Students and graduates associated with the Fynbos Node

SAEON has their own Graduate Student Network that aims to build and promote the sustainability and academic excellence of long term environmental research among post-graduate students in South Africa through interactions with SAEON. ‘Graduate student’ refers to students currently involved in either part-time or full-time Honours, Masters, Doctoral or Post-Doctoral research projects that are in line with SAEON’s research programmes. You can find more information using the link provided above, or have a look at our Facebook page.

Current Students​



Nasiphi Ntshanga

DegreePhD Geography and Environmental Science, University of Kwa-Zulu Natal

Supervisor: Dr Jasper Slingsby , Prof Serban Proches

Title of thesisLandscape Transformation and fragmentation: setting the playing field for global change drivers in the Cape Floristic Region

Description:  Landscape transformation and habitat fragmentation pose direct threats to biodiversity mainly through habitat loss. However, indirect effects through their interaction with other global change drivers such as climate change and alien invasions create potential for much greater impacts on biodiversity. For example, species’ tracking of shifting climates is constrained by unsuitable matrix and long distances to suitable habitat. Similarly, fragmentation interacts with alien species invasions; increasing the invasability of natural habitats through edge effects and increased propagule pressure from the matrix. My research explores how landscape patterns such as fragmentation interact with other global change drivers and the implications for biodiversity in the CFR.



Ebrahiem Abrahams

Degree: MSc in Environmental and Water Science, The University of the Western Cape. 

SupervisorDr M.C Grenfell and Dr J. Glenday

Title of thesisAn analysis of post-fire catchment erosion dynamics under different land cover types, Jonkershoek, Western Cape

Description: Water and sediment fluxes in a channel network are the most important processes involved in sculpting catchment morphology. The response of a system to these fluxes and resulting geomorphic signatures may vary across catchments. Differences may occur due to terrain, variation in burn severity, variation in channel conveyance efficiency and vegetation dynamics. As such, similar systems may respond differently under similar conditions. Research indicates that vegetation cover is one of the most important erosion-controlling factors as it provides surfaces that are resistant to erosion through root cohesion. When vegetation is removed (e.g. by wildfire), the susceptibility of surfaces to erosion increases until the cover re-establishes over time. However, further investigation is required elucidating the relative dominance of erosion-controlling factors and how different systems will respond to different elements. Langrivier and Tierkloof are two gauged catchments in the Jonkershoek Nature Reserve with contrasting vegetation cover, providing an ideal setting to test ideas about key controls on erosion and deposition at catchment scale. Here a spatially distributed numerical model (CAESAR-Lisflood) coupled with detailed fieldwork i.e. erosion plots, time-integrated sediment sampling, soil and vegetation surveys, will provide a systematic means of testing the relative effect of these variables as well as offer insight into the mechanisms that control catchment form and function. The aim of this study is primarily to improve knowledge and understanding about sediment fluxes at catchment scale. To achieve the above aim, the following objectives will be carried out: 1) to investigate the variation of erosion dynamics in two different landscape settings through the wet season 2) to investigate the nature and dynamics of fine sediment transfer through the main channel of Langrivier and Tierkloof catchments 3) to simulate the effects of different land cover types on erosion rates using a landscape evolution model. The key theoretical contribution would be an improved understanding of the controls on modern catchment geomorphology in the rugged Cape Fold terrain.



Maphale Stella Matlala


Degree: MSc in Statistical Ecology

Supervisors: Jasper Slingsby, Res Altwegg and Andrew Skowno

Title of thesis: Comparison of the IUCN Red List of Ecosystem, South Africa approach to ecosystem threat status assessment

Description: In South Africa, ecosystems listed as either Critically Endangered or Endangered are prioritized for conservation and efforts made to reduce the rate of ecosystem collapse and species extinction. Previous assessment were based on nationally accepted and scientifically rigorous framework, but the IUCN have recently published a new assessment framework that has subtle differences to the existing South African system.

Since the publication of the new IUCN standards for the Red List of Ecosystem (RLE), there is pressure for South Africa to comply such that the national assessment can be comparable with other assessments across the globe. Key concerns around changing assessment standards that may hamper South Africa (SA) from adopting the IUCN RLE include (i) differences in their underlying philosophy and purpose (including the policy context), (ii) differences in the assessment outcomes of the current state of South African ecosystems using the SA and RLE approaches, and (iii) the implications of differences in these outcomes for the conservation of biodiversity. As such this thesis aims to test the IUNC RLE criteria in a South African context, explore the potential concerns raised above and, where necessary, explore ways in which any critical differences may be reconciled.

