Aquatic Ecosystem Health


Sub-programme leader: Prof Jonathan Taylor (


Strategic Aim and Mission

Considering that South Africa is a water scarce country and we are situated in a particularly dry part of the country, our mission is improving water quality on various levels.  The strategic aim is continued research to learn the status of water quality and how it influences human and wild life in South Africa.  This means applied research across a variety of disciplines geared towards understanding and solving problems of water quality that would inform on the second very important aim: to develop and deliver training programs that address the issues highlighted by research.   

Specific Focus

The focus comprises of three legs:
1.    Nature and effect of pollution in both fresh- and marine waters
2.    Developing solutions to water quality problems
3.    The above two foci are addressed through a trans-disciplinary approach  

Research Objectives

Research and training focus on mainly freshwater as our campus is inland bound.  However, there are members who are also involved in marine research.  Members of the sub-program target specific types of pollutants: organic chemicals, heavy metals (among which acid mine drainage and nano-materials are included), microbes, and mycotoxins from algal blooms.

The nature of the pollution is determined quantitatively as well as qualitatively.  The effect pollution has on the natural environment is studied from the molecular level of organisation to ecosystem level.  Population composition and dynamics (of diatoms to fish and birds) are studied as indicators of anthropogenic involvement.
Research also focuses on developing solutions for pollution problems from more effective management of natural water resources to predicting risk and flaring of pollution issues that have cyclic characteristics.  These solutions are included in training programs for honours courses for full-time as well as part-time students.

Research Groups

Algae Research Group

Led by Prof Jonathan Taylor


Aquatic Microbiology

Led by Dr Lesego Malale-Tom



Led by Prof Rialet Pieters



Persistent Organic Pollutant and Toxicant (POPT)

Led by Prof Henk Bouwman and Prof Rialet Pieters


Water Research Group (WRG)

Led by Prof Victor Wepener and Prof Nico Smit










Last updated: 31 August 2022