Staff


Professor Dan Parker (Senior Scientist)
My formative research centred around the feeding ecology of megaherbivores (giraffes and elephants) in the Eastern Cape. However, a research "gap year" working with Drs Andy Loveridge and Zeke Davidson ignited my interest in the larger carnivores of Africa. Nevertheless, I still maintain relatively broad research interests within the fields of community and macro-ecology and examples of some of my current projects are: 1) Large carnivore ecology; 2) Human-predator conflict; and 3) The foraging ecology of large herbivores.


Professor Ric Bernard (Emeritus Professor)
I trained as a small mammal reproductive biologist with interests in the environmental and endocrine control of reproduction in bats and rodents. I founded the Wildlife and Reserve Management Research Group (WRMRG) in 2003 and it represented a major change in my research direction. This change in focus was driven, mainly, by the enthusiasm and availability of post-graduate students. It also served to assist wildlife managers in the day-to-day management of their properties by providing them with sound ecological information based on fundamental research. I am currently the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic of the University of Mpumalanga, but maintain strong research ties with the WRMRG.



Professor Travis Perry (Senior Research Associate)
I am a vertebrate ecologist with particular interests in applied ecology as it relates to conservation. For most of my career, I have worked with the bats of the neotropics and temperate North America. More recently my research interests have turned to large carnivore conservation, and more especially to the role of these species in the shaping of ecosystem processes and the maintenance of biodiversity. My current research program focuses on the ecology and management of puma (cougar, mountain lion, or panther) in New Mexico and Arizona, USA. I intend to apply skills and lessons learned from this work to leopard research in South Africa.


Dr Charlene Bissett (Research Associate)
I completed a PhD in the Department of Zoology and Entomology at Rhodes University in 2008. I was then based on Kwandwe Private Game Reserve where I was the conservation and resource manager. I completed a Post-Doc in the WRMRG between 2010 and 2014 and the focus of my work was on the predator re-introductions which took place at Mountain Zebra National Park. I am currently the Regional Ecologist: Arid Cluster for SANParks, but maintain strong research ties with the WRMRG.



Dr Armand Kok (Research Associate)
I’ve been part of the Wildlife and Reserve Management Research Group since 2008. Originally, I was a post-graduate student/technical assistant involved in numerous research projects within the group that ranged from the feeding biology of giraffes, community ecology of small mammals, and the spatial ecology of predators. Most recently, I finished my PhD (2016) with the group that focused on the effects of land-use on the spatial distribution of problematic carnivore species, mammal diversity, and the interactions amongst carnivore species. My current research focuses on interspecific completion amongst carnivore species of various sizes.




Students


Jess Comley (PhD Student)
Even though mammalian carnivores are extremely ecologically diverse, competition within the guild can be intense, as carnivores are both morphologically and behaviourally adapted for killing. Our understanding of the extent and effect of carnivore interactions is heavily biased towards canids in the northern hemisphere where the focus of research has mainly been on the role of direct killing. The majority of studies on carnivore intra-guild competition have also only focused on the interactions between pairs of carnivores, completely overlooking the interactions occurring among subordinate carnivores. Therefore, the ways in which multiple carnivore species utilize and partition space and resources in small, enclosed reserves in South Africa is currently poorly understood. As a result, the focus of my PhD is going to be to investigate the complex interactions of a multi-carnivore community in a small enclosed reserve in South Africa (Selati Game Reserve, Limpopo Province). The outcomes of this research will help gain a better understanding of the ecological needs of species in enclosed reserves which will benefit the conservation of biodiversity.



Orla McEvoy (PhD Student)
I graduated with a BSc in Zoology followed by an MSc in Biodiversity and Conservation from Trinity College Dublin, Ireland. I focussed my masters’ research on elephant impact patterns within an enclosed game reserve in the Waterberg district. Following this I led lecture courses on southern Africa biodiversity to international student groups in a Greater Kruger area, while becoming a member of the Lion Management Forum of South Africa (LiMF). Through LiMF I developed my current project, investigating lion management practices and outcomes on smaller reserves. Protected areas have experienced varying scales of impacts by reintroduced lions, providing a unique opportunity to research lion behaviour. In particular, I am looking at lion social dynamics and other ecological processes which can degrade in smaller reserves leading to lion population and predation increase. With over 30 reserves incorporated, these results will outline best-practice recommendations for the management of free-roaming lions on smaller reserves, in a way that best reflects or mimics natural lion dynamics in a more open system.



