Dorette du Plessis

Dorette du Plessis is building an army of ant researchers to help to monitor biodiversity and identify environmental change. As outreach manager at the Department of Science and Technology/National Research Foundation Centre for Invasion Biology, she is leading a flagship outreach programme, the Limbovane Project, which encourages school learners to get their hands dirty and discover the world of science for themselves. Limbovane, a “citizen-science project”, has, since 2006, drawn 8 900 students from 18 rural secondary schools with no access to science laboratories and microscopic equipment into research, conducting ant surveys in their school grounds and nearby protected areas, at the same time expanding the available research field and research resources in a perfect example of symbiosis. Although the ants play a major role in ecosystem functioning, Du Plessis, who has an MSc in Conservation Ecology, is also playing a role in encouraging future careers in science and a lifelong love for and understanding of the environment. — Caroline Cowan