I am Ntuthuko Mkhize, a final year PhD student with the Resource Ecology Group at Wageningen UR. Broadly, I am studying the role of plant secondary metabolites (especially tannins) on plant-herbivore interactions. Using a goat as a model for mixed feeding large herbivores, I have completed field experiments that sought to understand the mechanisms that influence how tannins limit savanna shrub intake. Results show that macronutrient supplementation may increase herbivores’ ability to deactivate, detoxify and eliminate plant secondary metabolites in ways that increase savanna shrub intake. I have also shown how increased shrub intake might enhance herbivore growth performance. In addition to showing the importance of tannins on diet choices made by large herbivores, my results suggest a potential for mixed feeders to rejuvenate rangelands that are encroached by chemically defended plants.
Given that diet selection of large herbivores is determined by multiple factors, I hope this course will equip me with some theoretical understanding of possible factors. I also hope to seek and receive advice on how to model and explain diet selection based on factors such as forage availability, different nutrients and deterrents, plant physical characteristics and others simultaneously.