Gareth Nuttall-Smith (MSc Student)
Elephants have been reintroduced to at least 11 fenced reserves in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. These re-introductions are in an effort to re-establish ecosystem functioning and as a revenue generator. However, it is hard to predict and measure the effect that such large, yet re-introduced, species may have on ecosystems. The work that I am going to be doing for my MSc aims to determine what impact elephants have on the composition and structure of the vegetation in the Thicket Biome and how this affects medium-large mammal communities.



Rogan Fourie (PhD Student)
Leopard (Panthera pardus) populations across the world are threatened by habitat loss, over-utilisation, illegal poaching and human – wildlife conflict due to livestock depredation. Understanding the population dynamics and ecology of leopard populations is therefore essential for understanding how effective conservation measures can be implemented. I will investigate the population dynamics and ecology of leopards on Debshan Ranch (Zimbabwe), a commercial cattle ranch, and assess the associated threats which may impact their conservation status.




Past students (Dispersal behaviour)

Dan van de Vyver (MSc, 2017) - Field Ranger, Pretoriuskop, Kruger National Park

Kyle Finn (MSc, 2017) - On the hunt for employment

Armand Kok (PhD, 2016) - GIS Consultant

Jess Comley (MSc, 2016) - Now studying towards a PhD

Jane Horgan (MSc, 2016) - Research Officer and Education and PR Coordinator, Cheetah Conservation Botswana

Phumuzile Nyoni (MSc, 2016) - Research assistant Debshan Ranch, Zimbabwe

Jon Taylor (MSc, 2016) - On the hunt for employment

Ali Brassine (MSc, 2015) - Self-employed, photographic guide

Megan Murison (MSc, 2015) - Works for the Endangered Wildlife Trust

Rebecca Welch (MSc, 2015) - Conducting a PhD on bat-eared foxes through UFS

Gareth Mann (PhD, 2014) - Leopard Programme Co-ordinator for Panthera

Zoe Nhleko (MSc, 2014) - Works for SANParks Scientific Services

Sam Page (MSc, 2014) - Works for the Endangered Wildlife Trust

Rebecca Klein (MSc, 2014) - Managing Director, Cheetah Conservation Botswana

Wendy Collinson (MSc, 2013) - Wildlife & Transport Programme, Endangered Wildlife Trust

Siobhan Dyer (MSc, 2013) - On the hunt for employment

John O'Brien (PhD, 2013) - Group Ecologist, Mantis Collection

Jess Watermeyer (MSc, 2012) - Assistant Project Manager, African Wildlife Conservation Fund

Emma Smith (MSc, 2012) - A qualified lawyer

Tanith Grant (MSc, 2012) - Business Unit Manager, WorkTravelSA.org

Paul Vorster (MSc, 2012) - Ecologist, Sanbona Provate Game Reserve

Brendan Whittington-Jones (MSc, 2012) - Living and working in the Middle East

Ross Forbes (MSc, 2012) - Field guide, Mala Mala Game Reserve

Mathilde Brassine (MSC, 2012) - Project Facilitator for Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation, Namibia

Nicky Lunt (PhD, 2011) - Research manager, Marwell Trust Zimbabwe

Brad Fike (MSc, 2011) - Now retired but previously Manager of the Great Fish River Reserve, Eastern Cape

Ted Knott (MSc, 2008) - Environmental consultant, Kenton-on-Sea

Candy Roux (MSc, 2006) - Administration Manager, Rhodes University

Jackie von Maltitz (nee Rapson)(MSc, 2004) - Environmental consultant, Durban

Amanda Ellis (MSc, 2004) - Living and working in the US