Prof Fanus Venter elected as new SASSB president

Posted on September 18, 2023

Prof Fanus Venter, Professor in the Department of Biochemistry, Genetics and Microbiology and Deputy Director of the Forestry and Agriculture Biotechnology Institute, has recently been elected as the new President of the Southern African Society for Systematic Biology (SASSB).

According to Prof Venter, “SASSB is a truly remarkable society as it embraces the whole range of disciplines focusing on the taxonomy and evolution of the biodiversity of South Africa, from microbes to large mammals and trees and everything in between. This is best demonstrated by the fact that as the newly elected president, with a research focus on bacteriology, I took over the reins from a botanist. The rest of the SASSB council is just as diverse: botanists, entomologists, mycologists and zoologists. It is, therefore a privilege to lead this group of scientists as we work together to promote the broad field of systematics in our country,” Prof Venter explained.

“During the next 18 months, we want to improve the relevance of SASSB by strengthening our engagement with students. We plan to expand our current webinar series to include a series of talks on the basic principles and applications of phylogenetics, phylogenomics and biogeography aimed at post-graduate students in all fields of biology. These webinars will be presented by senior members of the society from various disciplines to ensure that we transfer the valuable lessons we have learned over the years to the next generation of researchers. In this way, we can ensure the quality and relevance of systematics in Southern Africa. These webinars will also be available on our YouTube as an educational resource.”

Prof Venter’s research focuses mainly on bacterial evolution, systematics and diversity. He elaborated, “I have been part of a small group of international bacterial systematists involved in establishing the SeqCode, an international code for the nomenclature of prokaryotes based on genome sequences as type material. This new code allows for naming cultured and uncultured Bacteria and Archaea, which has not been possible before. I currently serve as the secretary of its Executive Board. In addition, I serve on the International Committee on Systematics of Prokaryotes and the Board of the Bergey’s Manual Trust.”

- Author Martie Meyer

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