Category Archive Outreach

Promoting fish migration awareness at Epworth Primary School

The Aquatic Ecosystem Research team was invited to Epworth Primary School to give a presentation about World Fish Migration Day (WFMD) to the grade 4-7 pupils on the 1stof June 2018. WFMD is a global event coordinated by the World Fish Migration Foundation to highlight the importance of migratory fish and river connectivity.

In connection with the WFMD theme, “connecting fish, rivers and people”, the AER team spoke to the pupils about the importance of river connectivity for not only migratory fish, but the community at large. The presentation included a video, The Duzi Gold, which showcases the obstacles that migratory fish have to get over in order to access resources and suitable habitats. There were some indigenous fish on display for the students to have a look at which they were VERY excited to see! There was also a fish swimway (fish ladder) model on display and the students were quite fascinated to learn how the ladder can allow fish to swim over a weir or dam! Students were also given the opportunity to play their own role our understanding of the importance of river connectivity by “adopting a fish” whose behavior will be monitored in a KZN yellowfish tagging survey as part of the uMngeni Fish track study lead by the AER Group.

If you are keen to support this project by adopting a fish, contact us Pumla or Matthew. If you’d like to to organise a visit to your school, let us know !

Few photos for Solly Pecket (Epworth School) from this great outing !

(c) Solly Pecket

(c) Solly Pecket

(c) Solly Peckett

(c) Solly Pecket











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We were busy celebrating the World Fish Migration Day 2018 !

The Aquatic Ecosystem Research team has been busy with World Fish Migration Day 21st April 2018: Kruger National Park – Sabie River, Palmiet River and Msunduzi/uMngeni River.

World fish migration day (WFMD) is an event held globally every two years aquatic scientist with support from the World Fish Migration Foundation (WFMF). The WFMF encourages scientist within water resource research to host an event locally to create awareness for the migration of fish, promoting the connectivity of rivers and the work they are doing to contribute to river connectivity. The Aquatic Ecosystem Research (AER) group within the CWRR at UKZN co-hosted with WFMF (a team of Dutch scientists) and South African National Parks (SANParks) an event within the Kruger National Park. This event became the WFMD headquarters for Africa. The event extended over three days ending on the 21st of April in Skukuza Rest Camp and had various activities all focusing around fish connectivity within Rivers, and the benefits of having healthy fish to have healthy Rivers and healthy people.

On the day the book “From Sea to Source 2.0: Protection and restoration of fish migration in rivers worldwide” was launched. The book contained articles from all over the world on different problems and solutions to fish migrations three small chapters were written by Dr Gordon O’Brien programme leader for the AER-UKZN group. The book was handed over to and warmly received by the Managing Executive of KNP Mr Glenn Philips. Other SANParks official along with the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) for Limpopo and environmental consulting companies attended the event.

Leading up to the day, Kanniedood Dam near Shingwedzi Rest Camp was demolished using explosives as part of the KNP’s water management policy to restore the parks natural water distribution and improve river connectivity. Further natural science pupils from local schools were invited to be educated on the topic of fish migrations and interact with local and international scientist and managers, with the Sabie River weir and gauging station used as demonstrations. The students were given the chance to see some of the local fish species as the AER team showed them how to catch fish and do SASS5 monitoring. Other activities for the event included: Press releases from local and international news organisations, fishway demonstrations, face paints, a small aquarium with local species (15 species were on display) and posters of the research the AER-UKZN group are involved in.

The team involvement in Kruger also lead to a nice article in the Sunday Citizen, that you can read here.

Here within KwaZulu-Natal the AER hosted two other events. The first event took place on the 11 March to accommodate the high-school canoe races, the second took place within the Palmiet River event on the 21st April. The canoe race was co-hosted with the girls from St Anne’s High School. The challenge was to paddle the race upstream instead of downstream. The idea was warmly received, and the kids got first-hand experience of what fish go through when migrating upstream. The kids got fully involved tackling rapids, current and dams to get to the finish line. The whole event was filmed and presented to the world on World Fish Migration Day in Skukuza, KNP and launched online. The theme around the video was ‘Duzi Gold’ with yellowfish being equated to a living commodity as valuable as gold. Check out our video by searching for ‘Duzi Gold’ online to see the paddlers paddling upstream.

