The University of Pretoria’s (UP) Department of Zoology and Entomology in the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences has been ranked 45th globally for its research and impact by the University Ranking by Academic Performance (URAP). The Department of Zoology continues to be number one in Africa in this ranking, which is for the 2020/2021 period.
UP’s ranking for Zoology has continued on an upward trend, having moved from 54 in 2019 to 50 in 2020.
URAP assesses the quality and quantity of research outputs by university and by subject area. It indicates that “the main objective of URAP is to develop a ranking system for the world universities based on academic performance indicators that reflect the quality and the quantity of their scholarly publications”. The most recent rankings include 3 000 higher education institutions worldwide, as well as 62 different specialised subject areas.
An elated Professor Armanda Bastos, Head of the Department of Zoology and Entomology, said: “I am pleased with this ranking, which would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of everyone in the Department. This achievement is all the more notable in light of the challenges of the COVID- 19 pandemic in the past 12 months.”
Left: Tasha Oosthuizen, a recent MSc Zoology graduate, feeding the mice that she used to explore how nutrition affects their behaviour and personality. Right: Recent PhD Entomology graduate Caroline Kung'u in the lab to develop a plant-based attractant for better surveillance of the mosquitoes that transmit yellow fever, dengue, zika and other diseases.
She added that “there were major demands on staff and students by the almost overnight switch from in-person to online teaching. Research projects were stalled or placed on hold due to limited access to equipment and animals on campus and in the field. It is therefore remarkable that the Department maintained and even improved on the six key indicators used to score and rank universities. This is testament to the talent, dedication, sheer determination and hard work of staff, students and collaborators within and associated with department.”
Prof Bastos pointed out that the Department draws on the research excellence held in two UP institutes – the Mammal Research Institute and the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute. “The diversity of research is one of our greatest strengths. Research topics and subjects are broad, ranging from social insects, and pollinator species in particular, to subterranean mammals that can tolerate hypoxia and that communicate using distinct dialects, whale surveys along the Cape coast, marine mammals in the sub-Antarctic, the management of pest invertebrate and vertebrate species, the impact of climate change, land transformation and artificial light on animals, wildlife diseases inclusive of vector-borne and zoonotic diseases, carnivore ecology and elephant ecology and restoration ecology.”
Recent PhD Zoology graduate Celiwe Ngcamphalala with a bird she caught in the Northern Cape to investigate how capture, captivity and high environmental temperatures affect stress in birds.
The Department also has a number of long-term monitoring programmes (ranging from 15 to 42 years of uninterrupted data collection) inclusive of the Sani Pass, fur seals on sub-Antarctic Marion Island and the annual southern right whale survey (now in its 42nd year), as well as highly specialised laboratories such as the stable isotope facility and endocrine research laboratory.
UP Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Tawana Kupe said this “has been a good year for our research output and rankings, despite a pandemic that has affected lives all over the world. I want to convey my heartfelt appreciation to the academics involved in producing research that matters and which contributes to solutions to society’s challenges. At UP we are future-focused, and we undertake research that is relevant to people’s lives and is transdisciplinary in nature.”