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Professor Melodie McGeoch of Stellenbosch University and the Centre for Invasion Biology (C·I·B) hosted Genya Dana, a PhD student at the University of Minnesota , USA , in September 2007. Ms. Dana is one of the first fellows under a US National Science Foundation Integrated Graduate Education and Research Training (IGERT) grant, where the University of Minnesota trains graduate students in risk analysis for introduced species and genotypes. The C·I·B is an international partner on the IGERT grant, and Ms. Dana's visit began a research partnership between the C·I·B, University of Minnesota and the South African National Biodiversity Institute in South Africa .

Ms. Dana is studying environmental risk analysis, focusing on methodologies for involving stakeholders in the assessment and management of environmental risk. Her visit focused on identifying a research project to involve stakeholders in risk analysis, and she aims to design a monitoring programme for detecting the impacts of GMOs on South Africa 's biodiversity as a case study. Working with Prof. McGeoch, she identified key research partners, learned South Africa 's regulatory process for GMOs, and met with key stakeholders involved in the GMO issue in South Africa . Ms. Dana had the opportunity to meet with scientists, non-governmental organizations, research institutions, industry officials and regulatory officials, gathering key insights necessary to develop a feasible, focused PhD research project. In addition, the visit was critical in developing personal and professional relationships with stakeholders important to her research, and ultimately to her career goal of working internationally as a risk analysis expert.

Ms. Dana plans to return to South Africa in early 2008 to begin her dissertation research, and she will collaborate with scientists at Stellenbosch University , the C·I·B, and the South African National Biodiversity Institute, among others. In her research, she hopes to develop and test methodologies for involving a diversity of stakeholders in a risk analysis process, providing evidence on whether stakeholder involvement improves the quality of environmental risk analysis.

Above: Prof. McGeoch (left) with Genya Dana, a PhD student
at the University of Minnesota , during Ms. Dana's recent visit to South Africa .