Egagasini Node

Our Team


Giles Fearon

Senior Operational Ocean Modeller

Giles is a coastal and ocean numerical modeller with experience in both industry and research contexts. He began his career as a port and coastal engineer, where he specialised in the numerical modelling of coastal processes related to nearshore waves, tropical cyclones, coastal flooding, sediment transport and the dispersion of pollutants in the marine environment (e.g. oil spills, brine plumes, thermal plumes and dredge plumes). He has since become increasingly research-oriented, using numerical models to better understand ocean physics, particularly within the coastal regions of Southern Africa. His primary role within SAEON is to maintain and further develop operational ocean forecast systems, in support of the National Oceans and Coastal Information Management System (OCIMS). 

Lara Atkinson_SAEON_offshore benthic ecologist

Lara Atkinson

Offshore Marine Scientist

As Offshore Marine Scientist, Lara’s research focuses on establishing monitoring tools and protocols for the offshore benthic environment, specifically epifaunal invertebrates (animals living on the surface of the seabed) and anthropogenic impacts thereon. A large amount of Lara’s research with SAEON led to the publication of South Africa’s first Offshore Marine Invertebrate Field Guide ( Lara also frequently engages with offshore industries (commercial trawl and petroleum mining) through collaborative research initiatives that strive towards sustainable utilisation of marine resources. Serving as an Honourary Research Associate with the University of Cape Town and Nelson Mandela University, she commits much of her time to capacity development through part-time lecturing (annual multivariate analysis course), intern mentoring, postgraduate student supervision and participation in education outreach activities.


Jennifer Veitch

Numerical Ocean Modeller

Jennifer is a physical oceanographer and uses numerical models to better understand ocean processes. She is heading up the SOMISANA (Sustainable Ocean Modelling Initiative: a South African Approach) initiative, that aims to facilitate the development of ocean modelling expertise in South Africa. Her research and modelling activities include her particpation in the CLIVAR Eastern Boundary Upwelling System Research Focus and the Atlantic Research Panel, the Oceans Predict Coastal Ocean and Shelf Seas Task Team (COSS-TT) and Operational Systems Working Group (OS-WG) as well as a position as a Nansen-Tutu Centre research associate. She lectures ocean dynamics at the University of Cape Town and on virtual platforms, as well as supervises masters and PhD students in subjects that range from operational to theoretical aspects of oceanography.


Juliet Hermes

Node Manager

As node manager and principle oceanographer, Juliet’s responsibilities include developing, maintaining and managing Egagasini’s budget, finances and data, the node’s science plan, various observation and modeling programs, as well as overseeing various DSI funded projects. She also carries out research, writes project proposals, supervises students and interns and provides leadership (both scientific and business) to staff, interns, students and post-doctoral fellows. Juliet sits on various national and international advisory boards and committees, conducts education outreach, capacity building, reports to the South African National Research Foundation, all while conducting research on climate variability using long term observations and models.

Juan-Jacques Forgus


Juan-Jacques is responsible for the operation and maintenance of Egagasini’s sampling equipment. Although his role at SAEON spans various disciplines, his main duties are the planning and execution of at-sea surveys, and the operation and maintenance of the sampling equipment used during those surveys. The sampling equipment he operates relies on innovative deep-sea technology to investigate long-term ecological change in the understudied deeper waters of South Africa. These offshore ecosystems are home to remarkable marine plants and animals that sustain a lucrative commercial fishery that has supported South Africans for over centuries. Juan-Jacques has a fascination with our oceans, particularly our offshore and benthic habitats, and is continually thinking of new ways to modify our sampling equipment in order to increase the quantity and quality of data collected at sea. In addition to his passion for the ocean, he is also intent on motivating, inspiring and educating the younger generations about the importance of our marine ecosystems.


Nicole du Plessis

Science Officer

As the nodes science officer, Nicole manages the daily operations for the Secretariat’s of the South African Marine Research and Exploration Forum (SAMREF) and the South African chapter of the Indian Ocean Rim Association Academic Group (SA IORAG). SAMREF (initially the Operation Phakisa Oceans Economy Oil and Gas Lab Initiative B3) was established in 2016 to take advantage of the environmental data (historical and new) collected by offshore industries and to facilitate the use of ocean-going platforms to collect new data as a way to mitigate the high costs of conducting marine research. In 2016 South Africa established the SA IORAG to provide support to South Africa as vice-chair of IORA and eventually the chairship of IORA 2017-2019.

