Closes: Friday, 13 October 2023
Location: Cape Town
Duration: 3 years

Applications are invited for a postdoctoral fellowship with the Directorate Biodiversity Assessment at the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and the Centre for Statistics in Ecology, Environment and Conservation (SEEC) at the University of Cape Town to support research, modelling and mapping of land degradation and ecological condition in the Southern African region.
The postdoctoral fellowship is under the auspices of the project titled ‘Building biodiversity knowledge for action in Southern Africa: Spatial Biodiversity Assessment, Prioritization and Planning in South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique and Malawi’ (hereafter ‘SBAPP Regional Project’), which has been awarded to SANBI by French donors.

The purpose of this project is to develop and/or enhance spatial biodiversity assessments (of key species and ecosystem types) for four countries, and assist with their application in biodiversity prioritisation and planning in those countries. The postdoctoral fellowship will fall within Objective 4 of the project, which aims to identify the ecosystem change and degradation processes (biotic and abiotic), pressures and threats to terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity.

A key knowledge gap identified in South Africa’s National Biodiversity Assessment 2018 was for improved data on ecological condition for terrestrial and freshwater ecosystem types. These data inform Red List assessments (for ecosystems and species), systematic biodiversity plans, and a wide range of land management and restoration efforts. Working on a regional basis with neighbouring countries is of prime importance because ecosystem types and species cross national borders.

Requirements: The postdoctoral fellowship is open to anyone who has completed a PhD in the last five years, or who has submitted their PhD thesis for examination. Note: if the candidate selected to fill this role has not yet been awarded their PhD, their postdoctoral enrolment will be limited to 6 months and enrolment will be cancelled thereafter unless proof of having obtained the doctoral degree is submitted.

Applicants from South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique and Malawi are encouraged (noting that the fellowship will be based in Cape Town). Note for non-South African applicants: applications for relevant visas from the South African Department of Home Affairs will be for the applicant’s own cost and will need to be in place before the fellowship commences.

Candidates must have a strong ecological background, preferably including work in southern African biomes. Candidates must be independent and productive with a peer-reviewed publication track record. Applicants must be familiar and comfortable with remote sensing and GIS techniques as well as advanced statistics and spatial modelling. Proficiency in R and Google Earth Engine would be a distinct advantage.

Applicants must demonstrate an ability to undertake research, synthesise literature and data sources, and use scientific evidence to formulate defendable recommendations. The position also involves coordination and convening tasks linked to the establishment of a community of practice for ecological condition, inclusive of government, academia and civil society in South Africa.

Research Areas: The main avenues of research are:

• review and assess ecological condition and land degradation research and products that have been developed for South Africa and its neighbouring countries (potentially including products developed for livestock overgrazing, alien plant invasions, altered fire regimes, woody plant encroachment, climate change, unsustainable harvesting of biological resources, etc.);
• using the review, identify spatial, biogeographical and driver (or other) gaps in our knowledge of ecological condition and land degradation;
• develop regional remote sensing based tools and models to aid ecological condition assessment for key gaps identified;
• consolidate and harmonise key remote sensing ecosystem condition and land degradation products into a spatial database to enable assessment of ecosystem risk.
Value: A fellowship of R350,000 per year for three (3) years is available. Please note that this fellowship is not subject to income tax, and UCT will pay a stipend to the fellow as per their procedures. Some running expenses will also be made available each year.

Application procedure: Each application is to be accompanied by a standard bursary application cover sheet (attached to this advert). Applications are to include a full CV; certified copies of ID and academic records; two letters of reference (one must be from an academic supervisor); examples of published work; and a motivation letter (no longer than a page) describing the applicant’s suitability for the position in terms of skills, experience and published research. Send all documents to and with “SANBI-UCT Ecological Condition Postdoctoral Fellowship” in the subject line.

SANBI and UCT reserve the right not to fill this fellowship. If no response has been received by end October 2023, candidates may assume that their applications were unsuccessful.

Contact details: Academic queries:

Dr Andrew Skowno (
Dr Vernon Visser (

Application queries:
Ms René du Toit (

Apply Here