Coast KZN

08 Nov 2019

Nature conservation project earns PMB student international conference ticket

Mphathi Nxumalo (Daily News: IOL) Picture: UKZN PhD student Ashrenee Govender from Pietermaritzburg was pleasantly shocked after winning best oral presentation for her research. She is pictured with Professor Ademola Olaniran, head of the School of Life Sciences.

Durban – A PIETERMARITZBURG woman is making a contribution to nature conservation efforts by extracting and studying the DNA of lobsters. Twenty-six-year-old PhD student Ashrenee Govender said she was given the project by the Oceanographic Research Institute in 2018. She recently won best oral presentation at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s postgraduate research and innovation symposium for her presentation titled: “The design and testing of mini-barcode markers in marine lobsters”. The symposium was hosted by the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science.

“I was shocked,” she said. She was ill with laryngitis when she made her presentation on her research. She won first prize in the category for the School of Life Sciences. The award she received was a sponsorship to attend an international conference.

Govender has always had an interest in genetics and studied a BSc in genetics and microbiology at undergraduate level and focused on genetics for her Honours and Masters degrees. Govender’s research involved taking DNA samples from lobsters and using a fraction of the DNA for mini-barcodes. She said the research helped with marine conservation.

Her research was also published on the PLOS One journal, a peer reviewed open access international journal. The article was a joint effort with Professor Johan Groeneveld, Dr Sohana Singh and Dr Sandi Willows-Munro who come from the Oceanographic Research Institute and UKZN. In the published article, Govender said this process helped with biodiversity assessment and to quickly identify the species while allowing for cost- effective biodiversity monitoring. Govender said once she finished her PhD, she planned to do a post doctoral degree on the research she has been doing.