Nish Devanunthan

SAPRI Coordinator

Nish hails from a small town in Kwazulu Natal on the North Coast. His career timeline spans various disciplines. From humble beginnings as a telecommunication engineer, he progressed into various management roles. During his tenure as a senior manager at the SA Weather Service he was responsible for the technical service managing the National Observation Network. He spearheaded a recapitalisation programme which saw the modernisation of various instrumentation and telecommunication systems at SAWS. Nish then joined the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment as the Director responsible for the Operations and Engineering the South African National Antarctic Program. He forged strong relationships with local and international partners resulting in revenue generation from chartering out the SA Agulhas II. It was also through his efforts that the SA Agulhas II became more widely used for dedicated science voyages benefitting the National and International community.
Nish is an avid learner and focused achiever, he has Bachelor’s qualifications in Engineering and Project Management and a Master’s in Business Administration. He brings to SAPRI a wealth of knowledge in engineering, logistics, operations, project and general management. His understanding of navigating the public administration landscape, supply chain management, stakeholder engagement, planning and execution of logistics are very relevant to his appointment as operations coordinator.


Nkululeko Memela

Operational Ocean Modeller

By starting my career in the private sector before joining SAEON I have had a great early career journey. I have developed a good idea of what private sector players typically look for that we ocean scientists should produce to keep our world sustainable while attracting have their investment into science. I am a junior operational modeller, and I am thrilled with the development that lies ahead of me in this role as we seek to master ocean modelling and forecasting to levels that should parallel the well-established atmospheric models.

Safiyya Sedick

Saffiya Seddick

Seamap Coordinator

Safiyya has a background in benthic ecology and taxonomy and a master’s degree in Zoology from Stellenbosch University. Recently, her focus has been describing new species of marine worms, especially from southern African offshore sediments, as well as offshore ecology and the identification of benthic macrofauna. Having worked in the private sector, she has experience in several other disciplines such as environmental impact assessments, water quality studies and biodiversity surveys as well as considerable lab and field work experience. Safiyya recently joined SAEON as the co-ordinating officer for SeaMap, one of the new large grant projects funded by the FBIP. Her role is to support the principal investigator, co-investigators and collaborators on the project in achieving the first data-driven ecosystem map using foundational biodiversity information.

Simoné Louw

Node Administrator

Science Forum South Africa 2018 at CSIR Conference Centre on 13 December 2018
Photo: Christiaan Kotze/SASPA

Thomas Mtontsi

Science Engagement Officer

As the Science Engagement Officer, Thomas coordinates Egagasini’s Education Programme. The node supports five schools in the Cape Town Metro Region (Houtbay Secondary in Houtbay, Ocean View Secondary in Ocean View, Masiphumelele in Fish Hoek, Sophumelela in Samora Machel Phillipi, and Usasazo secondary in Khayelitsha) which are either in fishing communities or in areas of abject poverty. The objective of the programme is to support the development of science skills using a marine science context by encouraging an interest and awareness in ocean sciences. Thomas has initiated scientists and students of the node to ‘adopt a school’ and provide mentorship and role models for learners. Scientists who spend a few hours with Thomas become long term contributors to the program as his passion and enthusiasm are so contagious.

Zach Smith

Systems Developer

I am a Software Developer with experience across a wide range of technologies. I graduated with an MSc in Information Technology from the University of Cape Town, where I worked on alternative methods of scaling traditional (relational) systems using NoSQL data stores. Currently I fulfill the role of a full stack developer, making the most delightful things.

Postdoctoral Fellows and Interns

Daneeja Mawren

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Daneeja, a postdoctoral fellow at both SAEON and the University of Cape Town, is interested in the dynamics of the tropical oceans as well as extreme events in the South West Indian Ocean. She is currently investigating the role of the upper ocean in climate variability, how changes in the subsurface ocean can influence the intensification of tropical cyclones and enhance the frequency of marine heatwaves. These extreme events can cause devastating impacts on the marine ecosystems and economic losses. Given the wide diversity of habitats in the Mozambique Channel and a lack of reported marine heatwave events in this region, it is important to have a better understanding of the future of living marine resources to help inform dependent human communities and governance institutions to develop more effective climate-adaptation and risk-reduction measures.


Laura Braby

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Laura is a postdoctoral fellow at both SAEON and the University of Cape Town. She is a physical oceanographer and is involved in several different studies within the Agulhas Current system. Laura uses observational data and numerical model output to study mesoscale variability in the Agulhas Current. She is especially interested in the interactions of source region eddies with the northern Agulhas Current. Laura also enjoys spending time at sea, and participating in the SEAmester cruises of the Agulhas System Climate Array (ASCA) transect. She is currently using this processed hydrographic data to investigate the seasonality of the Agulhas Current.




Tania Duba is involved in several science engagement activities such as science camps, ESKOM Expo for young scientist, scientific research cruise, and science festivals to mention a few. Her masters degree, supported by the node, investigated the changes in the coastal climate and marine environment from the perspectives of the local resource user and scientific reseachers along the east coast of South Africa. Tania completed her one year internship with SAEON, leading a science and society project that addresses the dificulties of civic society to access, understand and use scientific knowledge. She is working on her PhD, registered with the Department of Environmental and Geographical Science at UCT where she hopes to explore the use of participatory scenario planning to anticipate the future of South African fisheries and the effects of this process in participatory fisheries management.


