SAIAB set biodiversity in motion at this year’s Scifest themed “Science in motion”. Scifest Africa 2010 attracted thousands of visitors to Grahamstown. Festinos included pupils, students, teachers, lecturers, scientists and all those with a fascination for science. All programmes, exhibitions, talk shops and workshops were held at the 1820 Settlers’ Monument in Grahamstown with a full 9am–5pm day running from 24-30 March.

This was the first time SAIAB had participated in the daily exhibitions held at the Monument. SAIAB’s exhibition reflected 2010 International Year of Biodiversity. The display included banners, posters, a boat and equipment relating to biodiversity research as well as tagging research. The ACEP (African Coelacanth Ecosystem Programme) section displayed the new ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle), a coelacanth model and a coelacanth specimen which drew large crowds to SAIAB’s exhibition. Local coelacanth expert, Robin Stobbs spent one morning answering questions about the coelacanth and ongoing research around the coelacanth.

Approximately 78 people attended SAIAB’s daily programmes which included a range of talk- and workshops. Some of the topics covered were “Using acoustic telemetry to track the movement of fish”, “Taking the mystery out of the scientific naming of fish” and “Sexy Science! Ships, buoys and robots”, which drew an audience of 150 people.

Part of SAIAB’s contribution to Scifest Africa offered daily apprenticeship programmes to a total of 32 grade 11 and 12 students. These apprenticeships provide pupils the opportunity to spend a morning at SAIAB working alongside its researchers. The group of 32 was divided into six smaller groups accompanied by researchers and introduced to the facilities at SAIAB. One of the groups was led by Aquatic Biologist, Dr Gavin Gouws and Biomaterials Officer, Unathi Lwana who took the apprentices on a tour through the biomaterials collection process explaining how tissue samples from collected fish are prepared to be included in SAIAB’s collection of biomaterials for future genetic and biochemical research.

Chief Scientist, Professor Alan Whitfield and Aquatic Biologist, Dr Nicola James took their group on a field trip to the Great Fish and Kleinmonde Estuaries where pupils were exposed to- and learned about plants and animals that live in specialized systems.

This year’s Scifest had a remarkable turnout of 79 000 visitors, 9 000 more than last year and a total of 35 600 tickets sold.

Blind visitors enjoy touching the coelacanth Blind visitors enjoy tactile interaction with the coelacanth Alan Whitfiled conducts an estuary excursion Alan Whitfield explains the ecology of the East Kleinemonde estuary Wouter Holleman discusses biodiversity research Wouter Holleman discusses biodiversity research