Natasha Kruger

Background

I completed my B.Sc. (Hons.) in Biodiversity and Conservation Ecology (2014) and my M.Sc. in Environmental Science (2015-2016) at the North-West University under the supervision of Prof. L.H. du Preez and Dr. J. Measey. During this period I investigated the sexual behaviour of the amphibian kangaroo leech, Marsupiobdella africana. I shifted my study focus from blood sucking leeches to the very popular endangered Western Leopard Toad (Sclerophrys pantherinus) endemic to the Western Cape and the parasitological effects of the invasive Guttural Toad (Sclerophrys gutturalis) on this endangered population. Parasitology led me to the wonderful and diverse field of herpetology, which I now enjoy as main subject for my Ph.D.

Current research

For my Ph.D. I study the adaptations and traits (development; performance; and antipredator responses) of invasive Xenopus laevis in France in response to novel habitat, climate, and native species. To better understand the current traits and adaptations of invasive populations, I will also assess and examine the native winter- and summer rainfall populations in South Africa. I will determine the effects of range expansion in the invasive population on the development of X. laevis tadpoles in a mesocosm experiment in western France. The development of X. laevis tadpoles from winter- and summer rainfall populations will also be examined in a reciprocal exchange experiment to better understand the developmental trajectories in western France. The effects of evolution on the performance of X. laevis tadpoles from all three populations (invasive population in western France, and the native summer- and winter rainfall populations in South Africa) will be assessed in a lab experiment. I will further investigate whether the performance responses are due to phenotypic plasticity by building on the lab experiment. Lastly, I will investigate the interaction of X. laevis tadpoles to local predators in western France by conducting a lab based experiment.

Natasha Kruger collecting Xenopus laevis tadpoles

Publications