Eco-warning system earns award

Circle of life: Leslie Underhill was capped at his PhD graduation in December 1973 by Harry Oppenheimer himself. (Supplied)

Circle of life: Leslie Underhill was capped at his PhD graduation in December 1973 by Harry Oppenheimer himself. (Supplied)

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.

Victoria John

Victoria John

Victoria studied journalism, specialising in photojournalism, at Rhodes University from 2004 to 2007. After traveling around the US and a brief stint in the UK she did a year's internship at The Independent on Saturday in Durban. She then worked as a reporter for the South African Press Association for a year before joining the Mail & Guardian as an education reporter in August 2011. Read more from Victoria John

Client Media Releases

Fedgroup drives industry reform in unclaimed benefits sector
Hardworking students win big at architecture awards
VUT presents 2019 registration introduction
Vocational training: good start to great career