Caroline Sejeng is working on her PhD project that is entitled “Incorporating and connecting multi-scale oceanographic features in marine spatial planning and management”. The study will focus on the synergy between the two disciplines by looking at South African Marine Protected Areas through and oceanographic features. Her passion is in Oceanography and Environmental Science. She enjoys going to sea and networking with people to learn more about their culture and other intersting stuff. On her spare time you will find her eating. (3)

Gustav Rautenbach is currently enrolled at the Nelson Mandela University working on his PhD thesis in which he is investigating aspects of the Durban Eddy using a high resolution numerical ocean model. 



Philile Mvula is working on improving our understanding of the ocean dynamics of the eastern Agulhas Bank and how they relate to fisheries and productivity. (3)

Herman Luyt is developing optimal data assimilation techniques for Southern African Oceans using the Hycom model. (3)

Jonathan Rogerson is using a high resolution CROCO ocean model to understand the role of retention on nutrient-trapping on the southern Benguela shelf. 

Arno Botha is a PhD student enrolled at UCT, supervised by Emeritus Professor Charles Griffiths (UCT), Dr. Lara Atkinson and Professor Enrique Macpherson (CEAB). His thesis is a taxonomic revision of the squat lobsters (Chirostyloidea and Galatheoidea) of South Africa, a group that has not previously been the focus of taxonomic research in South Africa. His research forms part of SeaMap, an FBIP project led by Dr. Lara Atkinson that aims to provide a barcode reference library of 250 species of offshore marine invertebrates. Arno is also involved in SAEON’s long-term invertebrate monitoring project conducted annually in collaboration with DFFE on our south and west coast.enrolled at UCT and is using a modelling approach to understand extreme events in the western Indian Ocean.


Mathew Carr is enrolled at UCT and is using a modelling approach to understand extreme events in the western Indian Ocean. 



Jordan van Stavel is currently pursuing her MSc in Biological Oceanography at Nelson Mandela University. Jordan’s research focuses on the functional roles of the benthic invertebrate epifauna (invertebrates living on the seafloor) inhabiting the offshore regions (> 200 m) of South Africa and the influence of environmental processes on their distribution across different ecosystem types. Jordan has participated in a variety of research cruises including oceanographic, multidisciplinary and fisheries surveys and has gained skills in each of these areas. Jordan also supports the Ocean Best Practice System which supports the end-to-end best practices value chain under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC).


Donia Wozniak is currently persuing her MSc at the University of Cape Town, under the supervision of Dr. Lara Atkinson and Dr. Natasha Karenyi (UCT). Her research is focused on the benthic epifaunal communities of the Southern Benguela shelf ecoregion where she’ll be exploring how different sampling gear types (otter trawl and towed camera) influence the detection of spatial distribution patterns of benthic epifaunal communities; and in turn, how those detected patterns can be used to automate the classification of marine habitats, through the use of species distribution modeling techniques

Copy of Trawl 042_343 m Starfish diversity-January 2010 research survey

Leila Nefdt

Copy of Trawl 042_343 m Starfish diversity-January 2010 research survey

Mari-Lise Franken

Copy of Trawl 042_343 m Starfish diversity-January 2010 research survey

Sinothando Shibe (3)

Nasreen Burgher (3)

Giovanna Birkett (3)

Neha Ramsarup 

Copy of Trawl 042_343 m Starfish diversity-January 2010 research survey

Silke Brandt 


Rudzani Silima is currently a MSc student enrolled at the Nelson Mandela university with a thesis titled; ” Numerical Model study of the Benguela Upwelling system”. Her study focuses on coastal upwelling events and the drivers of said events. What is unique about her study is her use of a ROMS model output to investigate the temporal and spatial variability of the system, while previous investigations have enployed in situ or satellite observations.



Thulwaneng Mashifane (2017-2020) specialized in biogeochemical modelling. His research applied high performance computing (HPC) platforms to improve biogeochemical representation in coastal models. He uses a suite of models, from one- to multidimensional to study key biogeochemical cycles including oxygen and nitrogen in the Benguela upwelling system.  The St Helena Bay region which is an important nursery ground for fish larvae and juveniles but also the main generation zone of low oxygen is the main focus of his research. Deoxygenation and nitrogen loss from upwelling systems also forms part of the research as these factors lead to the production of greenhouse gases such as nitrous oxide with an impact on climate change. Thulwaneng’s research aims to improve knowledge, response to climate change and the potential soico-economic implications of the biogeochemistry in the Benguela upwelling system.


Giles Fearon (2021): ‘The influence of the land-sea breeze on coastal upwelling systems’, UCT.

Moagabo Ragoasha (2020): ‘The variability of Lagrangian transport in the southern Benguela Current system’, UCT.