimbovane ant project Print

The Iimbovane Outreach Project has received a generous donation of books, which will be used to help in the teaching of biodiversity science to the high school learners.

The donation of 50 copies of the first ever guide to ants of southern Africa, was made possible by the Mapula Trust and the author, Peter Slingsby. While Peter is well renowned for his maps, he is also an avid ant enthusiast and author of several books on rock art of the southern Cape and Cederberg.

So, how do I become an “Ant-ologist”? Iimbovane inspires future scientists Print

From the eleventh to the fourteenth of March this year, the Iimbovane team could be found at the Albany Museum, in Grahamstown. Here they facilitated their “Awed by Ants” workshop, chosen as one of close to 80 workshops to present at this year’s SciFest Africa – South Africa’s largest national science festival.

Iimbovane impresses Touwsrivier Primary’s aspiring scientists! Print

On Friday the 17th February 2017, eleven intrepid pupils from Touwsrivier Primary School’s Science and Maths Club joined Iimbovane for a short workshop, at Stellenbosch University.  The pupils ranged in age from twelve to fourteen.

Exciting news in the “Ant World”! Print

In a few short days, a new ant book will be available on the shelves! In his book, titled “Ants of Southern Africa”, Peter Slingsby took years of one of his pet passions in life to the next level, and complied this insightful book.  It will be the first ever published field guide of Southern African ants.

Iimbovane team sparks interest in biodiversity science at careers expo Print

The Iimbovane Outreach Project was amongst a flock of exhibitors that were hosted at the SANBI Harold Porter Botanical Garden and the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) on the 11th August 2016 for the annual Biodiversity Careers Expo 2016.

This annual event aims at showcasing careers in biodiversity and environmental sciences for Grade 10 Life Science learners from schools in the Overberg District. The garden and venue were vibrant with nearly 260 learners who took part in the event.

Learners experience ‘biodiversity in action’ with Iimbovane Print
The Western Cape has a lot to boast about when it comes to biodiversity, and who better than the youth who will be protecting it one day! In support of this, the Iimbovane Outreach Project hosted a “Big on Biodiversity” workshop at Stellenbosch University between the 27th June and 1st July 2016. The aim of the workshop was to engage Grade 10, Life Science learners in biodiversity science and to make it practical with hands-on investigations.

The workshop was attended by 32 learners from 13 schools across the Western Cape.

C·I·B and Iimbovane Take a Girl Child to Work Print

On the 26th May 2016 the DST-NRF Centre for Invasion Biology (C·I·B) and the Iimbovane Outreach Project participated in the Cell C Take a Girl Child to Work initiative.

This initiative aims at providing young girls with information to equip them for making better, informed choices about the career choices. This year marks the 14th year since the inception of this initiative. The C·I·B and Iimbovane are regular participants in this annual event that supports the need to expose girls to the reality of the work environment.

SANPark junior rangers get “ant-wise” with Iimbovane Print

Ants play important roles in ecosystems, yet they often go unnoticed by visitors to the park and field rangers. To raise awareness of the importance and diversity of these tiny insects, the Iimbovane Outreach Project presented a training session for SANParks junior rangers in the Karoo National Park.

The session, titled “Amazing Ants of Karoo National Park”, gave the junior rangers an overview of the significant role that ants play in ecosystems and how scientists identify different species. The session also introduced the junior rangers to sampling methods, and through trying each method the rangers came to see the advantages and limitations of each method.

Iimbovane treats visitors with award-winning workshop at Scifest Africa 2016 Print

Did you know that ants have hair on their bodies? Or that some species build underground cities which go as deep as 8 meters deep? These were among the fascinating facts that were part of hands-on workshop entitled “Antastic!” held at Scifest Africa 2016 by team members of the Iimbovane Outreach Project.

Iimbovane welcomes new team member Print

The Iimbovane Outreach Project has added a new member to their growing team. The newest member of the team, Londiwe Msomi, will take the role of Education Outreach Officer. 

Getting the message across: The Iimbovane Outreach Project Print

The Iimbovane team tells Quest readers how ants are being used to teach learners about biodiversity...

Iimbovane participant catches the eye of the press Print
Leonne Adams, a  Stellenbosch University student, who has joined Iimbovane on various occasions (see article: Former Iimbovane participant to study B.Sc at Stellenbosch University), shines again.
All things bright and beautiful - Iimbovane showcases careers in biodiversity science Print

Both marine and terrestrial, science and conservation, fauna and flora, the whole spectrum of nature’s beauty was displayed at the annual Biodiversity Careers Expo held on the 6th August 2015 at Harold Porter National Botanical Garden, Betties bay. Here, Iimbovane’s display of microscopes and insects certainly attracted the attention of many.

Tiny Threats - Alien ants in our Fynbos Print
aliens in fynbos
Experiencing life in a laboratory with Iimbovane Print

While most other Maties students were off on their summer holidays, two hardworking BSc undergrads decided to stick around campus to do holiday work with Iimbovane Outreach Project.

Iimbovane gives career guidance to Overberg learners Print

The Western Cape Education Department’s (WCED) Careers Expo is always a highlight on the Iimbovane Project’s calendar.  2014 was no exception and Iimbovane was there in full force – visible, active and interacting with learners from the Overberg education district.

Vusisizwe learners are Big on Biodiversity Print
While most Grade 10 learners were on holiday, a group of 15 learners from the Vusisizwe Secondary School, in Worcester, started the school holiday by attending a workshop to learn more about South African biodiversity.
Iimbovane trains young biodiversity enthusiasts Print

The Iimbovane Outreach Project recently hosted another Big on Biodiversity workshop, aimed at Grade 10 learners. On Wednesday 2 July 2014, the Iimbovane team welcomed 15 nervous learners from various schools in Cape Town area.

Grade 10 Life Science learners are scientists for a week Print

Twenty Grade 10 Life Science learners from no less than six different schools across the Western Cape region participated in the Iimbovane Outreach Project’s 4th annual winter week held at Stellenbosch University from the 9-12 July 2013.

Former Iimbovane participants continue with science at SU Print

One of the aims of Iimbovane is to encourage learners, especially female learners, to consider biological sciences as a field of study and ultimately as a career. Throughout their participation in the Iimbovane Outreach Project, the learners interact with scientists during regular schools visits and learnerworkshops.

A is for Ants…Home-scholars get ant-smart the Iimbovane way Print

In April 2013 the Iimbovane Outreach Project hosted, in collaboration with the Table Mountain National Park’s Environmental Education Programme, two workshops for a group of home-schooled learners.

Iimbovane workshop a hit with Hermanus learners Print

The Iimbovane project team recently held a workshop for the Grade 10 learners of Hermanus High School in Hermanus.

Sugar Ant schools receive teaching equipment from Iimbovane Print

The empowerment of life science educators and their learners through the donation of teaching equipment is a central part of what the Iimbovane Outreach Project does.

Former Iimbovane participant to study B.Sc at Stellenbosch University Print

One of Iimbovane’s aims is to inspire learners, especially girl learners, to consider tertiary studies and careers in the field of life sciences.

Iimbovane learners take award at International Science Fair Print

Two Iimbovane learners recently walked away with a special award at the 2012 International Science Fair with their project on ants. The learners were awarded by the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON) for the Best Project in the Environmental Studies Category (Senior).

Iimbovane schools ace data analyses exercises Print

This year 2012 has been infused with more visual experiences than ever before for Iimbovane learners. First it was data collection in March whereby learners not only collected ant data from their school grounds but many also went along with the project team to nature reserves and national parks. For most learners, it was a new experience to be in such close proximity to untamed nature.