On Monday the 11th of April, the EucXylo team was thrilled to be able to host three special guests. These were Dr. Khotso Mokhele and Mr. Chris Pienaar, the President and Vice-President respectively of the Board of Trustees of the Hans Merensky Foundation, and Dr. Johan DeGraaf, CEO of Merensky Timber. It was particularly exciting and special to be able to host Dr. Mokhele in person for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic hit South Africa at the beginning of 2020. The visit began with refreshments and introductions on the deck under our old stone pine in front of the Department of Forest and Wood Science.
After our visitors had become familiar with who was who in the team, they toured the laboratory facilities. It was great to show them how the Hans Merensky Foundation funding had brought to life again two valuable spaces in the building which had previously been poorly utilised. Ph.D. candidate Mr Rafael Keret can be seen (below) showing Dr. Mokhele and Mr. Pienaar images he had recently acquired of the cambial zone and developing xylem using our fluorescence microscope.
After some time in the labs, our visitors spent a warm, but enlightening hour in the “nursery” area which is now being extensively used by EucXylo students for running a wide range of experiments and longitudinal observational platforms. Seen below, consecultively, are Ms. Yenzi Mbuyisa, Mr. Mpilo Khumalo, and Ms. Gugu Gama explaining their work to Dr. Mokhele and Dr. De Graaf.
After spending time with the students, our guests joined Prof Drew, two of the post-doctoral fellows on the team (Dr. Martin and Dr. Lagat), Dr. Moller and the Ph.D. students for a very pleasant lunch on the terrace at Lanzerac. The whole team was inspired by the interest shown by the visitors. We are looking very much forward to our planned research day with the HMF Board in October 2022.