Call for Research Chair: Coupled Human-Natural Systems (CHANS) in Montane Environments as SES

The South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON) and the Afromontane Research Unit (ARU; based on the Qwaqwa Campus of the University of the Free State) are calling for comprehensive expressions of interest from suitable candidates for a National Research Foundation (NRF) Research Chair in Coupled Human-Natural Systems in Montane Environments.

The focus of the Chair will be to expand/refine the existing observatory protocol and research activities to develop a pragmatic, theoretical, and operational social-ecological framework that integrates multi-scale ecological, social observations and other sources of knowledge, and engages partners in a multi-stakeholder and mutual learning platform to address complex large-scale environmental issues (i.e. ‘wicked problems’). The immediate focus will be the Maloti-Drakensberg, with a view to pioneering the concept of mountains as social-ecological systems in southern Africa as a virtually unexplored topic in this region.

Responsibilities of this position includes the following:

  • Contribute to the development of a mountain-focused long-term social-ecological research (LTSER) observatory as part of existing SAEON and ARU activities.
  • Foster and drive trans-disciplinary research around ‘wicked problems’ in the Maloti-Drakensberg.
  • Enhance research on southern African mountains as social-ecological systems and contribute to the Expanded Freshwater and Terrestrial Environmental Observation Network (EFTEON)
  • Facilitate research scenarios in which local stakeholders help to identify the research questions and modelling frameworks.
  • Contribute to the development of Sustainability Science as a research theme in the ARU.
  • Explore the potential contribution of local SAEON/ARU activities into a global context as part of a wider ‘community of mountain observatories’ and of the Global Environmental Research Infrastructure initiative.
  • Develop relationships across Africa and with the Global South, and represent the Global South on international platforms, including the International Long-Term Ecological Research (ILTER) network.
  • Promote ‘science to knowledge to action’ through interactions with stakeholders at relevant scales.
  • Conduct research and supervise post-graduates (a minimum of 80% of time, and an average of 10 Masters and Doctoral students per annum); the remainder of the time may be dedicated to administration and/or undergraduate teaching at Qwaqwa.
  • Mentor Post-doctoral Research Fellows and early career researchers who form part of the Chair.
  • Contribute to the life and vision of the ARU in its journey to becoming a continental leader in African mountain research.
  • Attract and secure additional funding, particularly international funding.
  • Strengthen the existing good relationship between SAEON and the ARU.


Submissions which includes a comprehensive CV and letter of Motivation should to be submitted via email to and

Closing date is 30th September 2018

For more information, consult this document: Research Chair Call – SAEON-ARU – August 2018


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