SCIENCE > ZOOLOGY

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Head of Department:Associate Professor John Hoffmann

Department Profile

The Zoology Department houses the Marine Biology Research Centre (MBRC), the Percy FitzPatrick Institute, DST/NRF Centre of Excellence (PFIAO); the Freshwater Research Unit (FRU) and the Animal Demography Unit (ADU). Other smaller cogent groups co-ordinate research on mammals, palaeobiology, entomology and physiology. The Department hosts South African Research Chairs in Evolution and Systematics and in Marine Ecology and Fisheries. There is a large postgraduate school in the Department and a major portion of the research publications produced by UCT originate in Zoology.

Research interests of the MBRC include fisheries and coastal zone management, rocky shore ecology, seaweed and invertebrate biodiversity and systematics, the biology of the Benguela upwelling ecosystem, and biogeochemical cycles of the ocean, particularly of carbon and nitrogen, and how such cycles may be impacted by climate change. The PFIAO remains primarily involved in avian research coupled with a strong emphasis on conservation biology. Research in the FRU focuses on the ecology of freshwater ecosystems, and on the conservation and management of rivers and wetlands. The Animal Demography Unit focuses on statistical ecology, with two strands of activities: a series of monitoring projects for birds, butterflies and reptiles, and a cohort of postgraduate students with statistics-rich research projects relating to various aspects of population dynamics. Other research in the department is centred around: the behaviour, ecology, physiology, systematics and evolutionary biology of a variety of small mammals (molerats, golden moles, rodents, bats), seals and primates; palaeobiological comparisons of bone in extant and extinct vertebrates, including factors that affect bone depositional rates in modern birds and reptiles and the biological signals recorded in the fossil bones of non-mammalian therapsids, dinosaurs and other archosaurs; the systematics and biogeography of insects and insect ecology in arid ecosystems; biological control, especially the use of herbivorous insects to curb the seeding capacity and invasiveness of problematic Australian acacia species; and physiological studies on how small peptide hormones produced in nerve cells regulate energy metabolism, growth, development and reproduction in insects and crustaceans and how astaxanthin and chitin can be used in an economically viable way to deal with so-called waste products of the rock lobster industry. Also based in the Department is the semiautonomous consulting company, Anchor Environmental Consultants, who undertake contract research in the fields of coastal, estuarine and marine biology, natural resource management, conservation planning and natural resource economics.

 

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