Eco-warning system earns award
An emeritus professor at the Uni-versity of Cape Town, Leslie Under-hill, has been rewarded the 2011 Harry Oppenheimer Fellowship Award for his work on statistical ecology.
As director of the animal demography unit in the zoology department, Underhill is building a toolkit to monitor biodiversity in South Africa that will provide an early warning system for problems in its ecosystems.
“We are trying to create annual indices so that we can track problems as they arise,” he said. “A lot of the indicators that we have, such as animal counts, are best described as trailing indicators because they alert us to problems after they have happened.
But what we really need are leading indicators that alert us to problems as they are arising.”
A major project that is sponsored by the award is the MammalMAP project, which will track mammal populations throughout Africa.
The award was adjudicated late last year but only formally handed over on June 1.
The award, an initiative of the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust, is granted to scholars who are engaged in “cutting-edge, internationally significant work that has particular application to the advancement of knowledge, teaching, research and development in South Africa,” according to the trust.