Mulalo Dianah Kutama

Background

I completed my BSc in Molecular and Life Science and BSc honours (2015) degrees at the University of Limpopo. My honours degree focused on the health and parasites of two fish species in Doorndraai Dam, Limpopo River System, using the health assessment index protocol developed by Adams et al. (1993). I was an NRF intern at the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa in Pretoria in 2016 where I worked at the Biobank. In 2017, I started my MSc with the C·I·B at Stellenbosch University.

Current research

Harmonia axyridis is an invasive ladybird native to Asia. This global invader rapidly spread throughout South Africa when it was first found here in the early 2000s. This ladybird adversely affects native species and it is thus important for this beetle to be kept under control. For my MSc, I intend to explore the relationship between this ladybird and a fungal pathogen (Hesperomyces virescens) recently found in South Africa (Healewaters et al. 2016). I will use an experimental approach to determine the effects this fungal ectoparasite has on the fitness (such as fecundity) and performance traits (such as upper and lower thermal tolerance) of H. axyridis. I will also test if this fungus affects the starvation resistance of this beetle. My results will provide more insight into methods that can be used to control this ladybird.