Discovering tomorrow

Centre for African Conservation Ecology

A number of studies have brought together the written records of the historical distribution of the larger mammals in parts of South Africa (see http://ace.nmmu.ac.za/home).  These records deal with nearly 70 species and extend back to around the early 1600s. For each species, a database of acceptable location records has been compiled. Some 70% of the area of 'South Africa' (i.e. including Lesotho and Swaziland) (over 870 000 km2) has been covered by the existing database. This database is held by the Centre for African Conservation Ecology (ACE).

These compilations are valuable for providing insights into past distribution patterns as well as how these have changed over time;  these issues have been addressed to some extent in these published works. In addition, these works are currently being used to inform government policy and legislation dealing with biodiversity in South Africa.

The records captured in the database represent an excellent opportunity to undertake research on the early distribution patterns of this diverse group of mammals, using modern spatial analytical tools, such as Maxent, and examples of questions that can be addressed include:

  • How do spatial and temporal biases in historical records influence our understanding of the distribution patterns of the larger mammals?
  • Did the large mammal fauna match the flora, as represented by biomes and bioregions?
  • How does species habitat modelling using historically recorded distribution patterns relate to current patterns?
  • Can changes in distribution patterns be used to generate predictions around faunal responses to global change?
  • What are the characteristics of species that are vulnerable to extermination through local anthropogenic activities?

This opportunity is well-suited to a postdoctoral candidate with good spatial and numerical skills and an interest in zoogeography, conservation biology and global change.  Successful applicants will be based at ACE, and will be expected to compete for postdoctoral fellowships (such as through the National Research Foundation, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University or Claude Leon Foundation).

Interested applicants should approach the Director of ACE (graham.kerley@nmmu.ac.za) for further details.

 The greater kudu, an ungulate with a poorly understood historical distribution in southern Africa and which is currently showing a shift in distribution patterns. 

The localities of all the written and supporting records of the larger mammals in and close to the borders of the Free State Province (South Africa) and Lesotho.