Duke University and the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) have been awarded a grant to construct a science center on the OTS campus in Kruger National Park, South Africa. The OTS campus is a three-acre site at the park headquarters and administrative village of Skukuza located near the center of the Park. The science center is a key part of the OTS campus and will consist of wet and dry laboratories, a computer laboratory, and a library. The much needed wet and dry laboratories will be used by students and researchers alike to work on field samples in Kruger and will provide adequate, clean, and temperature/humidity-controlled environment. Bench-space will be provided for individual graduate students, researchers, IRES students, as well as group benches for class work. Also, as part of the grant, OTS will purchase much-needed equipment to enable students to engage in the critical basics of plant physiology.

The Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) is a non-profit consortium of nearly sixty universities, colleges, and research institutions, including South Africa's University of Witswatersrand and the University of Cape Town, and is located at Duke University. OTS was founded in 1963 to provide leadership in education, research, and the responsible use of natural resources in the tropics. The OTS science center will serve three constituencies: U.S. undergraduate students participating in OTS semester program and summer courses, U.S. students participating in an NSF IRES Program, and U.S. graduate students, undergraduates, and researchers conducting research in the Park. The semester-long program, African Ecology and Conservation, is a field-based program to provide students with the skills and experience to conduct independent research. OTS also offers two four-week summer-programs in Global Health, and through the NSF IRES Program, U.S. students each year are provided with mentored research experiences with South African scientists. The new laboratory and library will enhance the students' ability to monitor and analyze plants and insects and conduct crude soils analysis. Students also engage in OTS long-term, ongoing research on the effect of elephants on floral and faunal diversity; pollination and dispersal of savanna trees, tree-grass interactions. In addition, OTS maintains engagement with a range of international partners (Carnegie Institute, University of Florida, North Carolina State University to name a few). Given the paucity of laboratory facilities in Skukuza, these collaborations will continue.

As part of its broader impact, OTS has run a range of specialist training courses for local institutions. In essence, OTS is partnering local biodiversity institutions in training South African students, including the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON). Within US populations, OTS has a strong record of training undergraduates from groups underrepresented in the sciences. Over the last five years, minority students have represented 24% of all undergraduates in OTS programs. The science center will not only greatly expand the research experience of these minority students, but greatly expand their international experience through interaction with members of local communities. For more information please visit the following website: http://ots.ac.cr/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=321&Itemid=447

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Biological Infrastructure (DBI)
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Peter H. McCartney
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Duke University
United States
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