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29 January 2019 | Story Xolisa Mnukwa | Photo Anja Aucamp
Prof Francis Petersen speech
“We can create an institution that operates and lives in the times of embracing and celebrating diversity, inclusivity, and academic excellence by ensuring that students own their time at university,” said Prof Francis Petersen.

25 January 2019 marked the official welcoming of the University of the Free State’s (UFS) first-year students, as they moved into their respective residences and were warmly welcomed on the UFS Bloemfontein Campus. This day also marked the start of the registration process for first-year students.

According to first-year Psychology student Keisha Claasen, who moved into her residence earlier on 25 January, her first experience of the UFS was daunting but exciting, as she had never been in a similar environment. According to Given Gwerera, who dropped his son off at the Karee residence earlier the day, “the UFS is an institution with great culture and an overall good academic record.” He further explained that he trusts his son to make full use of the opportunities presented to him, as he has a cool head on his shoulders.

On the evening of 25 January, an eager group of millennials, joined by their parents, took the first sip from their cup of varsity life as they assembled on the Red Square of the Bloemfontein Campus to meet the Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Francis Petersen, members of Rectorate, the deans of all faculties, and the Student Representative Council (SRC) of the UFS.

“2019 will be a year of continued change; the UFS is thrilled about the prospect of bringing about opportunities for adaptation and realignment to the future,” said Prof Francis Petersen.

He further explained that the university prides itself in moulding its students into well-rounded individuals who will develop into globally competitive graduates as required in a diversity of landscapes. Prof Petersen urged first-years to remain open to the technological developments that go with globalisation, because of its permanent effects on society today.

First-years were further advised to take advantage of the rich pool of academic research and knowledge that is characteristic of the university and is piloted by UFS scholars, by engaging with and learning from them.

The inspiring night concluded on a colourful note, as the audience enjoyed an artistic laser show in front of the Main Building. Caption:

“UFS academics conduct research that forces the world to take note,” said Prof Francis Petersen at the official first-year welcoming ceremony on the UFS Bloemfontein Campus.

News Archive

Stress and fear on wild animals examined
2013-06-04

 

Dr Kate Nowak in the Soutpansberg Mountain
Photo: Supplied
04 June 2013

Have you ever wondered how our wild cousins deal with stress? Dr Kate Nowak, visiting postdoctoral researcher at the Zoology and Entomology Department at the UFS Qwaqwa Campus, has been assigned the task to find out. She is currently conducting research on the effects that stress and fear has on primate cognition.

The Primate and Predator project has been established over the last two years, following Dr Aliza le Roux’s (also at the Zoology and Entomology Department at Qwaqwa) interest in the effects of fear on primate cognition. Dr le Roux collaborates with Dr Russel Hill of Durham University (UK) at the Lajuma Research Centre in Limpopo and Dr Nowak has subsequently been brought in to conduct the study.

Research on humans and captive animals has indicated that stress can powerfully decrease individuals’ cognitive performance. Very little is known about the influence of stress and fear on the cognition of wild animals, though. Dr Nowak will examine the cognition of wild primates during actual risk posed by predators. This is known as the “landscape of fear” in her research.

“I feel very privileged to be living at Lajuma and on top of a mountain in the Soutpansberg Mountain Range. We are surrounded by nature – many different kinds of habitats including a tall mist-belt forest and a variety of wildlife which we see regularly, including samangos, chacma baboons and vervet monkeys, red duiker, rock hyrax, banded mongooses, crowned eagles, crested guinea fowl and cape batis. And of course those we don't see but find signs of, such as leopard, genet, civet and porcupine. Studying the behaviour of wild animals is a very special, and very humbling, experience, reminding us of the diversity of life of which humans are only a very small part,” said Dr Nowak.

At present, the research team is running Giving up Densities (GUD) experiments. This represents the process during which an animal forsakes a patch dense with food to forage at a different spot. The animal faces a trade-off between meeting energy demands and safety – making itself vulnerable to predators such as leopards and eagles. Dr le Roux said that, “researchers from the US and Europe are embracing cognitive ecology, revealing absolutely stunning facts about what animals can and can’t do. Hence, I don’t see why South Africans cannot do the same.”

Dr Nowak received the Claude Leon Fellowship for her project. Her research as a trustee of the foundation will increase the volume and quality of research output at the UFS and enhance the overall culture of research. Her analysis on the effect that stress and fear have on wild primates’ cognition will considerably inform the emerging field of cognitive ecology.

The field of cognitive ecology is relatively new. The term was coined in the 1990s by Les Real to bring together the fields of cognitive science and behavioural ecology.


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