THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT

SU vibration scientists help make sense of mechanical shudders on polar vessel

Prof Anriëtte (Annie) Bekker, a vibration science expert at Stellenbosch University, is willing to brave harsh conditions in pursuit of new knowledge. Her interest lies in how data from mechanical sensors and engineering models on board a polar vessel can help seafarers make more informed decisions towards safer ship operations.

Oxalis — a genus in a hurry

The Western Cape is renowned for its diverse geophyte flora in the world, including roughly 2 100 species from 20 families. Among these flowering bulbs are species of the Southern African Oxalis genus. They may seem like some of the most fragile, puny little plants out there, but in terms of adaptation, they are punching way above their weight.

A peek at penguins’ posture

Nowadays, when Roanné Coetzer (24) looks at a black and white African penguin, she sees coloured dots. This is because penguins have been keeping this MEng student very busy during her studies. She has been using her knowledge of deep neural networks and other data science skills to write a computer program that automatically detects African penguin behaviour caught on camera.

Mongolian fossils may shed light on climate change, past and present

The recent discovery of fossil assemblages and ash deposits in the East Gobi Basin in Mongolia could provide new knowledge of the dinosaurs and extreme climate conditions on Earth 120 million to 80 million years ago. This is according to Dr Ryan Tucker, a sedimentologist and taphonomist at Stellenbosch University. He is a part of a team of scientists who undertook the expedition that led to this discovery.

Changing climates

Dealing with the twin crisis of climate change and biodiversity loss requires collective effort, and now demands novel academic support across ‘traditional’ academic silos. The world is facing cascading and intersecting crises such as these, warns Prof Guy Midgley, who heads up Stellenbosch University’s (SU’s) School for Climate Studies.

The computer conservationist

Dr Emmanuel Dufourq has never seen one of the last 30 remaining Hainan gibbons on Earth, but he knows very well what their calls sound like, or at least what a spectrogram image of the highs and lows of their chatter looks like. He uses his computational skills to make it easier for conservation ecologists to analyse animal sound, video and photo footage. His group’s mission is to do this one keyboard stroke, one algorithm at a time.