Facilitate and support a Community of Practice that provides a learning platform for research, education and conservation.
Associate Professor Sophie von der Heyden
Von der Heyden Lab, Stellenbosch University
Prof von der Heyden is a marine molecular ecologist. Her research is by necessity broad, but primarily focuses on the conservation and sustainable utilisation of species and the marine environment. Her particular interests lie in the applicability of molecular ecological and genomics tools to inform marine spatial planning, understanding MPA connectivity patterns and resilience and adaptation of marine species to ongoing and future change, as well as the impacts of changing marine communities on society.
The von der Heyden lab is a research laboratory based at the southern tip of Africa, utilising genetic and genomic approaches for studying various aspects of marine systems in Africa and beyond. The work carried out by its members has a strong emphasis on using molecular techniques for conservation and biodiversity planning. The lab’s focus is wide and varied and not confined to particular taxonomic groups, but includes everything from sea grasses and urchins to great white sharks and fur seals.
Associate Professor Carol Simon
Carol Simon Polychaete Lab, Stellenbosch University
Carol’s research lab investigates the taxonomy and biology of polychaetes — particularly of taxa that are economically or ecologically important. These include species that are pests on cultured molluscs, used as bait by anglers, and are non-indigenous. Clarifying their taxonomy provides greater understanding of their biodiversity and distribution in South Africa and globally. Understanding their reproductive strategies and gene flow among populations helps us understand how pests and aliens may spread, how vulnerable bait species are to over-exploitation, and inform better management and conservation of species.
Dr Bianca Currie
Sustainability Research Unit, Nelson Mandela University
The Sustainability Research Unit’s focus is to gather and communicate evidence to promote better understanding of the challenges facing society and the natural environment. The Unit develops the capacity for the sustainable management of ecological, social and economic systems through community engagement, user-inspired research and training. The units objectives are to develop integrated information systems and models, based on good science, to enable more sustainable management of social-ecological systems; provide scientific information about the causes, impacts, consequences and good ecosystem management practices related to climate change; develop and implement strategies to promote sustainability in urban development, tourism, agriculture, forestry, fisheries and biodiversity conservation; offer training courses to raise awareness and build capacity and to promote the health and well-being of society and the ecosystems we are part of.
Prof Neil Armitage
Future Water, University of Cape Town
Prof Gavin Frazer
Environmental and Natural Resources Research Focus Area, Rhodes University
Gavin Fraser is a professor in the Department of Economics and Economic History at Rhodes University and his research focus is environmental and agricultural economics. Prof Fraser has a PhD in Agricultural Economics from the University of Stellenbosch and is an honorary member of the Agricultural Economics Association of South Africa. He is joint coordinator of ENREFA, together with Prof Jen Snowball.
The Environmental and Natural Resources Research Focus Area (ENREFA) was started in 2013 with seed funding from Rhodes University. The majority of the research is interdisciplinary, which has resulted in the research being undertaken together with the departments of Zoology and Entomology, predominately, as well as Ichthyology and Botany. Research methods used focus on the interface between environmental, ecological, resource and institutional economics. More specifically, research has concentrated on, inter alia, the economics of biological control of invasive alien plants, water footprint of agricultural production, institutional factors influencing freshwater recreational fisheries in South Africa and emerging mohair farmers in Lesotho and the economic evaluation of wetland rehabilitation.
Prof Paul Cowley and Dr Nikki James
South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity
Environmental Learning and Teaching
Environment Learning and Teaching (Envirolearn) was started in 2009 to address the environmental training requirements, predominately (but not exclusively) for teachers. National research had shown that over 80% of the teachers in SA were not equipped (trained in the old system) to teach the environmental content within the curriculum. Envirolearn’s slogan is based on the Japanese proverb “planting trees under whose shade we do not expect to sit”, training this generation of teachers or conducting environmental projects might not show immediate results but the long-term results will be evident in time.
Janet Snow Is the founder of Envirolearn. Snow, with a Masters in Education from Rhodes University, has over 20 years’ experience in assisting teachers from all teaching backgrounds in the development of environmental projects/programmes. She has/does conduct a variety of environmental projects including; conducting in a national tree planting project with over 10 000 trees planted, long-term grassland surveys of cryptic species, developed and manages a small wildlife area with a variety of game species in the threatened grassland biome, development of resources for teachers and community members and write environmental articles. She has co-ordinated regional and international conferences relating to environmental education (Environmental Education Association of Southern Africa and Environment Online), been the Secretary General for EEASA, the African representative for Environment Online, and Vice-Chair for the World Environmental Education Congress (2007). However, the training teachers and representatives from environmental organisations has taken centre stage over the past few years.
In 2010 a group of educator trainers in environmental education joined forces to build a national programme to address the teacher training at both pre-service and in-service level. Under the guidance of Rhodes University, the group established the Fundisa for Change project. FfC (www.fundisaforchange.co.za) representatives developed training units which are topic and grade specific. Content Knowledge, appropriate Teaching Methods and Assessment Practices appropriate to that topic can be presented in Short Courses which receive Higher Education Institution certificates and is endorsed by SACE.
Dr Shelley Edwards
Zoology and Entomology Molecular Lab, Rhodes University
The amazing complexity of the natural world never ceases to amaze me, and I am truly privileged to be able to call myself an evolutionary biologist. In my research to date, I have been interested in how different species have adapted and evolved, and what the driving forces are for speciation events. In addition, I am interested in the seeming lack of congruence between genetic structure and morphological groupings in both small mammals, reptiles and amphibians in the southern African region. To explore these biological research questions, I have utilised a multidisciplinary approach to understanding the evolutionary processes in various vertebrate taxa (namely southern African mammals, reptiles and amphibians). I have used phylogenetic and phylogeographic techniques to determine genetic variation and relationships, morphometric techniques to investigate body shape, analyses to determine diets, and performance analyses to investigate the functional aspects of the various species. The ZEML (Zoology & Entomology Molecular Lab) was established in 2016, and our research group has investigated the evolutionary relationships in snakes (Psammophiinae, Duberria), lizards (Uroplates, Acontias, Hemidactylus, Afroedura), frogs (Ptychadena, Poytonophrynus), and spiders (Pisauridae). We have also looked at ecological aspects of two species of chameleon (Bradypodion ventrale and Bradypodion damaranum). In essence, we aim to investigate how the environment has shaped the external morphology and behaviour in African taxa, and whether these patterns are reflected in the genetic structuring of species in the region.