GTI capacity development project(s) of Samyn Yves

Exploration and conservation of the algal and echinoderm biodiversity of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa – building  voucher collections and increasing local taxonomic capacity

Project details

  • Years


  • Country

    South Africa

  • Studied organism

    Echinoderms: Animalia – Echinodermata;  Macroalgae:  1__Plantae – Chlorophyta/ Rhodophyta;  2__Chromista – Ochrophyta

  • Organising institute (Belgium)

    Ghent University, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences and Royal Museum for Central Africa

  • Partner institute (South)

University of Cape Town (UCT) and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Service

The marine biodiversity of South Africa is particularly rich, and is characterized by an astonishing level of endemism (+30%). Despite considerable efforts in the last few decades, the country still lacks sufficient human and institutional capacity to identify and monitor its marine biodiversity adequately. The present project aims to augment standing taxonomic and curatorial capacity for algal and echinoderm biodiversity.

The project will work through three complementary approaches:

  • Hands-on training in sampling algae and echinoderms through SCUBA-diving, snorkelling and hand-picking at low tides;
  • Build-up of new state of the art reference collections (including relevant literature) in South Africa and where possible also in Belgium;
  • Training of South African students, regional ecologists, biodiversity researchers and conservation officers in the identification and collection management of algae and echinoderms.


To achieve these approaches sampling of all five classes of echinoderms and green, brown and red macroalgae (seaweeds) will be done in different sites along the coast of the province KwaZulu-Natal, respecting all national and international legislation, followed by an intensive course on the identification of the sampled echinoderms and algae and the preparation of the samples for definite preservation in the collections of the South Africa Museum and the herbarium of the University of Cape Town with duplicates in the Royal Museum for Central Africa, the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences and the herbarium of the University of Gent if possible. Next to this core taxonomic formation, introductory courses on nomenclature, anatomy and phylogeny will also be given.

Important short-term outcomes of this project will be updated checklists of the surveyed sites as well as scientific publications in peer-reviewed journals that will document eventual shifts in species distribution. This project will lead to a long-term taxonomic capacity in South Africa because the main trainees will act as duplicators in the nature conservation institute and the university to which they are attached. These institutional links, coupled to international cooperation, ensure that the project will be successful.

Files and additional information

 Volume 19 of Abc Taxa: Olbers, J. M., Griffiths, C. L., O’Hara, T. D., and Samyn, Y. (2019). Field guide to the brittle and basket stars (Echinodermata: Ophiuroidea) of South Africa. Abc Taxa 19, 1-346.

 Digital poster on “DNA barcoding echinoderms of the East Coast of South Africa” presented at the 7th International Barcode of Life (IBOL) Conference (2017)

 Digital poster on “Integrative Taxonomy of the Crinoids of the Shallow-Waters of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa” presented at the 7th International Barcode of Life (IBOL) Conference (2017)

  Presentations given during the training:

Scientific papers