Sarah Fawcett (Lecturer)

Email: ⋅ Phone: 021 650 5369  CV

I received my bachelor’s degree from Harvard University in Sarah_Corsica2006, majoring in Earth and Planetary Science. I was first introduced to marine applications of isotope geochemistry during the two summers I spent on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia as an undergraduate, investigating geochemical proxies for sea surface temperature and El Niño recorded in 10,000 year-old corals. I received my Ph.D. in 2012 from Princeton University, in collaboration with the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences. My dissertation research focused on phytoplankton-N interactions in upwelling ecosystems and the subtropical Sargasso Sea. As a postdoctoral researcher at Princeton from 2012-2015, and now as a Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in Oceanography at the University of Cape Town, I am building on methods developed during my graduate work to address questions of N cycling in the subpolar North Atlantic, where the relatively predictable spring phytoplankton bloom is so large that it has biogeochemical consequences for the global ocean, as well as in the Southern Ocean, where the efficiency of the biological pump is currently limited by incomplete consumption of nitrate in surface waters. My new areas of focus include the southern Benguela upwelling region on the west coast of Southern Africa, which supports high levels of both marine biodiversity and human subsistence, and False Bay on the south coast of South Africa, the country’s largest natural bay.

Eleonora Puccinelli (Postdoctoral Researcher)

Email: Website:

I am a Marine Ecologist specialized in trophic ecology of coastal intertidal and subtidal areas. I completed my BSc and my MSc in Marine Biology both with distinction at the University of Pisa, Italy, and in 2012 I moved to South Africa to conduct a PhD in Marine Ecology at Rhodes University. I successfully graduated in 2015 and in my studies I investigated the effects of several costal processes on the diet regime of benthic filter feeders along the South African coast. Since then, I continued as a Postdoctoral Fellow, first at Rhodes University and most recently at the University of Cape Town, looking at trophic dynamics of benthic deep-sea ecosystems, focusing on the Southern Ocean Prince Edward Islands. I am currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Oceanography Department of the University of Cape Town and my research mainly focuses on understanding the effects of climate change, environmental factors and human activities on trophic dynamics of benthic ecosystems, and to evaluate possible solutions to these threats.

RobynRobyn Granger (Ph.D. student, UCT and Stellenbosch University)


I completed my Bachelor of Science in 2012, concentrating on Earth Sciences (Oceanography and Environmental Science). During my postgraduate career, I began to focus on climate science in Southern Africa and became interested in palaeoclimatology. I completed my Master’s degree in Environmental & Geographical Sciences in 2016. My study contributed to the RAiN Project (Regional Archives for Integrated iNvestigations), a palaeo-environmental initiative facilitated by scientists at MARUM (University of Bremen), where I conducted much of my research. My dissertation involved reconstructing the palaeoenvironmental history of southwest Africa for the past two thousand years, with an emphasis on the Benguela Upwelling System and the inter-linkages between oceanic, terrestrial, and atmospheric variables in the region over the late Holocene. I am continuing my work in the Benguela for my Ph.D., but am also aiming to perform regional calibrations of organic and inorganic proxy methods, both in the Benguela and in the neighbouring Southern Ocean. Additionally, I hope to reconstruct the palaeoceanographic history of these areas over the course of at least one glacial cycle.

Mhlangabezi Mdutyana (Ph.D. student, UCT and CSIR)


20150801_152533My academic background is in botany and currently I’m pursuing a career in marine biogeochemistry dealing with nutrient uptake (nitrogen cycle). Oceanography’s ability to link different science fields is interesting and exploring such knowledge is exciting. For my M.Sc. degree, I focused on nitrogen uptake by phytoplankton and nitrification in the South Atlantic sector of the Southern Ocean. I participated in two research cruises aboard the SA Agulhas II during winter and summer of 2015. In 2016 I had the privilege of spending a month at Princeton University to analyze my nitrification samples in Prof. Bess Ward’s lab. I have recently been upgraded (2017) to a Ph.D. degree, during which I will build on my M.Sc. work; I will measure the  kinetics of nitrogen uptake and oxidation in the Southern Ocean. This work will help to determine potential maximum uptake and oxidation rates, parameters that are required for biogeochemical models. The first sample collection for this work will begin in winter of 2017, followed by a second cruise in summer 2017/18.

Kolisa Sinyanya (Ph.D. student)


Kolisa’s love for science was first ignited as a little girl when she would religiously watch and enjoy science programmes with her late dad. In 2010, she received her B.Sc., majoring in Botany and Zoology, and her Honours degree that focused on viable alternative options for bio-fuel production the following year. In June 2016, she graduated with a M.Sc. in Botany, with research that focused on phenotypic characterization of rhizobia isolates and the distribution of Burkholderia rhizobia in the Core Cape Subregion. Kolisa is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Oceanography, investigating Indian Subantarctic Ocean marine  microbial community dynamics and microbe-nutrient interactions. Her Ph.D. is currently focused on the Agulhas System Climate Array (ASCA) and the Subantarctic island effect. Take some time to visit her empowering women in science blog, Women in Science Hub, which features influential women in the world of science and reflections on her own journey through the Ph.D. life.

luca is pointingLuca Stirnimann (Ph.D. student, UCT, SAEON, and NMU)


Luca is a Ph.D. student at the University of Cape Town who will use the samples collected on the Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition (ACE) cruise, augmented by samples he collects himself, to investigate zooplankton and phytoplankton dynamics in the Southern Ocean in the context of nutrient cycling and primary production. He will compare ecosystem dynamics in the vicinity of Subantarctic island systems with the open Southern Ocean. Luca graduated summa cum laude in Marine Sciences from the University of Genova and then spent one year in the UK pursuing an internship and participating in scientific cruises and volunteer schemes. He is passionate about marine life and thinks plankton are important for healthy marine ecosystems and as an indicator of global environmental change.

