Ms Samantha Jamison, a master's student in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences at the University of Pretoria, recently won the prize for the Best Student Oral Presentation at the 2016 Seed Ecology Conference, organised by the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil. She was one of only a few MSc students attending the conference – most of the attendees were PhD students, which makes her achievement all the more outstanding.
The title of her presentation was, Is seed dispersal by avian frugivores a broad-scale determinant of bird-dispersed tree diversity? Ms Jameson said: 'We were given 12 minutes to present. My presentation focused on the first chapter of my MSc work that deals with how the diversity of frugivorous birds affects the species richness of bird-dispersed trees across southern Africa.'
Ms Jamison's MSc, which is funded by the NRF and supervised by Dr Michelle Greve, focuses on how to elucidate the way in which biotic interactions between trees and birds drive ecological patterns at both local and broad spatial scales. 'At present, most studies assessing the effect of global change on biodiversity focus exclusively on the consequences of changes in climate, often due to a lack of understanding of how interactions between species and dispersal processes can influence these processes. My project aims to elucidate how both climatic factors and species interactions, specifically dispersal processes, between birds and trees drive ecological patterns at local to subcontinental scales,' she explained.
The theme for this year's conference was Seeds in the Web of Life. There were six categories in which speakers could participate: Evolutionary seed ecology; Frugivory and seed dispersal (Ms Jamison presented her paper in this category); Seed banks; Seed germination and dormancy; Seed ecology applied to agriculture; and Seed ecology applied to biodiversity conservation and restoration
The Seed Ecology Conference deals with the science of seeds and the environment. The conference is organised by the International Society for Seed Science (ISSS). It is held biannually, and the next conference will be held in Germany in 2018.
For more information on the conference, visit http://www.seedecologyv.com/.