SAPECS People

The following people are actively involved in the cross-cutting SAPECS working groups. Below the working group members is a list of students conducting social-ecological research in southern Africa, mostly affiliated with senior working group members. 

Working Group Members

Alta De Vos Rhodes University My current research centres around two aims: (1) developing a
baseline understanding of our protected area network, their governance, spatial distribution and
contribution to South Africa’s basic developmental and biodiversity goals and, narrowly related to
that, (2) understanding the social-ecological drivers of change in relation to protected area management, tenure and legislation. I am also interested in understanding ecosystem service "delivery and provision", trade-offs and assessment in a protected area context.
Belinda Reyers CSIR My research, student supervision and policy inputs focus on biodiversity and ecosystem services: their condition, conservation and links to social development and poverty alleviation, as well as the implications of global change for these relationships. This work relies on observations, models and assessment techniques applied at a landscape scale to a variety of biophysical and socio-economic datasets. My recent work has explored the links between regulating services, disaster risk and the role of business in climate change adaptation.
Bianca Currie Sustainability Research Unit, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University An interest in facilitating social learning in public participation processes and developing a social learning assessment tool.
Carolyn (Tally) Palmer Unilever Centre for Environmental Water Quality, Institute for Water Research, Rhodes University My bio-physical research has focused within the stressor-response domain where I contributed to the use of increased “environmental realism” in experimental ecotoxicology, particularly in regard to salt as a toxicant and salinisation as a stressor exacerbated by climate change. I developed and applied the use of artificial stream systems, riverine test organisms, river water as the test system and longer term exposures in the development of appropriate water quality guidelines. I worked in the domain of integration and implementation, where I investigated approaches and methods through which research is effectively applied and contributes to on-the–ground improvements to environmental health. This is the concept of ‘balancing resource protection and use’.
Charlie Shackleton Rhodes University Ecology, use & management of non-timber forest products; Natural capital in livelihoods; Urban forestry & greening; Wild edible foods & local food security
Christo Fabricius Sustainability Research Unit, NMMU Landscape ecology; Peoplescapes; Earth stewardship; Citizen's science; Community-based approaches; Catchment management; Ecosystem services and society; Farming
Dirk Roux South African National Parks Conservation of freshwater ecosystems inside and outside protected areas, including co-learning with policy makers, managers and stakeholders
Georgina Cundill Rhodes University I am interested in the human dimensions of natural resource management, particularly processes of collaboration and learning for social-ecological stewardship. Within this broader theme, I am interested in questions around land rights, equity, conservation and access to ecosystem services.
Graeme Cumming Percy FitzPatrick Institute, University of Cape Town I have a wide range of interests, centering around understanding spatial aspects of ecology and the relevance of broad-scale pattern-process dynamics for ecosystem (and social-ecological system) function and resilience. I am also interested in the applications of landscape ecology and complexity theory to conservation and the sustainable management of natural resources.
Gregg Brill University of Cape Town Ecosystem services, natural resource management, ecosystem valuation and value chains, conservation management, human-wildlife conflict, informal economies
Harry Biggs South African National Parks Adaptive governance of natural resource management including stakeholders; IWRM; bioregionalism; complexity
Hayley Clements Percy FitzPatrick Institute, University of Cape Town My current research is focused on South Africa's private protected area network. Private protected areas conserve over the double the land area in South Africa than do statutory protected areas. It is therefore important for us to ask the question “Can we rely on private protected areas to conserve biodiversity into the future?” In order to answer this question we need an improved understanding of their economic objectives, their approach to ecological management as well as what the interaction between these social-ecological factors ultimately means for biodiversity conservation. In addition to social-ecological systems research, I have an interest in large carnivore ecology.
Ilse Kotzee Council for Scientific and Industrial Research My research interests are centred around building resilience to climate change impacts by looking specifically at the regulating ecosystem services such as flow/flood regulation. The aim is to develop interventions to enhance flood regulating services for risk management.
James Gambiza Rhodes University Rangeland ecology, land degradation, systems ecology, fire, herbivory, natural resource management
Jasper Slingsby South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON), Fynbos Node My current interest is in the processes that determine the composition and diversity of plant assemblages at various scales and, consequently, how these affect ecosystem function. In particular, I am interested in the ways in which human activities are changing these “assembly rules” and thus altering ecosystem function and associated benefits to society.
Jeanne Nel CSIR Freshwater ecosystem management
Water Resources management
Water-related ecosystem services
Mainstreaming science into policy and action
Karen Esler Stellenbosch University How drivers of change, such as over-exploitation, habitat fragmentation and alien invasion, influence plant population and community structure and processes. I approach this by collaborating, facilitating, leading and supervising research on a wide range of ecological and eco-physiological topics in plant ecology. My collaborations (both national and international) are a general feature of my academic life and reach beyond these disciplinary foci to include social-ecological aspects – an understanding of the value and consequences of human interactions with the natural landscape and the ecological infrastructure it provides. This research has naturally lent towards applied solutions for best-practice management, ecological restoration and conservation.
Karen Kotschy University of the Witwatersrand I am interested in complex systems, resilience and sustainability, with a focus on water, biodiversity and urban systems. I am particularly interested in understanding the role of cities in mediating natural resource and ecosystem service flows at different scales. I believe strongly in the value of interdisciplinary, participatory research and collaboration in solving sustainability challenges.
Laura Pereira University of Cape Town I'm interested in bringing a socio-ecological systems framing to questions of inclusive innovation in the food system. My work involves looking at ethical pathways for incorporating orphan (neglected and underutilised) crop species and their associated farming practices into the more formalised food value chain in order to meet food security and sustainability objectives, including climate change adaptation.
