Keynote Speaker:

Prof Aloysius Wong

Wenzhou-Kean University, China

Prof. Aloysius Wong is currently an Assistant Professor at Wenzhou-Kean University, a Sino-Chinese institution located at Zhejiang Province in China. He was among 24 teachers in Wenzhou to be awarded the "High-level Leading Talents" by the Zhejiang Provincial Department of Education in 2020. His group currently conducts research in three main areas: 1) sustainable horticulture; 2) antibiotic resistance; 3) plant cell signaling. Since 2013, Dr. Wong has published more than 30 articles in high-impact journals including Trends in Plant Science (IF: 14.416), Molecular Plant (IF: 12.084), Plant Cell (IF: 9.618), Plant Journal (IF: 6.141), Development (IF: 5.611), Bioinformatics (IF: 5.610), Computational and Structural Biotechnology Journal (IF: 6.018) and Horticulture Research (IF: 5.404). The articles have a cumulative impact factor of 167.035 and his works have been cited more than 870 times within the same period. He also holds a patent on "laser-based agricultural system". In 2018, Aloysius received external grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the Natural Science Foundation of Zhejiang Province. In recognition of his research contribution to the university, Aloysius was awarded the Distinguished Chancellor’s award in 2019. In addition to colleagues in China, Dr. Wong actively collaborates with colleagues from the US, UK, Poland, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, and France.





Plenary Speakers:

Dr. Rudo Ngara

University of the Free State, Qwaqwa campus

Dr. Rudo Ngara completed an MSc in Biotechnology at the University of Zimbabwe in 2000 before enrolling for doctoral studies at the University of the Western Cape in 2005. She obtained her doctoral degree in 2009, before working in the same university as a Post-doctoral research fellow and lecturer on a fixed-term contract. In September 2013 Dr. Ngara joined the University of the Free State as a lecturer in the Department of Plant Sciences-Qwaqwa campus. She currently holds a Senior lecturer position and supervises postgraduate students in a range of projects in plant stress biology. From 2016 to 2020, Dr. Ngara held a Royal Society-Newton Advanced Fellowship hosted by the Department of Biosciences, Durham University, UK. Generally, her research interests lie in understanding how crops, particularly cereals, respond and adapt to a range of abiotic stresses such as drought, salinity and heat either individually or as combined stresses. This line of research is motivated by the need to develop crops that produce maximally under harsh environmental conditions and thus enhance food security. With the current projections in global climatic change and its effects on food security, the need to increase crop production under hot and dry conditions is increasingly becoming a priority worldwide. Dr. Ngara’s small but growing research group uses systems biology approaches to answer their research questions. 



Miss Zaynab Shaik

Stellenbosch University

Winner of the Best Young Botanist award at the 46th annual SAAB conference

Miss Shaik is a PhD in the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences at Gothenburg University, Sweden, and a junior lecturer in plant genomics at Stellenbosch University, South Africa. She completed her Bachelors, Honours and Masters degrees in the Biological Sciences at the University of Cape Town (2013-2019). Her MSc focussed on species delimitation and speciation process in the widespread, morphologically variable species complex Seriphium plumosum using massively-parallel sequenced molecular data. After her MSc, she completed a one-year internship in plant taxonomy at the Compton Herbarium, SANBI. Her present research, supervised by Prof Bengt Oxelman (GU), Prof G Anthony Verboom (UCT) and Dr Nicola Bergh (SANBI), is focused on the Stoebe clade of paper daisies, a monophyletic group centred in the Cape Floristic Region (tribe Gnaphalieae: subtribe Relhaniinae) encompassing approximately 70 recently-speciated (±5Ma) species in eight genera. Her thesis work will address speciation mode in the clade, reconstruct a dated phylogeny for the group using targeted enrichment markers captured using the Asteraceae Conserved Orthologous probe Set (COS II; Mandel et al., 2014; 2019), and more generally will address the influence of molecular information content and migration on phylogenetic inference where both incomplete lineage sorting and migration are explicitly modelled in the Bayesian multispecies coalescent-based method DENIM (Jones, 2019).



Dr. Matt Buys

New Zealand Forest Research Institute, New Zealand

Dr. Matt Buys is an alumni of Stellenbosch University, undertaking a systematic revision of Lobostemon (Boraginaceae) for his Ph.D. thesis. He lectured plant systematics and was the curator of the A.P. Goossens Herbarium at the North-West University from 1998–2006. During this time he developed an interest in the summer-rainfall mesembs (Aizoaceae), in particular Chasmatophyllum and Delospermum. He joined the Compton Herbarium (South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI)) in 2006 where he continued research in the Aizoaceae, this time focusing on Oscularia, a genus endemic to the winter-rainfall area of South Africa. He also established an interest in managing occurrence and taxonomic data and initiated the trial of the Botanical Research And Herbarium Management Software (BRAHMS) for specimen loan administration at the Compton Herbarium and provided basic BRAHMS training and support for the Angolan Biodiversity Census pilot project. He is currently based at the New Zealand Forest Research Institute (a.k.a. Scion), in Rotorua, New Zealand, where he manages disparate biological collections in an integrated manner as Project Lead for Scion’s BioCollections. He is also Team Lead for Plant Systematics & Collections, and the curator of the National Forestry Herbarium and Xylarium. His translocation to the southern Pacific has spawned a research interest in Pacific Mytaceae, in particular Metrosideros and Leptospermum, in response to primary industry drivers and plant pathogen challenges facing the region.




Dr. Hugo Bezuidenhout


Dr Hugo Bezuidenhout is a Specialist Plant Ecologist for SANParks with over 30 years of experience in vegetation and soil ecology patterns, processes and interactions. He is also experienced in Integrated Environmental Management (IEM) Practises. Dr Bezuidenhout is also experienced in lecturing, postgraduate supervision and examination, journal review and has had numerous invitation to serve on advisory boards. Dr Bezuidenhout has published over 50 articles and attended numerous conferences.