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UFS celebrates establishment of a new department
2008-09-26

 

 At the celebration of the establishment of the Department of Genetics are, from the left: Prof. Herman van Schalkwyk, Dean: Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at the UFS, Prof. Johan Spies, head of the Department of Genetics at the UFS, Prof. Chris Viljoen, associate professor at the UFS Department of Haematology and Cell Biology and previously associated with the Department of Genetics; seated: Prof. Paul Grobler, associate professor at the UFS Department of Genetics.
Photo: Stephen Collett

UFS celebrates establishment of a new department

The establishment of the Department of Genetics in the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at the University of the Free State (FS) was recently celebrated on the Main Campus in Bloemfontein.

The department, which formed part of the Department of Plant Sciences, is the only of its kind in the country that conducts research in behavioural genetics. “With behavioural genetics we try to determine if certain human behaviour is hereditary or if it is as a result of the environment. Although this is the fastest growing field of specialty in the United States of America, it is still an unknown field in South Africa,” says Prof. Johan Spies, head of the Department of Genetics.

The other specialty fields of the department are forensic genetics and conservation genetics. “Forensic genetics looks at the compilation of the DNA of animals. Because of our academics’ expertise, the department is regularly requested by the South African Police Service to assist them with establishing the origin of animals – especially in the case of game poaching. We recently completed a research project on cheetahs where we had to establish if they were acquired illegally of part of the farmer’s game. The research showed that the cheetahs were part of the farmer’s own breed,” says Prof. Spies.

Another specialty field of the department is conservation genetics where the genetic variance of animals is researched. A lot of research is done on vervet monkeys to determine from which area in the country they originate. The study must be completed before the 3000 vervet monkeys currently in rehabilitation centres are set free. The behaviour of monkeys in rehabilitation is also being researched.

Prof. Spies says: “Student figures in Genetics show an annual increase of 8% per year for the past five years. The first group of master’s degree students in Genetics will start their studies next year.” The department is also regarded as a leader on Clivia research.


Media Release
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Assistant Director: Media Liaison
Tel: 051 401 2584
Cell: 083 645 2454
E-mail: loaderl.stg@ufs.ac.za
25 September 2008
 

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