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The Research

Plant Destroyers Poster

You can contribute to research!


The research in this project will focus on a fascinating group of plant destroying microorganisms called Phytophthora. Don't know what Phytophthora species are? Check out this blog post or read more here.


Below is a list of a few of the studies that you can be a part of! All of our studies will focus on the fynbos biome, but we are also interested in the Phytophthora species causing problems in agricultural systems and home gardens.

Phytophthora species diversity

Phytophthora is a group of microscopic plant killers that have caused many serious plant diseases around the world. There are more than 140 species known to science, but only one is known to be present in the fynbos biome. We hypothesize there are more species in the fynbos that we are currently unaware of, some which have been found in other places of the world, and some that have never been found before!

Phytophthora species assemblage recovered from streams
Phytophthora are a fascinating group of microbes because they have swimming spores called zoospores. Many species have been recovered from streams using a process called baiting (just like baiting a hook). Want to go fishing? Join us to fish for Phytopthora in the streams of the Western Cape. We hypothesize that we will recover many species of Phytophthora species from the streams.
Spatial analysis of Phytophthora cinnamomi populations
Phytophthora cinnamomi is a species widespread throughout the fynbos biome. It was first discovered killing cinnamon trees in 1922, but was not reported in South Africa until 1931. In this study, we will use genetics to study the populations of this species. This study will help us understand whether P. cinnamomi was introduced, how long it has been present, and how it has spread around the country, as well as whether it has been hybrizing. These sort of studies help explain and predict the pathogen's ability to overcome resistance or adapt to control measures.
Evaluating citizen science as a tool for hypothesis driven research
We believe your contributions will further these studies in ways that we would have not been able to do on our own. We want to show that off! For example, if you are hiking or mountain biking deep in the wilderness and you notice a patch of dying plants, take a picture and record the GPS location. There is a small chance that we would have found that site otherwise!

Have a study idea that you are interested in investigating? We would be happy to facilitate your interests and address questions that benefit the public. We agree that there are a lot of interesting questions to answer, but we are limited in the amount of studies we can handle. However, we are more than willing to help organize, mentor or supervise in any capacity we can. Please contact us if there is a specific question you would like to be addressed or organized.

Is this page not technical enough? Contact us and we will share our more technical study outline (titles, hypotheses, methods, anticipated analysis, etc.) and a proposal for the project.