Tshegofatso Fakude

Masters student

DNA barcoding of estuarine macrobenthos in the Eastern Cape using traditional sequencing and 4IR metabarcoding

(With researchers from WSU, NMU and Stellenbosch University)

The ability of estuarine fauna to adapt to frequent changes in salinity and temperature makes them unique, more so because most estuarine species do not occur in both rivers and the ocean. In addition to their unique fauna, estuaries serve as nurseries to riverine and marine species, making them biodiversity hotspots. Several endemic estuarine species are; however, highly threatened and this is due to the reduction in dispersal between estuaries as a result of the antagonistic marine environment. The available information on estuarine fauna focuses largely on the fish species and very little is available on the biodiversity of estuarine macrobenthos.

Tshegofatso will be working on establishing a reference database for estuarine species in the Eastern Cape using DNA barcoding and using eDNA metagenomics to assess the completeness of the collection by generating millions of reads from environmental DNA fragments with the aim of making a significant contribution towards recording southern Africa’s estuarine invertebrate fauna and identifying undescribed cosmopolitan species.