The National Committee currently consists of Tommy, Heather, Cam, Christel, Ehlke, Isabelle, Janine, Jess, Leandri, Luca, Riesna, T.K., and Liezel. If you would like to join our community sign up for APECS and in your registration form indicate that you are from South Africa. That way you will be added to our mailing list and will receive any emails relevant to South Africa and any events we are planning. For our previous committees have a look here.

Thomas Ryan-Keogh (Chair; Communications & Social Media Portfolio)

I am a researcher at the Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observatory and have been part of the APECSSA committee since July 2021. My research interests include biogeochemical cycling and phytoplankton physiology, with a particular focus on the roles of iron and light in constraining the Southern Ocean biological carbon pump. Tommy can be reached at

Heather Forrer (Co-Chair; NC Rep to APECS)

My name is Heather Forrer and I am a chemical oceanography Ph.D. student at Florida State University, USA. I have been part of the APECSSA National Committee since September 2018 and have served as Co-Chair since June 2019. Having been part of the South African National Antarctic Program for the past 5 years, I completed my Honours and Masters at the University of Cape Town (UCT) where I participated in numerous international research campaigns to the Southern Ocean. Now in the USA, I still work very closely with the researchers at UCT, aiming to better understand the interactions between phytoplankton community-specific nitrogen uptake rates and iron supply, driving the biological carbon pump from the South Pacific to the Southern Ocean. I recently participated in the GEOTRACERS South-West Indian Ocean Section cruise with the aim of quantifying the influence of iron supply from the Subantarctic islands on nitrogen uptake rates and export production. I can be reached at

Riesna R. Audh (Events Portfolio Co-Chair)

Riesna is a Ph.D. candidate at UCT. Her research uses numerical modelling and sea ice cores to investigate the thermodynamic and biogeochemical properties of young sea ice in the Antarctic Marginal Ice Zone. She has participated in five research expeditions to the Antarctic between 2017 – 2019. These expeditions allowed her to help develop and teach the sea ice sampling protocols used during South African cruises. Riesna believes that science should be accessible and inclusive, and intends to use her research to showcase polar research amongst researchers and non-researchers alike. She hopes to use her research to highlight the importance of the polar regions and what our changing climate means for these vulnerable regions. She can be reached on

Ehlke Hepworth (Events Portfolio)

I am a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Cape Town. I am passionate about learning anything related to the Antarctic marginal ice zone. My research entails ice-atmosphere dynamics within this dynamic region through using remote sensing and in situ data. You can reach me at

Leandri de Kock (Communications & Social Media Portfolio Co-Chair)

I am studying towards a master’s degree in Statistical Ecology at the University of Cape Town. I am investigating the movement- and foraging ecology of penguins in Antarctica. During 2020/2021, I worked as a field assistant on the 77th expedition to Marion Island. Previously, I did my Honours degree in Zoology at the University of Pretoria, where I studied the moult haulout phenology of female southern elephant seals.

Christel Hansen (Communications & Social Media Portfolio)

Christel is a senior lecturer at the University of Pretoria, Pretoria. She is one of the founding members of APECSSA and served as APECSSA National Committee Chair from January 2017-June 2019. While her Master’s work covered openwork block, deposits in Antarctica, she focused on diurnal frost environments in the Antarctic, sub-Antarctic and High Drakensberg of South Africa for her PhD. She has been to Antarctica four times (2010/11, 2011/12, 2013/14 & 2014/15) and once to Marion Island (2014). Christel is also a member of the South African National Committee (SANC) to the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), as part of the Geosciences Standing Committee, and the SCAGI Committee of SCAR. She can be reached at

Camilla Kotze (Creative Portfolio Co-Chair)

Camilla is a Masters graduate from Rhodes University, Grahamstown. She has been part of the APECSSA National Committee since September 2017, has created both the APECSSA and SALCI logos, and is our go-to person for anything design-related. After the completion of her Masters thesis which involved active layer monitoring in the Antarctic and a summer in Dronning Maud Land (2014/15), she overwintered on Marion Island (2016-2017). During the Marion-73 expedition, she was Editor in Chief of The Wanderer. Contact Camilla at

