The 2015 Eskom Expo awards ceremony, held at the Birchwood Hotel and Conference Centre in Gauteng in October, provided a prominent platform for the SAEON Special Awards for Best Project in Environmental Monitoring.

Projects in the Environmental category covered a wide variety of topics with great depth, demonstrating scientific knowledge and skills. The adjudicating team had a tough task to select the winners of the SAEON Special Awards.

The SAEON Award in the junior category went to Nokwanda Dube, a Grade 7 learner at Isiqophamithi Primary School in Ladysmith, Northern KwaZulu-Natal, for her project titled Factors affecting wetlands.

After learning about the importance of wetlands at school, Nokwanda became aware of a wetland located near her home. She conducted a survey to assess the neighbouring community’s knowledge about the importance of wetlands. When the survey confirmed that there was a need to raise awareness about the value of the wetland, the enterprising young learner designed and distributed a flyer to raise awareness in her church and the community.

Amber De Decker, a Grade 9 learner at Herschel Secondary School in Cape Town, won a SAEON Special Award for her projectHuman Disturbance of Blister Bush in Platteklip Gorge. Amber won a silver medal in the overall Eskom Expo and is among the 40 learners shortlisted for interviews for participation in international science fairs.

The Blister Bush (Notobubon galbanum) is native to the fynbos biome. It is toxic and causes blisters to skin. Amber investigated the abundance of the Blister Bush on Table Mountain Platteklip Gorge in relation to human disturbance. In her investigation she established that the Blister Bush grows more abundantly in undisturbed wet areas above 750 metres. This rejects the notion that the Blister Bush grows abundantly in areas of human disturbance.

Nontutuzelo Fuleni, a Grade 11 learner at Tiger Kloof Secondary School in Vryburg, North West Province, won the SAEON Special Award in the senior category for her project The kudu’s time zone…