We are a small department dedicated to advancing inter- and trans-disciplinary science and learning aimed at understanding and managing complex human-environmental/social-ecological systems, with a focus on Africa. We have five core academic staff members, a DST/NRF (SARChI) Research Chair in “Land and Natural Resource Use for Sustainable Livelihoods”, and four support staff. We draw students from all faculties and we are one of the most productive departments in the university in terms of per capita research outputs.
Our vision is to:
Lead and advance knowledge development, capacity building, and communication for sustainable human-environmental systems.
What is our focus and core areas of research?
We are interested in human-environment interactions and in the governance and sustainable management of complex social-ecological systems. We recognise that we are living in a globalising and rapidly changing world characterised by numerous interconnected environmental and social challenges. We undertake research on the ecological and socio-economic dimensions of these challenges, with the goal of contributing towards more resilient, equitable and sustainable pathways into the future. The nexus between human well-being, livelihoods, vulnerability, ecosystem services and change is central in all our work. Key areas of research include:
Livelihoods, vulnerability and biodiversity
Ecosystem services and societal benefits
Non-timber forest products use, trade and management
Landscape change and land degradation
Co-management and governance of protected areas
Community based natural resource management
Social learning for change
Climate change adaptation
Urbanisation, urban greening and forestry
Ecosystem restoration and carbon sequestration
Invasive plants – uses, impacts and management
Food security, especially in relation to ecosystem services provision and wild foods
Who do we work with?
We work with a range of international, national, regional and local partners and collaborators from research institutions and universities; government and non-government agencies; networks, working groups and communities of practice; and local communities. We participate in large interdisciplinary, cross-institutional and country research teams, with recent and current partners coming from Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, Malawi, Indonesia, Sweden, and India to mention some. For a small department, we have an established and respected international and national reputation and are often invited to participate in international forums, projects and conferences.
Our Mission is to:
Generate knowledge and new practices, skills and understanding of complex, dynamic human-environmental systems in Africa and the world through excellence in teaching, learning, research, and community engagement.
Two PhD bursaries available for suitability qualified students who are enthusiastic to work as part of a team on challenges to urban sustainability.
NRF bursaries available to study at Honours or Masters level in Environmental Science / Environmental Education under the supervision of Prof Heila Lotz-Sisitka and/or Dr Jess Cockburn and/or Prof Lausanne Olvitt. Your research would need to focus on social learning in the context of food system sustainability or catchment management or transdisciplinary research and training.