The Centre for Trace and Experimental Biogeochemistry, a centre within the Department of Earth Sciences at Stellenbosch University, aims to gain an improved understanding on biogeochemical cycling of bioactive trace elements in marine environments.
South Africa had a rich history in the field of chemical oceanography. Over the past 50 years, however, it has declined and only a skeleton remains which is incapable of meeting the requirements of a country surrounded by three oceans. Deteriorating research facilities combined with a lack of impetus in oceanographic research and funding resulted in South Africa experiencing a significant brain drain and subsequent decline in research capacity. South Africa is currently, however, maturing in its democracy and starting to pay more attention to the socio-economic benefits of the natural environment. Change is on the horizon.
Geographically and strategically, the research centre at Stellenbosch is best-placed to study aspects of the Southern Ocean. It is situated at the confluence of three oceans, namely, the Indian, Atlantic and Southern Oceans. Large sectors of these oceans below Africa are understudied and lack scientific data crucial to global climate models or to ascertain variability trends that will help understand linkages between trace metals, primary productivity, biodiversity and long term climate change.
The Center’s research and training activities focus on the Southern Ocean and Southern African coastal waters with a view to understanding long-term impact on the global carbon cycle, ocean acidification and climate change. More specifically, trace nutrients and their impact on productivity in oceans are studied. The ultimate goal is to become a South African and African Center of Excellence in the highly specialized field of trace metal biogeochemistry . The Center not only helps to develop capacity for the long-term monitoring of the Southern Ocean and contribute to the global dataset for climate monitoring, but it also undertakes cutting edge scientific work thereby raising the quality and quantity of South African and African research output.
Given the specialized nature of the Center’s work, high-level skills sets and specialized land and ship-based laboratories have been developed. We make use of the state of the art ice-breaker ship SA Agulhas II that is fitted with GEOTRACES approved trace CTD rosette with Teflon coated Go-Flo bottles, a towed fish and two container clean labs for trace clean sampling and experiments. On land we boast a temperature controlled Class 10 clean laboratory equipped with Picotrace® laminar flow workstations, Fe-FIA, Sector filed ICP-MS, anaerobic chamber and temperature and light controlled incubators.
The Center promotes the mandate of the International GEOTRACES program in South Africa