Broadening the biological control knowledge base

Short Course participants battling cactus in the field
Short Course participants battling cactus in the field

One of the key aspects of the work of the Centre for Biological Control (CBC) is making the science behind the biological control of invasive weeds accessible by putting both the knowledge and techniques into the hands of our local communities. One such way this is achieved is through the accredited Weed Biological Control Short Course, now in its 22nd year!

This latest short course took place from 25th – 30th August 2019 here at Rhodes University and it is funded by the Department of Environmental Affairs. The 25 delegates from various places around South Africa were accommodated at the Continuing Education Centre and lectures took place at the Zoology and Entomology Department. This course is designed to introduce participants to the theory and practice of weed biological control. It familiarizes those new to science with the theory that underpins host specificity and thus the safety of biological control, it provides an understanding of not only how but why it works. As most of the participants attending this course are new to the science, it is imperative that they are familiar with the theory that underpins host specificity and thereby the safety of biological control. As well as learning theory, participants are also given practical exposure through two filed trips, including some post release evaluation data collection and analyses.

A number of CBC students took part in the course this year, one of these being Ekhona Zozo. Ekhona’s first taste of biological control goes back to 2014 when he was part of the school Science Internship Programme organised by the CBC, while he was in Grade 11. This experience sparked his interest and led him on to complete his BSc in Entomology at Rhodes in 2017. He went on to complete his Honours in Entomology in 2018 and is now in his first year of his Masters Degree, where he is focusing his research on the biological control of Cylindropuntia pallida an emerging cactus species in South Africa. He reflects on the course “The information I received from this course will assist me in my own project on the biological control of C. pallida, I gathered some things I could incorporate into the methods for my project. The opportunity to interact with other people working in the field of weed management was invaluable. I had an opportunity to meet and have conversations with people from different backgrounds, with various insights. The group work was also interesting, I was in a group of people different from me —age and background—yet we were able to communicate well and respectfully, all contributing to the tasks, and achieved the desired goals. I appreciated that and learnt a lot of important lessons. The work and impact of this short course is important, I hope it will continue and improve, where necessary, for a long time into the future. “

Indeed, the CBC aims to continue running this course as long as it is feasible to do so and dates for next year have already been set! Keep an eye on our website for when applications for the course open early next year.

Short Course 2019 Group photo

All the 2019 Short Course participants and lecturers

Source:  CBC staff

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