Linda Luvuno Stellenbosch University My research interests are around large, abrupt, long-lasting changes in the structure and function of social-ecological systems (regime shifts); what drives the changes, their effect on ecosystem services and ultimately how systems contribute to human welfare. I am also interested the application of landscape ecology to conservation and the sustainable management of natural resources.
Luthando Dziba CSIR Climate change impacts on terrestrial ecosystems
Ecosystem services science-policy interface
Ecosystem services and poverty alleviation
Ecology and management of rangelands
Maike Hamann Centre for Complex Systems in Transition (CST), University of Stellenbosch I am currently a postdoc at the Centre for Complex Systems in Transition (CST) at Stellenbosch University. My research focuses on the links between biodiversity, ecosystem services and human well-being. I am particularly interested in spatially mapping social-ecological patterns and using scenario planning techniques to explore potential future trajectories for social-ecological systems in the Anthropocene.
Marja Spierenburg VU University Amsterdam, CERES National Resource School for Resource Studies for Development I coordinate several research projects focusing on the role of the private (profit and non-profit) sector in nature conservation and land reforms in Southern Africa. My research addresses the growing importance of public-private partnerships in nature conservation and of private wildlife conservation areas, and the impacts of those developments on the land rights and livelihoods of local communities. Keywords: Protected areas, private wildlife conservation and production, land rights, land reform, public-private-partnerships, local and indigenous knowledge
Mathieu Rouget University of KwaZulu-Natal I am interested in the interface between science and management in the disciplines of integrated land use planning, biological invasions and ecosystem services.
Nadia Sitas CSIR My research explores some of the opportunities and challenges for mainstreaming ecosystem services in land-use planning at a local level, using a case study in the Eden District (Eden) of South Africa. By exploring what the information needs, responsibilities and capacities of decision makers in Eden are, possible intervention points that facilitate the integration of ecosystem service information offering a ‘no-harm, no-regrets’ approach have been identified. By engaging with planning processes that drive development at a local level and shape how ecosystem services are modified and governed within a landscape, a set of interventions are being trialled and reflected upon that acknowledge the importance of maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem functions and processes for future social-ecological resilience.
Odirilwe Selomane Council for Scientific and Industrial Research I am interested in human well-being and more particularly how it relates to the natural environment. My current research project aims to understand particular aspects of how the ecosystem services contributes to human well-being and focuses specifically on improving the measurements. The project explores the potential to use existing datasets to strengthen human wellbeing and ecosystem services connection; investigate the role of disaggregation in improving our understanding of the consequences of change of ecosystem services on human wellbeing; and contribute to the development of ecosystem services indicators for human well-being.
Oghenekaro Nelson Odume Rhodes University I have my core training in Water Resource Science with special focus on aquatic ecology and ecotoxicology, including pollution studies and biodiversity, environmental water quality, aquatic ecosystem services and people livelihoods. I have develop novel ecologically-based approaches for managing industrial-sewage effluent in relation to water resource protection and use. My research contributes to policies aimed at balancing the use of water resources and their use.
Patrick O'Farrell CSIR Ecosystem service ecology and assessment
Landscape change, restoration and emerging ecosystems
Social ecological system resilience, ecological – economic interface
Landscape design and management, ecological adaptation and green infrastructure
Rebecka Malinga Stockholm Resilience Centre I am investigating multiple ecosystem services in South African agricultural landscapes, their spatial distribution and their interrelations. I am comparing neighbouring small-holder subsistence agriculture, large-scale commercial agriculture and nature reserves to assess how these distinctly different but co-evolved landscape types vary in their generation of ecosystem services bundles.
Reinette (Oonsie) Biggs Stockholm Resilience Centre, Sweden & Stellenbosch University Reinette (Oonsie) Biggs is the coordinator of SAPECS. Her research focuses on regime shifts — large, abrupt, long-lasting changes in the dynamics of coupled social-ecological systems that can have dramatic impacts on human economies and societies. Through her research, Oonsie aims to contribute practical scientific theory, methods and insights that can improve society´s ability to anticipate high-impact tipping points, and build resilience to undesirable changes.
Robert (Bob) Scholes University of the Witwatersrand global change, earth observation, ecosystem services, savannas
Ryan Blanchard CSIR - Natual resources and the Environment I am interested in understanding the impacts of plant invasions on biodiversity and ecosystem services. In particular, I am interested in how this results in changes to the functioning of ecosystems and how these can measured or quantified to assist in better management of natural resources.
Sharon Pollard Association for Water and Rural Development Dr Sharon Pollard is executive director of the Association for Water and Rural Development (AWARD ) a small research based NGO that operates in the north eastern part of South Africa. She is an ecologist whose key interests lie in freshwater systems, their wise use and management and in the interface between rural communities and natural resources. Sharon started her career in Amazonas, Brasil. She returned to South Africa in 1991 to head up a number of integrated catchment management initiatives for various funders.
Sheona Shackleton Rhodes University Ecosystem services, vulnerability, poverty, climate change adaptation, natural resource management, household use of natural resources, non-timber forest products
Simphiwe Ngcobo Centre for Water Resources Research, University of KwaZulu-Natal Hydrology, Global Change and Earth Systems Science, Hydrological Modelling, Water Resources Management, Resilience and Adaptation Science, Complex Systems Analysis, Military Science and Behavioural Economics.
Susi Vetter Rhodes University I am an ecologist interested in the reciprocal relationship between people and their natural environment. Much of my research has focused on communal rangelands. I am also interested in the relationship between nature, culture and human well-being and the nature and importance of cultural ecosystem services.
Vanessa Masterson Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University The role of sense of place, connectedness to nature and group identity in resilience of social-ecological systems, particularly in the context of urban migration between the former Transkei and Cape Town.

