A non-profit organisation focused on research in the arid zone of southern Africa


SESSION: Reflecting on conservation progress in the Succulent Karoo

Dr Philip Desmet

 Research associate (NMU) and independent consultant (ECOSOL GIS)

Dr Philip Desmet is a research associate with Nelson Mandela University (NMU) and an independent service provider specialising in landscape ecology and spatial biodiversity planning. His focus is developing conservation plans and bioregional plans in South Africa and internationally. He is an expert GIS analyst with 20 years’ experience in sourcing, modelling, and representing environmental, biophysical, and social-economic spatial data used to inform spatial biodiversity plans.

SESSION: COVID-19 pandemic: Implications for the arid zone

Prof. John Donaldson

Chief Director of the Biodiversity Research, Assessment & Monitoring Division, SANBI

Prof. John Donaldson is the Chief Director of the Biodiversity Research, Assessment and Monitoring Division of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). He leads a team of around 90 scientists, focusing on biodiversity assessments (terrestrial, freshwater, and marine) and the development of knowledge and evidence to guide policy and decision making. The team works on priority issues for the biodiversity sector in South Africa, such as biological invasions, climate change, wildlife trade, land degradation, and ecological infrastructure. They apply different modalities for research, from undertaking in depth studies to coordinating and convening research networks and synthesising knowledge to aid decision making.

SESSION: Current research in the arid zone

Prof. David Ward

Professor of Plant Biology, Kent State University, Ohio, USA

Prof. David Ward is a professor of plant biology at Kent State University in Ohio, USA. His research interests lie in the field of the ecology of plant species redistributions, including both invasive and encroaching plant species, and the natural process of succession. His research also focuses on the effects of herbivory by large mammals (such as elephants) on the population biology, community ecology and conservation of plant populations.

Prof. Ward has recently written and published a book titled ‘The Biology of Deserts’, which provides a concise but comprehensive introduction to desert ecology, with a strong evolutionary focus. The book covers a wide range of ecological and evolutionary issues including morphological and physiological adaptations of desert plants and animals, species interactions, the importance of predation and parasitism, food webs, biodiversity, and conservation. It features a balance of plant and animal (both invertebrate and vertebrate) examples and emphasises topical applied issues such as desertification and invasive species.