Mammalogy Department
 
 

Staff

Specialist Museum Scientist and Head of Department

 

Nico L. Avenant PhD    navenant [at] nasmus [dot] co [dot] za

Nico Avenant is a small mammal ecologist with extensive field experience, working on a wide variety of rodents and their predators. When he joined the National Museum in 1995 he had published mainly from data accrued during collection trips and from his MSc study. Observations made during these trips, together with his introduction to environmental impact assessments (EIAs), led to Nico’s current research field, i.e. small mammal community characteristics as indicators of habitat integrity. His PhD study (on the ecology of the exotic Marion Island house mouse) added value to his studies on small mammal ecology. Nico slowly started to merge the fields of “small mammals as indicators” and “predator-prey relations”. To date Nico has contributed towards 48 peer-reviewed publications, 35 research based reports, 74 national and international conference contributions, and two chapters in books.

Nico is a National Research Foundation (NRF) rated scientist and a Research Associate of the Centre for Environmental Management (CEM) and at the Department of Zoology and Entomology, University of the Free State (UFS). He collaborates on national and international research projects, and lectures to and supervises both undergraduate and post-graduate students. He has conducted research over a wide area in Southern Africa, at the Prince Edward Islands, and in Cambodia. 

Nico’s contribution towards reviewing research outputs has increased exponentially since January 2000. During this time he has acted as reviewer for 38 manuscripts (in 20 different accredited journals), 12 abstracts for conferences, three books, five species profiles for the Mammals of Africa (Kingdon et al. 2013); as scientific advisor for the Mammals of the Southern African Subregion (Skinner & Chimimba 2005); as contributor and compiler for the SA Red Data Book for Mammals (Friedmann & Daly 2004), and Guest Editor for the journals Integrative Zoology and Navorsinge van die Nasionale Museum, Bloemfontein and is currently a Section Editor for African Zoology. More recently he has assessed applications for NRF evaluation and rating, for NRF funding, project proposals for the Earthwatch Institute and the Russell Small Grant, as well as proposals for the Centre for Environmental Management, UFS, the Department of Animal, Wildlife and Grassland Sciences, UFS, the Department of Environmental Health, Central University of Technology (CUT), the Faculté des Sciences Agronomiques (Universitéd’Abomey-Calavi, Benin), and the University of Neuchatel (Switzerland). He has also acted as an external examiner for 17post-graduate studies (from nine different universities), and as advisor for two Recognition of Prior Learning applications.

Nico’s other responsibilities at the National Museum include involvement in certain educational activities, and overseeing the collections and administration of the Mammalogy Department. The Department’s research collection and database comprise c. 13 000 mammal specimens and records. As curator of the collection he is primarily responsible for the systematic growth thereof, and for ensuring that it remains relevant and accessible for researchers internationally. His involvement in EIAs and participation in conservation initiatives represent contributions towards the conservation of species, biodiversity and ecosystems. Regarding involvement in education, Nico contributes actively to permanent and temporary Museum exhibitions, he presents both popular and academic lectures, provides information on mammals and ecosystems to individuals and groups, and supervises post-graduate students (12 post-graduate degrees awarded). The 25 popular publications, 17 newspaper articles, 58 popular talks and involvement with the “Big 5” computer game are further testimony to his commitment to research-based education at all levels.

Nico currently serves or has served on the following committees or forums: International Conference for Rodent Biology and Management; International Association for Impact Assessment, Free State Branch; Free State Conservation Forum; Free State Biodiversity Planning Steering Committee; Eskom's Multi-disciplinary Committee; the South African National Defence Force Regional Environmental Advisory Forum; various National Museum committees, e.g. Science Forum Committee (ex-chair), HOD Works Committee (ex-chair), Collections Audit Committee, Exhibitions Committee. He currently also serves on the Editorial Advisory Boards of Integrative Zoology and is a Section Editor for African Zoology. He is a member of the Zoological Society of Southern Africa, as well as the South African Institute of Ecologists and Environmental Scientists.


Museum Scientist and Collections Manager

 

Jurie J. du Plessis PhD    jurie [dot] duplessis [at] nasmus [dot] co [dot] za

Jurie obtained a BSc (Entomology & Zoology) at the University of the Free State (UFS), Bloemfontein and obtained his BSc Hons (Zoology) at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU), Port Elizabeth. Returning to Bloemfontein in 2004, he completed an MEM (Masters in Environmental Management) at the Centre for Environmental Management (CEM), UFS, and graduated with a PhD (Environmental Management) in December 2013. Jurie worked as a Learner Professional Officer at the CEM from 2004 to 2008, after which he was appointed as Assistant Museum Scientist and Collection Manager in the Department of Mammalogy at the National Museum. He is currently a Museum Scientist and Collections Manager in the Department of Mammalogy.

Jurie’s areas of expertise lie in the sampling of small mammal communities, preparation and management of mammal specimens for Museum collections, ecology and management of predators, predator-prey relationships with emphasis on the livestock and game farming industry, biomonitoring of fish communities in rivers and ecology of fish communities in rivers.

He is a member of the South African Wildlife Management Association (SAWMA).


Preparators

 

General Assistant / PreparatorTshediso Putsane

Tshediso Putsane

Tshediso Putsane started his career at the National Museum in March 2013, as a General Assistant / Preparator at the Department of Mammalogy. Tshediso’s main tasks include: assistance during fieldwork, preparation of study material for inclusion in the Mammalogy Department’s Research Collection, assistance with the curation of this collection and the day-to-day running of the department. Tshediso is also involved with some educational activities for visitors to the Mammalogy Department and for students at the University of the Free State. His fieldwork experience includes extensive sampling in Free State provincial nature reserves, on iron ore mine properties, and in Lesotho.

 


General Assistant / Preparator

Ronny Nokha

Ronny Nokha started his career at the National Museum in April 2015, as Preparator at the Department of Mammalogy. Ronny’s main tasks include: assistance during fieldwork, preparation of study material for inclusion in the Mammalogy Department’s Research Collection, assistance with the curation of this collection and the day-to-day running of the department. He is also involved with educational activities for visitors to the Mammalogy Department and for students at the University of the Free State.