Ecology and Taxonomy Weekend – BM2024

Pilanesberg National Park – 26 to 28 January 2024. Web report by Thea van Tonder.

Pilanesberg National Park

Albert Einstein once said, “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

This weekend was the start of our journey to look deep into nature! Starting with the basic concepts such as biology – the study of life. But then the big question – what is life? Our lecturer, Ulrich Oberprieler, certainly enriched our thinking with his depth of knowledge!

On Friday, we all arrived at camp and set up our tents for the weekend. We got together at 19:00 to sort out our student files with guidance from our BM Course Co-ordinator, Peter Gordon-Cumming. The night ended with a cheese and wine and a braai. We also had a nice rainstorm that evening at around midnight.

BM-2024 Welcome cheese and wine, with Peter Gordon-Cumming

Saturday was our first class on Ecology. What an experience! The base for our Bushveld Mosaic year was set. This weekend, our biggest realisation was just how insignificant we humans are, and how huge the universe is. Ulrich kept us all engaged in class, and made the subject interesting to prevent death by PowerPoint.

Ecology and Taxonomy lecturer, Ulrich Oberprieler

Ulrich even had us playing marbles to calculate populations! And we all had quite a laugh when he literally lost his marbles!

Gerhardt counting his marbles

We all found out later in the afternoon that we were not yet “classroom-fit”, and so the day ended around 16:30. Some of us went for an afternoon drive, while others returned to camp. We then all spent a great evening around the fire, talking about the day and getting to know each other better.

Potokwane sunset

Sunday morning, we were all back in class at 08:00. Taxonomy was something that most of us did not know anything about. This was also super interesting, and Ulrich again kept the class engaged and kept the conversation and critical thinking flowing. The morning ended with the last section on ecology. We all returned to camp around midday for camp clean up, and to pack up our tents.

Driving home, we found that we looked at the grass and the trees differently, wondering why certain types of grass grow in certain places and why it seems certain grasses grow together, and does it mean that if there is a certain type of grass, you can expect a certain type of animal to graze there? Do the different types of grass have different nutritional values? Do certain types of grass grow close to certain trees? I cannot wait to get these and more questions answered at the grasses lecture and practical in February by Hennie de Beer!

Oh, and I have to share the high note that we ended the weekend with. We decided to have a last game drive before heading home, and we were fortunate enough to be greeted by a leopard that had a leisurely stroll down the road for the best part of 5 minutes!

Thea and Wessel‘s leopard sighting

Editors Note: Thank you for volunteering to write the web report for the first module of Bushveld Mosaic 2024, Thea and everyone else that contributed. We share your enthusiasm and look forward to a fantastic year ahead.