Dr Thulani Makhalanyane

Dr Thulani Makhalanyane

South Africa

University of Pretoria


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Work and Research

My research interest is in the field of microbial ecology and has focused on deciphering niche communities desert systems. The studies have focused on hypoliths, cryptic microbial communities found below translucent rocks, are found in hyperarid deserts, both hot and cold. Along with this central focus, I have also undertaken other peripheral projects, such as microbial communities in permafrost and salt pans. Deserts, or arid environments account for nearly a third of the Earth’s total land surface. As a central biome, and home to a significant populations, these areas are under increasing risk of desertification.

Fields Of Expertise

Microbial Ecology

Research Profiles

My vision for the future of research at UP and how I will contribute to this development

South Africa is nearly the end of what has principally been a mineral resource based economy. Various policy documents (e.g. National Development Plan) have highlighted the need to shift towards a ‘knowledge-based economy’. I have adopted this vision and see the role of academia as key towards achieving this vision. I believe that our countries geographical location (and highly abundant biological diversity) is key to realizing these aims. The University of Pretoria, through a number of strategic plans, has also identified the importance of key research areas, such as microbial ecology, in unlocking the knowledge-based economy. My research in the (i) Marine Microbial Ecology and Genomics of the Southern Ocean (ii) Microbial ecology of South African soils (iii) The South African human gut microbiome program all aim to contribute towards actualizing the various plans. Through these programs, we aim to ‘unlock’ the knowledge based economy and contribute towards human capacity development. For instance, the Marine Microbial Ecology project fits in well with the Operation Phakisa initiative. Under this program, we have begun a number of projects focused on bioprospecting and have produced large amounts of DNA sequence data, which will be ‘mined’ for industrially important enzymes. The program above have the potential to serve the strategic goals of the University of Pretoria (e.g. research outputs) while contributing to South Africa’s development.