Meet our Research Team

Prof Victor Wepener

Head of Research Group

Professor Wepener is the leading expert in Aquatic Ecotoxicology and in Ecological Risk Assessment (ERA) in South Africa. He has trained students in ERA of pesticides to sediment risk assessments in the marine environment. He was lead author on a Water Research Commission report on identifying the research needs for conducting risk assessment of nanomaterials in aquatic environments.  Professor Wepener has published extensively on these themes and has also participated in OECD and NANOSOLUTIONs projects internationally assessing a main contributor from South Africa on these topics

Dr Mathapelo Seopela

Postdoctoral fellow

Dr Seopela Mathapelo is a Postdoctoral researcher whose study area deals with the chemistry of the environment, with particular focus on analytical detection and quantification of persistent organic pollutants. In addition, assessing the risk posed to aquatic systems by these contaminants. Through her research, she aims to contribute to building science as well as improving our understanding regarding the sustainability of the environment.

Suanne Bosch

PhD student

Suanne Bosch is specialising in aquatic and terrestrial nanotoxicology. She has a background in Zoology, Biochemistry and Environmental management. Her PhD focuses on determining the metabolic toxicity, bioaccumulation and biodistribution of metallic nanoparticles (inert as nanogold, bimetallic as quantum dots and metallic oxide as copper oxide), focusing on multiple species. Aquatic and terrestrial model organisms such as Danio rerio, Daphnia magna, the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans and earthworms are used.

Marelize Labuschagne

PhD student

Marelize specializes in aquatic ecotoxicology, where her main focus was on elemental pollution (Platinum Group Elements) in the freshwater environment. In 2019 she was an intern in our National Aquatic Bioassay Facility (NABF) where she focused on the husbandry of the Danio rerio culture, as well as maintenance of all the systems in the facility. In 2020 she will start on a new project, the focus of this project will be to assess the effects that neonicotinoids have on aquatic macroinvertebrates.

Dr Tarryn Lee Botha

Postdoctoral fellow


Dr TL Botha specialized in aquatic nanoecotoxicology following a tiered approach which included several techniques currently used by our team. Dr TL Botha has undertaken further training in aquatic and terrestrial ecotoxicology at the Fraunhover Institute Germany, Plymouth University in the United Kingdom, NIOO KNAW in the Netherlands and the School of Veterinary Medicine (Hokkaido University) in Japan. She is currently performing several transdisciplinary research projects which include metallic nanomaterials, microplastics and pharmaceuticals, nano based antiretroviral drugs, green synthesis of nanomaterials by applying the Adverse Outcome Pathway.

Ilse Coetzee

PhD student

An increasing number of nano-materials as antimicrobials have been introduced over years.  These nano-materials end up in the environment and is a cause for concern.  A lack of research have been done on the effect of nano-materials towards environment health.  The aim is to determine toxicity towards bacteria in soil and water as well as the gut microbes

Artimísia Monjane-Mabuie

PhD student

Artimísia Monjane-Mabuie completed her MSc in Biotechnology at Eduardo Mondlane University-Mozambique. She is currently a 2nd year doctoral student and her research project aims to assess the level of contamination of the aquatic ecosystem (water, sediment and fish) of the Massingir Dam in Mozambique caused by metals and organic pollutants due to the pollution of Olifants River in South Africa. She will be developing the Killifish, Nothobranchius furzeri, as a model organism due to their rapid life cycle and ability of embryos to survive in harsh conditions.

Avela Mbangatha

MSc student

Avela Mbangatha completed her honours degree focusing on determining acute effects and sublethal effects of nanogold exposure to Daphnia magna. Her current MSc research follows the Adverse Outcome Pathway of nano- and ionic gold exposure to Daphnia magna. This will include the molecular initiating event, i.e, gene expression. The key events at the molecular level (metabolomics) and organism level (physiological changes based on swimming behaviour, heart rate and respiration). With the adverse outcomes measured being functional response and daphnia reproduction. 

Armagh Cook

MSc student

Armagh Cook is a first year MSc. Student in Environmental Sciences specializing in Nano-ecotoxicology. He is undertaking research on gold nanomaterials specifically rod and spherically shaped nanomaterials and their subsequent bioaccumulation and tissue distribution kinetics within the sharptooth catfish (Clarias gariepinus). His Honours project in Environmental sciences with Aquatic Ecosystem Health was on the bioaccumulation kinetics and subsequent behavioural responses of Tilapia exposed to nanogold.

Our Facility Staff

Makolobe Mabotja

Senior Laboratory Technician

Makolobe performs managerial functions relating to a successful operation of the Unit for Environmental Science and National Aquatic Bioassay Facility ranging from daily activities such as SOP writing to SANAS accreditation applications. She is assisted by two colleagues: Bianca van der Linde and Katlego Motsagi (pictured on the right). The facilty duties include  rearing aquatic species, breeding of fish species for research projects, water quality management in recirculating systems (e.g., measuring water quality parameters such as temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen and salinity and making the necessary adjustments) and also ensuring a clean working environment of systems and instruments used within the facility.