PhD Students

Zanri Strydom

– PhD Candidate – Nature Conservation

Her PhD research assesses the effects of fish stock management on endangered African penguin and Cape gannet populations in South Africa. She is investigating the overlap of these foraging seabirds and fisheries around several breeding colonies which is important information needed for the establishment of Marine Protected Areas. By determining the future survival of pelagic fish stocks and seabird populations through her work she will be able to advise management on ecological requirements for fishing quotas. Given the rate at which threats to African penguins and Cape gannets are escalating, it is critical to find tools that aid management in decision-making of these endemic birds.


Peter Makumbe

– PhD Candidate – Nature Conservation

He investigates the migration patterns of male elephants through a human dominated landscape. He is specifically interested in understanding why only male elephants are migrating and the subsequent human-elephant interactions. Elephant “male-only” migration offers an opportunity to contribute to the knowledge about male elephant ecology, the drivers of exhibiting such a behavioral pattern and their conservation outside protected areas.


Alice Bernard

– PhD Candidate – Nature Conservation

Her projet aims to understand the ecological mechanisms explaining the spatial and temporal occurrence of mammal communities and species in anthropogenic landscapes and to study their success or failure to persist in those landscapes. The objectives are to improve our understanding on how anthropogenic environment affect mammals communities, describe how human are influencing wildlife repartition and explain individual strategies of small carnivores in anthropogenic landscapes. It will document the role of protected area and their immediate buffer area in conserving functional communities, and how associated human dominated landscape may facilitate the conservation effort, at species and community level.


G.S. Botha

– PhD Candidate – Nature Conservation

He investigates the Ecological community response following a prescribed holistic management strategy at Shangani-Ranch, central Zimbabwe. He is studying the succession and interaction of ecological communities on different trophic levels at different intervals after the use of the holistic management strategy. Additionally, he will test if the holistic management strategy is sustainable when combining livestock grazing with high numbers of wild grazers. The study is important to be able to determine if the holistic management strategy can be used to promote biodiversity..


Mika Vermeulen

– PhD Candidate – Nature Conservation

She is a PhD Nature Conservation student in the Wildlife Ecology Lab at the Nelson Mandela University, George Campus. Funded by the Foundational Biodiversity Information Programme she will be using camera trap data collected through the Snapshot Safari South Africa project. She is using these images to explore mammal occupancy and distribution within the protected areas of South Africa, as well as exploring the influences of fine-scale thermal environments on mammal movement in an arid system.


Terry-Lee Honiball

– PhD Candidate – Nature Conservation

Terry-Lee Honiball studies spotted hyaena (Crocuta crocuta) in arid and semi-arid fenced protected areas (FPA). With the aim to understand how certain social behaviors influence the conservation of a socially intelligent species in FPA’s. Spotted hyaena exist in a society driven by fission fusion dynamics (whereby individuals come and go from their natal/non-natal clan, either temporarily or on a permanent basis). Understanding these mechanisms provides insight into genetic transferal, disease transferal, the ability to predict potential invasion dynamics of the species and provide insight into social evolution of the species.


Amauréé Jansen van Vuuren

– PhD Candidate – Nature Conservation

Amauréé is a South African student, currently pursuing her Doctor of Philosophy degree at the Nelson Mandela University. Previously researching small antelope species in the highly transformed Overberg region, her interests have transitioned with her current project focussing on brown hyaena (Parahyaena brunnea) and spotted hyaena (Crocuta crocuta) in arid and semi-arid systems.  The aim of her study is to determine the role of spotted- and brown hyaena dens and latrine sites on ecosystem dynamics and function.


Maryke Stern

– PhD Candidate – Nature Conservation

Maryke is studying black-footed cats in the south-eastern Karoo. The study aim to unpack the relative influence various ecosystem components have on the ecology and conservation of this rare species. The study will address how people’s knowledge about nature and ecosystem processes can indirectly shape the conservation landscape of a threatened species. The results of the study will contribute to a knowledge base that could provide a framework through which scientific evidence can be used to support evidence-based conservation action.


Hernu Swanepoel

– PhD Candidate – Nature Conservation

Having completed his MSc in Nature Conservation focusing on the effects of transformed landscapes on the spatial ecology of five specialist browsing species in the Overberg region of the Western Cape province of South Africa. Hernu is currently pursuing a PhD in Nature Conservation assessing the effects of vegetation dynamics on the phenology, sexual morphology and body size of large African herbivores. Using remote sensing techniques, the study aims to understand how changes in vegetation dynamics over time, may influence various aspects of large herbivore ecology.