Botanist acknowledged for his remarkable contribution

Prof Stefan Siebert from the North-West University’s (NWU’s) Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences was awarded the prestigious South African Association of Botanists (SAAB) Silver Medal at the recent 49th Annual SAAB conference at the University of Zululand’s Richard’s Bay Campus. This prestigious award was made in acknowledgement of his remarkable contributions to the field of botany in South Africa.

Prof Siebert’s strong scientific outputs, continued excellence in mentoring and training students, and major contributions towards internationalisation of research and researchers have established him as a leader in his field. The impact he has made has been recognised by the National Research Foundation (NRF) and the NWU. He was promoted to full professor in 2018, rated as a C1 researcher by the NRF in 2021, and received the faculty Research Excellence Award in 2023.

Prof Siebert fondly remembers his journey. “Since my childhood, I was intrigued by plants. I cultivated succulents, ran germination experiments for fun, and had a keen interest in the indigenous plants growing in the nearby mountains. However, I never knew that one could become a botanist. So, when I arrived at the University of Pretoria to do a BSc degree in biology, I was extremely pleased to learn that I could enrol for botany modules to learn more about plants. From varsity days until now, it has been a life filled with plants all the way,” he says.

Prof Siebert has been instrumental in fostering a vibrant botanical community, particularly younger people who are unsure about a career in botany. His commitment to capacity-building initiatives has not only strengthened botanical expertise in South Africa, but also extended to neighbouring regions, leaving a lasting impact on the botanical landscape of Southern Africa.

Identifying himself as a geo-ecologist, he explains the significance of his work is to understand plant-soil relationships, particularly of atypical substrates. His work delves into the intricate associations between plants and substrates like dolomites and gypsum, shedding light on their adaptations to harsh conditions and their potential for environmental remediation.

His global outreach efforts have been pivotal in forging enduring research collaborations, underscoring the importance of international networking in academia.

Prof Siebert says there is an abundance of opportunities for passionate individuals in the field. He celebrates the increasing interest in botany, exemplified by the expansion of Botany subject groups at universities and the appointment of young scientists, ensuring a promising future for botanical research.

He applauds the vibrant landscape of botanical research in South Africa, boasting the region’s top scientific leaders and groundbreaking advancements. With a keen understanding of research trajectories and a commitment to excellence, the future of botany in South Africa appears promising under Prof Siebert's stewardship.


Renowned botanist Prof Stefan Siebert was recently awarded the SAAB Medal.
(Photo provided by Mr Thwala Mbongiseni James from Communication and Marketing, University of Zululand.)

Submitted on Fri, 02/09/2024 - 09:04