Aug 2012 014 - CopySandi Smart (Ph.D. student, Stellenbosch University and UCT)


I first discovered oceanography during my undergraduate years at the University of Cape Town, where I majored in Ocean & Atmosphere Science and Environmental & Geographical Sciences. I  went on to do my Master’s degree in Southern Ocean biogeochemistry, using the stable isotopes of nitrate (nitrogen and oxygen) to investigate nutrient cycling in the wintertime Antarctic Ocean. In February 2015, I began my PhD at Stellenbosch University, collaborating with UCT, Princeton University (USA), and the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry (Germany). As part of my project, I plan to reconstruct past biological nutrient consumption from a Subantarctic sediment core using the organic nitrogen preserved within the fossilized shells of zooplankton, called foraminifera. In order to help interpret this paleo-record, I will be collecting modern foraminifera samples from the Subantarctic surface ocean and analysing them in the same way. The overarching goal of this work is to define the role played by Southern Ocean biology in regulating atmospheric carbon dioxide (an important greenhouse gas), and thus global climate, through past glacial/interglacial cycles.

Jessica Burger (M.Sc. student) Jessica


My passion for oceanography began during my undergraduate studies at the University of Cape Town, where I majored in Marine Biology and Ocean and Atmospheric Science. My post graduate research has so far included the study of total, new and regenerated production in the Californian and southern Benguela upwelling systems. This year I plan to study the controls on new production and carbon export in the southern Benguela upwelling system with an observational and modelling approach. This research will contribute to my Master’s degree in Oceanography. Upwelling systems remain a huge area of interest to me because of their ability to support such high levels of productivity, contributing to atmospheric CO2 drawdown.

Raquel Flynn (M.Sc. student)



I attained a B.Sc. in Marine Biology, Oceanography and Religious Studies at the University of Cape Town. It was during my undergraduate where I discovered the world of Oceanography and started to become fascinated with the way in which the ocean works. My honours project focused on the rates of net primary production (NPP) and carbon export in the Southern Benguela upwelling region during the autumn of 2016. For my master’s project, I am working on understanding the nitrogen cycle in the Southern Benguela upwelling region on a seasonal basis using the stable isotopes of nitrate (nitrogen and oxygen).

HeatherHeather Forrer (M.Sc. student)


I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in 2015 majoring in Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences and Marine Biology. Whilst being extremely confused about which subject to do my honours in, I attended a talk by Dr. Sarah Fawcett about her work in the Southern Ocean and I was sold. I completed my honours in 2016 under Dr Fawcett’s supervision focusing on the nitrogen and oxygen isotopes of nitrate in the summertime Southern Ocean with the aim of evaluating the pattern(s) of summertime nutrient utilization across the Atlantic Antarctic Zone. Loving everything about Southern Ocean biogeochemical oceanography, starting a M.Sc was a very easy decision. I started my M.Sc in early 2017 by participating in the Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition (ACE), funded by the Swiss Polar Institute. My project is focused on identifying the drivers of the Subantarctic biological pump, with a special interest in phytoplankton group-specific contributions and the influence of the Island Mass Effect in the Indian Ocean sector.  I hope to gain a greater understanding of this relatively unstudied area whilst taking a holistic view of the dynamical Southern Ocean.

Jeremy Kravitz (M.Sc. student, UCT, CyanoLakes, and CSIR)

Email: jeremy.kravitz@gmail.comJeremy

I received a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) in San Luis Obispo. I was introduced to the world of bio-optics and remote sensing when I was invited to join a research trip the the Republic of Palau, where we used a variety of sophisticated ocean science technology to monitor and predict water flow based on benthic habitats. I have since been accepted for a National Science Foundation research award to work under Dr. Eric Hochberg at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences using bio-optics to study coral reef light use efficiencies, worked for the The Nature Conservancy in the U.S. Virgin Islands helping monitor and restore coral reefs in the local marine parks, and worked as a lab assistant in the Bio-Optical Oceanography and Remote Sensing Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico helping to improve methods for retrieving water-column bio-optical information in coral reefs and working on calibration/validation efforts for NOAA ocean color satellites. At UCT, I will be focusing on calibration/validation efforts for the recently launched ESA Sentinel 3 ocean color satellite. I will be collecting a variety of in-situ bio-optical and geophysical data ranging from inland, to near-coastal and possibly the Southern Ocean to assess radiometric errors with Sentinel 3 data and evaluate atmospheric correction methods. I am also interested in using this field data to examine phytoplankton scattering variability and establish relationships between phytoplankton size, type, and structure on the backscattering signal and how this effects the water leaving signal.

Tanya Marshall (M.Sc. student)

Email: tmarshallsix@gmail.comprofile

Initially taking oceanography as an elective course in my undergraduate degree, I quickly reprioritised my studies and changed track to include oceanography as a major. The interdisciplinary science appeals to me in many ways. Exploring the physics, chemistry or biology of the ocean is not mutually exclusive in this field. The applicability of marine science to almost all of Earth’s natural processes and pathways as well as human beings fascinates me. My focus is on marine biogeochemistry, specifically the nitrogen cycle. My research explores the nitrogen budget, including supply, removal and recycling processes across the subtropical South Atlantic Ocean. To accomplish this, we study the stable isotopes of nitrogen and oxygen in nitrate. Accompanying this is a focus on a dataset collected from the Agulhas Current south of South Africa. My current focus is on the Southern and Northern Benguela water masses (using isotopes as a geo-tracer) in an attempt to understand regional nitrogen cycling processes.