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.
Dr Nuno Monteiro
Research Centre in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources
Nuno Monteiro graduated in the University of Porto in 1996, where he also earned a MSc (2000) and a PhD (2005) as part of the GABBA Program. He moved to Research Centre in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources (CIBIO) in 2009, where he helped establish the Behavioural Ecology Group. He has been working mainly in animal behaviour, mating systems and sexual selection-related topics. Primarily using syngnathids as model species, he is currently addressing the mechanisms of post-copulatory sexual selection and its implications on species evolution.
Prof Michael Bunce, Georgia Nester and Dr Maarten de Brauwer
TrEND Lab, Curtin University
The TrEnD lab specialises in using DNA metabarcoding techniques to characterise biological communities within a wide variety of biological samples from sediment and scat, to seawater and settlement plates. eDNA is a rapidly growing field that has found use in a wide variety of biological applications including biodiversity assessment, impact assessment, archaeology, food-webs, biosecurity, marine conservation and endangered species detection.
Prof Michael Bunce
Professor Mike Bunce is the head of the TrEnD Laboratory at Curtin University. Professor Bunce completed his undergraduate degree at Lincoln University (NZ), his PhD at the Australian National University. He undertook post-doctoral training at Oxford (UK) and McMaster (Canada) Universities before moving to Western Australia in 2006 to start his own laboratory. Bunce has published widely in the field of trace and degraded DNA across a variety of fields; he has nine Publications in Science and Nature.
Georgia’s PhD project, Monitoring blue biodiversity: examining diversity patterns in oceanic environments using environmental DNA, involves collaborations between Curtin University, the Knysna Basin Project, the Western Australian Museum and the Australian Antarctic Division. The project aims to use environmental DNA to determine patterns in marine biodiversity in areas that are severely underrepresented in the literature and provide innovative methods of monitoring threatened species.
Georgia is experienced in using metabarcoding techniques, she was awarded a summer scholarship in 2018 in partnership with Chevron and Curtin University that developed pre-operational fish baseline data for several ports in eastern Europe using eDNA metabarcoding methodologies. She is also proficient with bioinformatic workflows having completed an internship at the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre in 2019.
Dr Maarten de Brauwer
Maarten De Brauwer is a Research Fellow at the University of Leeds, where he works in the Beger lab. His main research interests lay in tropical marine ecology and soft sediment ecosystems. For his current work, Maarten is investigating species interaction networks on coral reefs in Indonesia that are experiencing different threat levels. An important aspect of Maarten’s research involves the development and streamlining of novel survey methods such as environmental DNA and biofluorescence. His further interests are in rarity and extinction risk, ecosystem services, and marine tourism.
The Beger lab at the University of Leeds works on coral reef ecology and spatial conservation prioritization. Lab members are mostly active in the Coral Triangle, the Pacific, the Western Indian Ocean, Japan and Australia. Current projects of the lab deal with fish biomass predictions, climate change science, ecosystem services, and global evaluations of protected areas.
Prof Paul Cowley and Dr Nikki James
South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity
Associate Professor Peter Teske
University of Johannesburg
Peter Teske is an associate professor in zoology at the University of Johannesburg, where he heads the aquatic section of the Centre for Evolutionary Genomics and Wildlife Conservation. His research focuses on species that are commercially important or of conservation concern, and he uses genetic methods to find solutions that will improve their management.
Dr Nathan Waltham
Centre for Tropical Water and Aquatic Research and Marine Data Tech Hub, James Cook University
Nathan Waltham is based at James Cook University, Australia, specifically the Centre for Tropical Water and Aquatic Ecosystem Research (TropWATER) (https://research.jcu.edu.au/portfolio/nathan.waltham/) and Marine Data Tech Hub (www.mdatatechjcu.com)
Nathan has a deep interest in coastal landscape ecology and processes, in particular, urban coastal marine ecology. His research covers water quality, coastal habitats, fisheries, pollution, hydrology and integrated catchment management. Most of his research is directly with government, industry and indigenous groups, which means his research directly changes management, policy and guidelines.
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.
Dr Richard Smith
Richard Smith, a British marine biologist, underwater photographer and writer, aspires to promote an appreciation for the ocean’s inhabitants and raise awareness of marine conservation issues through his images. A marine biologist by training, Richard’s pioneering research on the biology and conservation of pygmy seahorses, led to the first PhD on these enigmatic fishes. Over the past decade, Richard’s photographs and marine life focused features have appeared in a wide variety of publications around the world. Richard leads marine life expeditions where the aim is for participants to get more from their diving and photography by learning about the marine environment.
Dr Dave Harasti
Dave Harasti is a marine scientist in Australia who has been working on threatened marine species (sharks, seahorses and fish) for the past 20 years. He currently works as a Senior Research Scientist for Fisheries NSW and completed his PhD in 2014 on the biology, ecology and conservation of the White’s Seahorse Hippocampus whitei. He has been diving for 20 years and in that time, he has developed a passion for marine life and underwater photography. He likes to focus on photography of unusual and rare marine species which has resulted in hundreds of his images being used in various fish and nudibranch identification guides. His favourite marine animals are seahorses and nudibranchs and he’s always on the hunt for finding new species.