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18 April 2019 | Story Rulanzen Martin

The Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice IRSJ) has initiated a Social Justice Week at the University of the Free State (UFS), which started on Friday 12 April  until Wednesday 17 April 2019. 

Ten key events took place during the week. It ranged from dialogues, workshops, talk shows, debates, and interactive displays and events on issues of multilingualism and diversity, social innovation, engaged scholarship, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, gender sensitisation, sexual consent, sexual preparedness, universal access, disability, anti-discrimination, and security.

There was also a round-table discussion on 17 April 2019 with various UFS stakeholders on off-campus student security as well as an inter-institutional discussion on the same topic. The UFS Debating Society will take on the topic of the UFS Language Policy, while Olga Barends from the Free State Centre for Human Rights will host a dialogue on sexual consent.

The IRSJ has also designed and implemented SOJO-VATION: Social Innovation/ Social Change, which strives to create a foundational platform where ideas of social justice, innovation, and engaged scholarship at the UFS and in society can be hosted. SOJO-VATION partners with the Office for Student Leadership, Development, and Community Engagement.

The collaborating partners for the Social Justice Week includes various UFS stakeholders such as the Sasol library, the Gender and Sexual Equity Office, UFS Protection Services, the Free State Centre for Human Rights, the Student Representative Council (SRC), the Office for Student Leadership Development, Kovsie Innovation, GALA, the FFree State Centre for Human Rights, SRC Associations, the Office for Student Governance, Kovsie Innovate, Start-Up-Grind, EVC, EBL, Community Engagement, the Institutional Transformation Plan (ITP) Dialogues Office, Residence Dialogues, UFS Debating Society, Debate Afrika!, the Center for Universal Access and Disability Support (CUADS), and the Gateway Office. 

News Archive

Researcher uses NRF funding for studies to conserve plant and animal life
2017-04-18

Description: Butterfly Tags: Butterfly

It is difficult to survey all different types of
plants and animals and is therefore necessary to
choose one representative group. Butterflies are
relatively cheap and easy to sample. They are
known to be linked to specific habitats and to
respond to human pressures, such as farming.
Photo: Dr Falko Buschke


Earth is the only planet we know of that contains life. The variety of different plants and animals is remarkable: from the giant whales that swim our oceans, to the tiny mosses that grow on the shaded sides of rocks.  Many of these plants and animals are important to humans. For example, trees provide us with oxygen to breathe, bees pollinate our crops and owls control pests. More importantly though, we can tell a lot about society from the way it cares for nature. Humans are the custodians of the planet and the way we care for nature reflects the way we value life.

Dr Falko Buschke, Lecturer at the Centre for Environmental Management at the University of the Free State, is interested in understanding how the distribution of biodiversity [the variety of living things in nature] in time and space influences the way we should conserve and manage nature.

Earth is losing biodiversity faster than at any time in human history

The planet is losing biodiversity faster than at any time in human history. “There is an urgency to conserve plants and animals before they are lost forever. Nature is complex, so the way we study it should embrace this complexity. We should not rely on limited data on one type of species from one place and assume that it will also apply elsewhere. Instead, it is important that biodiversity research is comprehensive in the types of plants and animals while also considering that ecological and evolutionary processes vary through time and across geographic space,” he said.

To conduct his research, Dr Buschke uses a variety of research tools, including biological data surveyed directly from nature, spatial data from satellite remote sensing and geographic information systems databases, and data generated though custom-built computer simulations.

"There is an urgency to conserve
plants and animals before they
are lost forever."

Field work in the eastern Free State
Although parts of the eastern Free State are considered a global priority for biodiversity conservation, it is mainly privately owned commercial farmland. This means that it is important that plants and animals can survive despite living side by side with agricultural production.

“My project investigates whether the sandstone outcrops, known as inselbergs (island-mountains), are safe havens for plants and animals. Because it is difficult to survey all the different types of plants and animals, it is necessary to choose one representative group. That is where butterflies come in. Butterflies are relatively cheap and easy to sample. They are known to be linked to specific habitats and to respond to human pressures, such as farming,” he said. “Once this butterfly data is collected, it can be linked to satellite information on plant growth patterns. This will provide a clearer picture of whether plants and animals can persist side-by-side with commercial agriculture”.

Dr Buschke has just begun surveys that will carry on until the end of this year. “This 12-month project is funded under the Foundational Biodiversity Information Programme through the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and the National Research Foundation (NRF).

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