Past Students​
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Siphumelelo Mbali


Degree: MSc Environmenatl and Water Science. University of the Western Cape
Supervisors: Professor D Mazvimavi and Dr N Allsopp
Title of thesis: Assessing high altitude rainfall and cloud water impact on stream flow in the Jonkershoek catchment, Western Cape.







Nyasha Magadzire


Degree: PhD Geography and Environmental Studies, Stellenbosch University
Supervisor:  Dr HM de Klerk, Dr J Slingsby and Professor K Esler
Title of thesis: Testing the utility of remote sensing products as measures of ecological regime in predicting the distribution of vegetation types, communities and species across the CFR.








Martina Treurnicht


DegreePhD Conservation Ecology, Stellenbosch University

SupervisorProf. Frank M. Schurr, Dr. Jörn Pagel, Prof. Karen J. Esler & Dr Jasper A. Slingsby

Title of thesisDemographic and functional determinants of large-scale population dynamics and ecological niches of 26 serotinous Proteaceae 










Annabelle Rodgers


Degree: Masters in Ecology

SupervisorA Prof Edmund February, Dr Jasper Slingsby, Dr Glenn Moncrieff

Title of thesisModification of fire catchments drive vegetation change on the Cape Peninsula 





Francois Becker


Degree: Masters in Statistical Ecology, SANBI/University of Cape Town

SupervisorProf Krystal A Tolley, Ass Prof Res Altwegg, Dr J Slingsby and Dr G John Measey

Title of thesis: Estimating the global population size of animals that are hard to find: the case of Rose's mountain toadlet





Kobus Kellermann


Degree: MPhil, University of Cape Town

Supervisors: Professor E February and Dr J Slingsby

Title of thesis: Hydraulic Trait Variation of Protea repens with Change in Climate and Atmospheric CO2.







Penelope Waller

 Degree : Penelope was awarded her MSc Environmental and Geographical Science Cum Laude in 2013 at University of Cape Town

 Supervisors : Dr Pippin Anderson and Dr Patricia Holmes
 Title of thesis : Towards ecological restoration strategies for Peninsula Shale Renosterveld: testing the effects of disturbance-intervention treatments on seed germination on Devils’ Peak Cape Town.








Rory Sandberg

 Degree : Rory recieved his MSc, Conservation Ecology, Cum Laude in 2013 at Stellenbosch University
 Supervirsors : Prof. Karen Esler, Dr Nicky Allsopp, Prof. William Bond

 Title : Response of biotic communities to habitat fragmentation as a natural process and as an anthropogenic impact: which fragments will survive?








Igshaan Samuels

 Degree : Igshaan graduated with his PhD in 2013 at University of Cape Town
 Supervisors : Dr Nicky Allsopp and Prof. Timm Hoffman
 T itle of thesis:  Pastoral mobility in a variable and a spatially constrained environment

Current Activity: Working for the Agricultural Research Council – Animal Production Institute as a rangeland ecologist focusing mainly on the arid zone of South Africa.





Thomas Morris

Degree: Received his BSc (Hons) Botany in 2012 at University of Cape Town
Supervisors: Dr Jasper Slingsby and Prof. Jeremy Midgley

Title of thesis: Monitoring the Knysna forest; species, community and forest responses
Current Activity: Thomas is currently studying towards his Masters at University of Cape Town









Christine Moore

Degree: Christine received her MSc Conservation Biology in 2012 at University of Cape Town
Supervisors: Dr Jasper Slingsby
Title of thesis: Understanding Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Outbreaks in the Western Cape Ostrich Industry: Did Network Dynamics Enhance Vulnerability?
Current Activity: Christine currently works as a research coordinator at University of Cape Town








Tineke Kraaij

 Degree : Tineke graduated with her PhD in 2012 from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Botany Department
 Supervisors : Prof Richard Cowling and Dr Brian van Wilgen
 Title of thesis :  Fire regimes in eastern coastal fynbos: drivers, ecology and management

Current Activity: Tineke is a Vegetation Ecologist for South African National Parks









Marthinus Jacobus (Marno) Fourie

 Degree : Marno was awarded his MSc Conservation Ecology in 2014 from Stellenbosch University
 Supervisors : Dr Shayne Jacobs, Dr A. Rozanov
 Ti tle of thesis:  Fynbos riparian zones:  Investigating the effects of invasive plants on denitrification in Acacia invaded and cleared areas under field and laboratory conditions and implications for riparian functioning










Colin Tucker

Degree: Colin received his MSc, Conservation Ecology in 2013 at Stellenbosch University
Supervisors: Dr Andrew Knight, Prof. Karen Esler, Dr Nicky Allsopp

Title of thesis: Sustainability Indicator Development for UNESCO Biosphere Reserves











Robert Skelton


Degree: Graduated with a PhD in Botany, University of Cape Town
Supervisor: Dr Adam West