Topic: Genetic Tools for Shark and Ray Conservation and Management in Southern Africa
We are postgraduate students at Stellenbosch University in the Shark and Ray Laboratory working under the supervision of Professor Aletta Bester-Van der Merwe. Our lab uses molecular tools to guide and improve the management and conservation of threatened, endangered and endemic species in southern Africa and the South-West Indian Ocean. Mia’s work is centred around developing and optimising genetic tools to improve the identification and management of the Critically Endangered wedgefish species. Jess is looking at how climate change is shifting the distribution patterns and evolutionary trajectory of houndsharks. Karla is developing and optimising molecular tools to improve the analysis of species in the Himantura uarnak complex.
We founded our platform “Science Saves Sharks” to raise awareness about the threats facing sharks and rays which are apex- and meso-predators, crucial for ensuring long-term marine ecosystem and socio-economic stability. Our goal is to make science accessible to everyone and bring together different ocean stakeholders to work towards a common cause. Collaboration is the key to creating actionable conservation strategies and seeing them through.
We are going to share some of the knowledge we have gained on our journey in the shark and ray conservation space and explain how genetics can act as a powerful tool to better understand these incredible creatures.