Benguela Symposium: Cape Town

Amy Healey

Aberystwyth University


Picture caption
Cast netting for juvenile fish and hoping to not bump into any lions in the Kariega game reserve.

Thanks to the Challenger Societies travel award I was able to travel to South Africa to attend the Benguela Symposium in the beautiful city of Cape Town. The symposium was organised by the University of Cape Town and was the first international meeting dedicated to the Benguela ecosystem in 20 years, so it was a huge honour to have been part of it. Particularly as the complexities of this upwelling system play such a crucial role in many of the key ideas behind my PhD. I was lucky enough to be accepted to present a poster on the effects of the Benguela upwelling system on speciation and dispersal, which was a really great opportunity to discuss my work and share ideas with key researchers in many different fields and to understand the relevance of my research to conservation and fisheries management. There were plenty of other opportunities for meeting new people (including the amazing conference banquet with a photo booth!), as well as finally being able to actually meet lots of colleagues who I’d only ever spoken to through email beforehand.

The conference was particularly beneficial for me as there was a great focus on inter-disciplinary collaborations. Which was evidenced in the great diversity of research that was presented, from social sciences, fisheries management, geological, oceanographic, ecological and evolutionary research groups from all over the world, and as such I was able to listen to lots of really interesting talks about research that I would never usually come across, that was actually really relevant to my PhD.

Thanks to the generosity of the Challenger society I was also able to explore some of the stunning South African coastline whilst collecting samples that will hopefully form a really interesting part of my thesis. This involved long but amazing days lurking around commercial and recreational fisheries landing sites waiting for boats to come in and standing around in beautiful estuaries hunting down schools of juvenile fish. This also gave me the opportunity to actually witness first-hand the complexities of my study site in addition to the management and socio-economic importance of fisheries within it and through doing this I learnt so much that I would never have found through reading alone. Whilst on this trip I was also able to visit Rhodes University and the South African Institute of Aquatic Biodiversity in the Eastern Cape of South Africa and meet with many of the amazing people who I have been collaborating with throughout my PhD. Without the award from the challenger society I would have never been able to undertake such an interesting and varied trip which has given me so much new knowledge, understanding and samples for my PhD, so thank you so much.


Amy Healey is a second year PhD student at the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences at Aberystwyth University. Her research focuses on linkages between climate events, gene flow and speciation across the Atlantic-Indian Ocean biogeographic boundary region. Amy is a member of Professor Paul Shaw’s research group at Aberystwyth University, in addition to working in collaboration with Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa.

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