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UKZN staff and students at a workshop on
palaeoenvironmental analysis run by visiting
German expert, Dr Peter Frenzel.

The Discipline of Geography within the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences recently hosted a visiting expert on palaeoenvironmental analysis.

Dr Peter Frenzel, who hails from the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena – one of Germany’s oldest universities, is a micropalaeontological specialist involved in a broad range of research projects and an expert teacher of palaeontology, specifically focusing on Foraminifera and Ostracoda.

Micropalaeontology is the use of fossilised biological micro remains to reconstruct past environments and environmental change.

Hosted by UKZN academics, Dr Jemma Finch and Professor Trevor Hill, Frenzel ran an introductory workshop on the theoretical and practical aspects of micropalaeontological analysis, with a focus on estuarine foraminifera and ostracods, including laboratory processing, microscopy and identification. These microorganisms are often well preserved in lake and estuarine sediments and can be used to provide a detailed record of past environmental change, including salinity, and sea-level.

Finch has been collaborating with Frenzel on the RAIN (Regional Archives for Integration Investigation) project, which is funded by SPACES under the German government.  Frenzel is also co-supervisor of Pietermaritzburg geography PhD student Ms Kate Strachan, whose research focuses on foraminifera and sea-level change.

Accompanied by two German PhD students, Frenzel ran his palaeoenvironmental analysis course in aid of capacity building. The workshop was well attended with representatives from UKZN Marine Biology (Westville), Geology, the Oceanographic Research Institute (ORI), and postgraduate students from the PalaeoLab in Geography Pietermaritzburg. 

‘This course was a great opportunity for our postgraduate students to learn more about the use of fossil foraminifera, ostracods and molluscs for reconstructing environmental change,’ said Finch.