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Iimbovane treats visitors with award-winning workshop at Scifest Africa 2016

Did you know that ants have hair on their bodies? Or that some species build underground cities which go as deep as 8 meters? These were among the fascinating facts that were part of hands-on workshop entitled “Antastic!” held at Scifest Africa 2016 by team members of the Iimbovane Outreach Project.

Scifest Africa, South Africa’s national science festival and the largest in southern Africa, was held from 2 — 8 March 2016 in Grahamstown. It is a fun-filled event specially styled to make science and technology accessible to and of interest to everyday people. This year, the theme was “A matter of time” which explored the creation, measurement, depiction, experience and (even) the end of time.

Ant hunt activity

Participants left no leaf unturned during the ant hunt activity

It was the second time that the Iimbovane Outreach Project was selected to be part of the Scifest 650 events and activities which includes exhibitions, lectures, workshops, excursions, laser-shows, whiz-bang science shows and even a murder mystery event. Iimbovane is supported by the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology (C·I·B) based at Stellenbosch University, and funded by Rand Merchant Bank Fund, AfriSam, and the C·I·B.

Armed with microscopes and a complete “mini-laboratory”, the Iimbovane team set out to surprise curious participants with facts about ants, their important role in the ecosystem, and how ants get their scientific names. Hands-on activities such as ant hunting, demonstrations and the use of microscopes were all part of the workshop. After learning about biodiversity theory, participants were asked to hunt and identify different ant species using microscopes and a scientific key.

The workshop concluded with information about the range of study fields in the biodiversity and conservation sciences at Stellenbosch University.

Lubabalo Nonkonyana, a Kimberley Boys’ High learner, described his visit to the workshop: “The show was fantastic! I refreshed some knowledge I know about ants and learnt a lot of new things about how important ants are to the environment. Thank you to the presenters for the awesome show” Lubabalo said.

The team, consisting of Dorette du Plessis, Londiwe Msomi and Sophia Turner, didn’t return empty handed and was awarded the prize for “Best Workshop — Curriculum” at Scifest Africa 2016.

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Viewing an ant from the Camponotus genus

A learner surprised by the size of an ant from the Camponotus genus

Participants use microscopes to learn about ant taxonomy and how to identify the ants

During the workshop participants made use of microscopes to learn about ant taxonomy and how to identify the ants they collected