Professor Thulani Makhalanyane of the Department of Biochemistry, Genetics and Microbiology at the University of Pretoria, has made inroads this past year. He has been awarded a co-funded Chair under the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) in Marine Microbiomics and appointed as the first African Senior Editor of mSystems®, a leading journal in the field of systems ecology.
To further add to all these outstanding achievements, he was also the Chief Scientist on the oceanographic cruise as Chief Scientist from 1 June to 10 July. The team boarded the ship for the voyage’s 14th leg, travelled along the West Coast of Africa from Walvis Bay (Namibia) and disembarked in Pointe Noire (Congo Republic).
During this cruise, he and PhD student Ms Mancha Mabaso (as members of the Microbiome Research Group) joined the oceanographic cruise as part of a global effort to study the South Atlantic. This is the final phase of the current oceanographic cruise linked to Mission Microbiomes, a European Union-funded collaborative initiative that, in addition to the sampling in Africa, has had four legs in Chile, the Amazon and Antarctica respectively. The multidisciplinary project, carried out on board the schooner TARA Oceans, aims to provide new insights regarding the effects of environmental variables on microbiomes in the South Atlantic Ocean. The project has specifically characterised the impact of plumes from large rivers, including the Congo and Amazon, on the African and South American legs. The results are anticipated to reveal unprecedented levels of microbial biodiversity, including viruses, in these waters.
About the SARChI Chair, Prof Makhalanyane said, “It has been a long journey, but I am delighted that our group has been awarded this recognition. This national recognition allows our group to scale up our activities by training more students and producing high-quality, peer-reviewed outputs. We look forward to this exciting new phase!”
He said the SARChI Chair in Marine Microbiomics would focus on understanding microbiomes in geographically strategic oceans, including the Southern Ocean. “We will train students, produce research outputs and serve as a crucial engagement point with industry and government,” Prof Makhalanyane explained.
Being appointed as the Senior Editor of mSystems®, Prof Makhalanyane admits, “It is indeed a great honour to be entrusted with guiding manuscripts in one of our field’s leading journals. mSystems has established itself as a primary international journal for multidisciplinary systems ecology.”
The three honours will undoubtedly contribute to increasing the University of Pretoria’s prestige and visibility.