The Palmiet River event was co-hosted with the Palmiet River Valley Conservancy (PRVC). The Palmiet River was selected as it flows directly into the Umgeni River Estuary and is a socio-economically important system, despite the many problems it faces as an urban river. The socio-ecological importance of fish communities was highlighted, as well as the multiple stressors negatively influencing them, particularly within the Palmiet River. The event had various public interaction sessions with an array of activities. An aquarium housing the species caught within the Palmiet were on show, this included a 900 mm eel which became the centre of attention. Maps were placed on displays providing information to the public. In addition, citizen science tools (miniSASS and the clarity tube) were demonstrated. Members of the public were encouraged to take cognisance of the environmental impacts around them and to take action.


All in all, World Fish Migration Day was a great success! The various events held by the AER-UKZN team with support from the CWRR centre all drew in the crowds and created much needed awareness towards the connectivity of Rivers. We all started thinking of how well-connected our rivers are, particularly the uMgeni River. Not only are we fighting pollution issues’ but we need to create free flowing rivers within the catchments we find ourselves in.


Follow these links to learn more.

World Fish Migration Day:

From Sea to Source 2.0: Protection and restoration of fish migration in rivers worldwide:

Duzi Gold Series


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Bringing ecology into classrooms

A private school in the forests of Englewood New Jersey and a school in the mountains of Koshange KwaZulu Natal may not seem to have much in common but when speaking to the students about water quality it is apparent they share the same environmental concerns.
I was asked by Elisabeth Morrow’s 3rd grade class “what is an ecologist and why is water quality such an important aspect of our studies?” I thought it best to not just tell them each of the elements tested in a water quality assessment but to actually show them video footage of the Aquatic Ecology Research (AER) group at work. This prompted a dialogue about the importance of water and how we as humans don’t always do our part to take care of our resources.


In South Africa I got the opportunity to join LWAZI (‘knowledge’ in Zulu) on a school visit, as a representative of AER. LWAZI is an outreach project which focuses on encouraging underprivileged South African high school students to pursue a tertiary education. The initiative, started by Msc students Camille Fritsch and Olieve Fynn, allows UKZN students and interns to engage with teens by disseminating their research while also getting underprivileged students excited about science.

I held a similar conversation to that with Elisabeth Morrow, yet with an older group of nature enthusiasts from Sizisiwe High School. This school can be found in the mountains of Koshange, a modest town with panoramic views of the Drakensburg. I chose to use preserved macroinvertebrate and fish specimens collected by AER researchers. The students were intrigued by how as scientists we use insects and other species they recognize from childhood as indicators of water quality and overall ecosystem health. It hadn’t dawned on them how valuable an insect could be, or that our actions were ultimately disrupting entire ecosystems which in turn affect communities who rely on the services provided by that ecosystem. We discussed the need to decrease pollution and the more complex issue of how invasive alien species pose a threat. Our visit proved to be rewarding as I watched the matriculants go from enjoying an excuse not attend class, to proactively considering the environment and the role they each play.


Interning with the Aquatic Ecology Research group has been about more than just conducting field surveys of Kwa-Zulu Natal Rivers, but an opportunity to inspire a new generation of scientific researchers. It is integral to engage with young science enthusiasts and I hope to conduct more outreach with communities who may not understand the type of research we conduct but value our work nonetheless. The Aquatic Ecosystems Research group often enters remote communities to collect data for research or as part of the water monitoring project. Often times community members take notice of our presence. This has led to clashes where fishermen see our tools (primarily nets) and assume we are poachers. In my experience in the field, by engaging with the people we come across the tensions are eased and we actually find people want to know the results of our study. Our reach has spanned continents and ranged from sand miners to groups of women washing their clothing; even down to the young and curious helping to spot tadpoles.