Tokoloho Rampai (Mentorship portfolio)

Tokoloho Rampai is a lecturer in the Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Cape Town (UCT). She is a PhD qualifier through Wits University 2020. She has 9 years of collective experience in academia and research. She is one of the founding members of the UCT Marine and Antarctic Research centre for Innovation and Sustainability (MARIS), which is a large cross-faculty multi-disciplinary research centre. Within this centre, she is also a representative for the Innovation in Chemical, Materials and Observational Engineering disciple in the Scientific Steering Committee. Her research focus is mainly in materials Engineering, this is applied both in Antarctic sea ice research and advanced ceramic materials development for application in catalysis processes. Under the advanced ceramics research, she focuses on powder metallurgy, thermodynamics for materials development, material properties evaluation and tribological testing for suitability of application. And under the sea ice research, she focuses on improving the understanding of the material properties (structural and mechanical) of Antarctic sea ice, predominately through artificial sea ice growth experiments in temperature-controlled laboratory conditions and nominally through field testing in the Marginal Ice Zone in the Southern Ocean.

Liezel Rudolph (Ex-Officio; Events Portfolio)

Liezel is a lecturer at the University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, and is one of the founding members of APECSSA. Since June 2019 she is also the APECSSA Chair. Her Master’s work on rock glaciers took her to Antarctica twice (2013/14 & 2014/15), while her Honors studies led to a visit to Marion Island (2011). Her Ph.D. studies, completed in 2020, focused on cosmogenic nuclide surface exposure dating of Marion Island in the sub-Antarctic has since taken her to Marion Island again numerous times. She can be reached at

Janine Schoombie (Events Portfolio)

Janine is a Ph.D. student at the University of Pretoria. After completing her MSc in Aeronautical Engineering at Wits, Janine joined the M72 team on Marion Island in 2015, as a birder for the FitzPatrick Institute (UCT). She then honed her skills as an aerodynamicist at the CSIR before joining the M76 team in 2019, this time as a field assistant for a project looking at the ecological effects of wind on Marion Island. She has now combined her love for fluid dynamics, aerodynamics, and the sub-Antarctic in her Ph.D. project, studying the effect of changing winds on the flight capabilities of Grey-headed albatrosses breeding on Marion Island.

Luca Stirnimann (Events Portfolio)

After I graduated in Marine Sciences at the University of Genova and spent one year at the University of Plymouth pursuing an internship in Marine Biology, I am conducting my Ph.D. at the Department of Oceanography of the University of Cape Town investigating zooplankton and phytoplankton dynamics in the Southern Ocean in the context of nutrient cycling and primary production. I have been part of the APECSSA National Committee since September 2018. My research includes multidisciplinary techniques such as taxonomy, biogeochemistry, stable isotopes, and trophic analysis to understand the Carbon and Nitrogen exports and the ecosystem dynamics in the vicinity of Subantarctic island systems with the open Southern Ocean. I joined the APECS South Africa national committee in 2018 because I like to have the opportunity to be part of this great community of young scientists and to support the ambitious projects that APECS South Africa wants to achieve. I am looking forward to working together, choosing Polar research, and joining APECS! You can reach me at

Jess Verheul (Events Portfolio)

Jess comes from a corporate background but has been interested in and passionate about polar regions and research since her university days. She has also travelled an uncertain and winding career path herself, so is interested in helping young talent find their way just a little bit easier and a little bit less stressful. She also loves building community and connecting people, so watch this space for hearty chats and someone who can think up random useful ideas or connections that might serve you in the future. Her motto is “You only have one life, Live hard”. She also published a Coffee Table Art Book in collaboration with Antarctica Legacy South Africa after her Takeover to SANAE in 2019. 

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