Bayworld

Research

Bayworld is part of a network of four museums in the Eastern Cape with active research departments. Research is one of the core functions of Bayworld and has continued since the appointment of FW Fitzsimons as director of the institution in 1906. A wide variety of research takes place, including fundamental, interpretive and applied work. However, research activity centres on the institution’s major non-living and living collections: marine mammalogy, herpetology, cultural history, otoliths and squid beaks.

Bayworld promotes the dissemination of knowledge by reporting scientific discoveries in appropriate media, through teaching and by making its collections available to students and researchers from other institutions. Furthermore, a day seldom passes when Bayworld is not thronged with children of all ages and cultures participating in an important learning experience.

An important part of the research are the associated natural and cultural history collections. Objects, specimens or examples that form part of these through collecting trips, by donation, bequest, purchase, loan or exchange. The collecting policy reflects the particular status and strengths of its collections. The Museum's scientific collections are curated and documented according to international to ascertain that they constitute a permanent record of the natural and cultural assets of mankind.

Please note: Enquiry into collections and requests for loans should be directed to the specific Curator or Collections Manager. 

Bayworld staff conduct research in four primary directions:

African Herpetology

South Africa has one of the richest herpetofaunas in the world. The Port Elizabeth Museum has conducted important herpetological research ever since the appointment of F.W. Fitzsimons as director in 1906. He completed pioneering research in the field and initiated the herpetology natural history collection. Currently, herpetological research concentrates on the Eastern Cape, Angola and Mozambique.

The associated herpetological collection is the third largest in Africa and houses the most important collections of Southern African tortoises and the Eastern Cape herpetofauna. comprises more than 22 500 reptiles and 12 000 amphibians. It also holds important collections from adjacent African countries, particularly Angola, Mozambique and Namibia. Specimens from Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, and Gabon are also represented.

Curator

Werner Conradie
werner@bayworld.co.za

Honorary Curator Emeritus

Prof Bill Branch
williamroybranch@gmail.com  

Marine Biology

Active research in African marine ichthyology includes food and feeding ecology of fish, as well as focused research on various species of sharks. Structured community participation is used to gain valuable information for this project.

The Otolith Collection comprises more than 20 300 specimens of ear-bones removed from marine bony fishes. These distinct bones are used to identify the fish prey of marine predators including dolphins, seals, gannets and sharks. Most specimens have been collected from the Western Indian Ocean. Many of the fish from which the otoliths have been removed are lodged in the collection at the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB) in Grahamstown. They are termed voucher specimens.

The Squid Beak Collection comprises more than 1 400 specimens. These mouth parts of octopus and squid species have been collected mainly from the Atlantic, Indian and Southern Oceans. They are used in the identification of prey species of marine mammals and other predators.

Curator

Vacant

Honorary Curator Emeritus

Dr Malcolm Smale
msmale@bayworld.co.za

Marine Mammal Biology

The marine mammal section conducts active research on cetaceans and pinniped off the coast of South Africa and on the islands of the Southern Ocean. This work encompasses trophic biology, foraging behaviour, morphology, taxonomy and interactions with humans.

The marine mammal collection had its inception with a sperm whale skeleton collected in 1897 but started in earnest with the appointment of Graham Ross as marine mammal biologist in 1968. Since that time it has grown to the largest marine mammal collection in the Southern Hemisphere and one of the largest in the world. It currently comprises some 5 300 specimens representing 43 different species of whales and dolphins, 12 species of seals and one species of sirenian. The material is primarily from the coasts of the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Southern Ocean islands. Most specimens originate as stranded animals, bycatch in anti-shark nets or from natural mortalities at seal colonies. The collection is well known amongst the international marine mammal research community worldwide and material is used by biologists from around the world as part of a wide variety of projects.

The section responds to reports of strandings in the Southern and Eastern Cape. These can be reported to the stranding hotline at 07 17 24 21 22.   

Curator

Dr Greg Hofmeyr
greghofmeyr@gmail.com

Cultural History

Cultural history research focuses on marine archaeology, multicultural period costumes and Eastern Cape local history.

The History Collection consists of maritime artefacts, including wreck material and ships' models acquired through donations and SA Heritage Resources Agency diving permit regulations; costumes and general history collections like furniture, silver, iron, brass and copper objects, architectural models, maps, photographs, documents, firearms, swords and cannons were donated by members of the public. A military collection is also housed at the Prince Alfred Guard Drill Hall.

The No7 Castle Hill collection which was also donated by members of the public and has received National Treasure status as a result of its high quality, variety and the significance of the collection.

Curator

Vacant  

Minor or Cinderella collections include shells, beadwork and ethnographical artefacts. All collections are managed by our collection staff:

Collection Manager

Gillian Watson
gill@bayworld.co.za

Collections Assistant

Vanessa Isaacs
vanessa@bayworld.co.za

Marine Biology

Marine Biology

Herpetology Collection

Herpetology Collection

Marine Mammal Collection - Whale Skulls

Marine Mammal Collection - Whale Skulls