For nature and livelihoods

Our Committee 

The AZEF committee is responsible implementing our vision and mission, with a focus on organising the annual AZEF conference. Our committee members are volunteers. 

Chairperson
Katherine Forsythe

Katherine is the Leslie Hill Succulent Karoo Trust Project Coordinator at WWF South Africa. She completed her undergraduate degree in Ecology at the University of Sydney in 2008 and her MSc in Conservation Biology from the University of Cape Town in 2013. Her MSc thesis looked at the relationships between restoring biodiversity and ecosystem functioning across several different biomes. And her expertise lies in quantitative applied ecology and understanding how ecosystems function across landscapes.

Vice-chairperson
Ismail Ebrahim

Ismail is the Project Manager of the Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers (CREW) in the Cape Floral Kingdom. The position is affiliated to the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and is funded by the Botanical Society of South Africa. His role here includes managing the activities of volunteer groups who are monitoring threatened plants species in the Western, Northern and Eastern Cape. This information is input into the SANBI Red List of Threatened Plants. And he uses his vast knowledge to connect with private landowners, municipalities and other role players to protect our natural landscapes.

Treasurer
Tebogo Mawela 

Tebogo current serves as Biodiversity Officer for the Department of Environment and Nature Conservation, based in Springbok in the Northern Cape. Prior to that, she worked as an Environmental Educator for GDARD in Tshwane. She also gained experience at the Roodeplaat Nature Reserve, where she worked as a Biodiversity Assistant for a year. She has an Advanced Diploma in Nature Conservation from the Tshwane University of Technology.

Education outreach
Caitlin Smith (SANBI)

Caitlin is a co-opted member of the committee. Drawing from her past experiences with environmental education, she manages the education outreach component of AZEF. She is a Groen Sebenza Intern at SANBI (South African National Biodiversity Institute), with CREW (Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers).

Scientific/Research

Natalie Uys

Natalie works at the Department of Environment and Nature Conservation in the Northern Cape province. Her focus here is on research in plant ecology and botany.

Scientific/Research
Tshililo Ramaswiela

Tshililo is an experienced Research Technician working at the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON). He joined the organisation in 2011, undertaking in-situ observations at research sites and performing data collection, quality assurance and feeding back to users. He completed an undergraduate degree at the University of Venda, where he focused on savannah ecology. Here he helped to assess elephant damage on Marula trees in the Kruger National Park. His postgraduate studies took place through the University of Stellenbosch, where he looked at invasion biology. He also spent a year on Marion Island, mapping the geographical distribution of alien vegetation.

Scientific/Research
Doug Harebottle

Doug is an ornithologist and ecologist with a love for waterbird population ecology and interests in conservation biology, aquatic systems and urban conservation. He currently serves as the Director: Risk and Vulnerability Science Centre at the Sol Plaatjie University. Prior to this, he worked as a senior lecturer at the university, lecturing in biology and zoology. He is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in Biodiversity Informatics at the University of the Western Cape, and worked as a Research Scientist at the University of Cape Town from 1999 to 2013.

Scientific/Research
Emma Archer

Emma Archer is a Professor in Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of Pretoria. Her research focus is largely on drylands, and she is a former Chief Researcher of the CSIR. She has worked in and around the Karoo her entire career, and has a particular love for the landscape; although she works in other dryland areas as well. She is highly active in international assessments, including work on certain of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) assessments, as well as the joint IPBES/IPCC report (launched June 2021); and the IPBES Global Assessment on Sustainable Use (launched in 2022). She is a member of the UNCCD Science Policy Interface (SPI).

Scientific/Research
Stephanie Borchardt

Stephanie is a Sociologist with an interest in various aspects of sustainable development, energy poverty, Infrastructural inequality and renewable energy development in arid regions in South Africa. She is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Sociology & Social Anthropology at Stellenbosch University. Prior to this, she completed her PhD titled, “Illuminating Energy Poverty: A case study of the energy needs and challenges of low-income households in De Aar, a renewable energy hub in South Africa’s Northern Cape Province”. Her previous work was around the exploration of the communication strategies and extent of public participation at the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) public briefings for Shale Gas Development in the Karoo. Her current research explores how local communities can benefit from the national renewable energy investment (REIPPP) surrounding Sutherland.

Scientific/Research
Emily Kudze

Emily Kudze is a wildlife conservationist; she has a master’s in wildlife management from the university of Pretoria. Her specialities were small mammals, bats and rodents but has now found herself managing various wildlife conservation projects. Emily has had opportunities to work on different projects such as the Sustainable Wildlife Economies Project (SWEP), assisted in finalising the African Biodiversity Challenge 2 Project funded by the JRS Biodiversity Foundation and assisted in the publication of Rwanda’s first Spatial Biodiversity Assessment. She has a passion for wildlife conservation, biodiversity, and sustainable development. She is currently the senior scientific coordinator for the illegal succulent trade in South Africa working on the implementation of the national response strategic and action plan to address the illegal succulent trade in South Africa.

Scientific/Research
Owami Mashaba

Owami Mashaba is an Honours student from Sol Plaatje University (2023) who majored in Zoology with the passion for water quality and bioassessment. She did her BSc Biological Sciences undergraduate degree at Sol Plaatje University (2020–2022). She has attended various academic conferences such as the Kimberley Biodiversity Research Symposium (KBRS), Society of South African Geographers (SSAG), Arid Zone Ecology Forum (AZEF) and the National Wetland Indaba (NWI) to present her honours research. She also volunteers at bird projects (Sociable Weaver Project and Vulture Project) in the Northern Cape.

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