Students

Bianca Currie Sustainability Research Unit, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University An interest in facilitating social learning in public participation processes and developing a social learning assessment tool.
Etai Even-Zahav Sustainability Institute, Stellenbosch University human development, agency & wellbeing, esp. food & nutritional security in urban contexts.
also: informal food economy; complex adaptive systems; urbanism & urbanisation; global South & subaltern studies
Gregg Brill University of Cape Town Ecosystem services, natural resource management, ecosystem valuation and value chains, conservation management, human-wildlife conflict, informal economies
Hayley Clements Percy FitzPatrick Institute, University of Cape Town My current research is focused on South Africa's private protected area network. Private protected areas conserve over the double the land area in South Africa than do statutory protected areas. It is therefore important for us to ask the question “Can we rely on private protected areas to conserve biodiversity into the future?” In order to answer this question we need an improved understanding of their economic objectives, their approach to ecological management as well as what the interaction between these social-ecological factors ultimately means for biodiversity conservation. In addition to social-ecological systems research, I have an interest in large carnivore ecology.
Ilse Kotzee Council for Scientific and Industrial Research My research interests are centred around building resilience to climate change impacts by looking specifically at the regulating ecosystem services such as flow/flood regulation. The aim is to develop interventions to enhance flood regulating services for risk management.
Jessica Cockburn University of KwaZulu-Natal Social-ecological systems
Stewardship
Sustainable agriculture
Multi-functional landscapes
Transdisciplinarity
Social process facilitation & monitoring
Jessica-Jane Lavelle University of Cape Town Social-technical-ecological systems, action research, alternative pathways to sustainability.
Karabo Chadzingwa Rhodes University Water and Land Resource access and use
Social Ecological Systems
Human well-being
Lelani Mannetti Stellenbosch University My research interests involve people and protected areas, particularly the role of stakeholders in protected area decision-making. Applying a social-ecological approach, my current research focuses on the perceptions of different ecosystem service beneficiaries and how these are related to land use adjacent to national parks.
Linda Luvuno Stellenbosch University My research interests are around large, abrupt, long-lasting changes in the structure and function of social-ecological systems (regime shifts); what drives the changes, their effect on ecosystem services and ultimately how systems contribute to human welfare. I am also interested the application of landscape ecology to conservation and the sustainable management of natural resources.
Nosiseko Mtati Rhodes University Ecosystem services and human well-being
Cultural ecosystem services
Odirilwe Selomane Council for Scientific and Industrial Research I am interested in human well-being and more particularly how it relates to the natural environment. My current research project aims to understand particular aspects of how the ecosystem services contributes to human well-being and focuses specifically on improving the measurements. The project explores the potential to use existing datasets to strengthen human wellbeing and ecosystem services connection; investigate the role of disaggregation in improving our understanding of the consequences of change of ecosystem services on human wellbeing; and contribute to the development of ecosystem services indicators for human well-being.
Rebecka Malinga Stockholm Resilience Centre I am investigating multiple ecosystem services in South African agricultural landscapes, their spatial distribution and their interrelations. I am comparing neighbouring small-holder subsistence agriculture, large-scale commercial agriculture and nature reserves to assess how these distinctly different but co-evolved landscape types vary in their generation of ecosystem services bundles.
Simphiwe Ngcobo Centre for Water Resources Research, University of KwaZulu-Natal Hydrology, Global Change and Earth Systems Science, Hydrological Modelling, Water Resources Management, Resilience and Adaptation Science, Complex Systems Analysis, Military Science and Behavioural Economics.
Thea Buckle NMMU Media, Communication, Local-ecological knowledge, Perceptions & Conceptions, Water Conservation
Vanessa Masterson Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University The role of sense of place, connectedness to nature and group identity in resilience of social-ecological systems, particularly in the context of urban migration between the former Transkei and Cape Town.