Change the world


Reasons to be Proud #R2bP - Distinguished Professor in Botany Richard Cowling has received a Gold Medal from the ASSAf Academy of Science, the apex awards of the Academy and the South African science system in recognition of outstanding achievements by individuals.


Professor Jonathan Jansen congratulates Prof Richard Cowling

Up to two gold medals are awarded per annum for outstanding achievement in scientific thinking for the benefit of society. The other medal this year was awarded to Prof Glenda Gray, the first female President of the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) and an NRF A-rated scientist.  

Prof Richard Cowling is a respected academic par excellence, an exemplary champion of biodiversity conservation, a phenomenal mentor and an inspiration and friend to many.

Prof Cowling’s internationally recognised research in the fields of plant diversity and evolution, conservation science, restoration ecology and paleoecology, has been ground-breaking and significant, not only contributing to theory, but firmly embedded in practice.

His well-recognised body of work, that includes over 400 peer-reviewed contributions, including many in top journals and a feature on ISI’s 250 most highly cited researchers in Ecology & Environment (2005) has led to global recognition.

Amongst other accolades, he has an NRF A-rating spanning five evaluation periods from 1998 to 2021 and he was elected as a Foreign Member to the USA National Academy of Sciences – of only nine South Africans to receive such an honour.

Such impact, while globally relevant, has remained true to its core purpose – having had a profound influence on the protection of South Africa’s exceptionally rich biological diversity.

Throughout his career, Prof Cowling has competently reached out beyond academia to influence conservation practice and policy, with tangible and long-term benefits to our society.

In the realms of sustainable land use planning and protected area expansion, he was influential in the establishment of numerous protected areas, and he has played a fundamental role in several large-scale landscape initiatives.

His concern over degraded landscapes and work on Restoration Ecology helped the formation of the EPWP Working for Water programme, in 1995 – resulting in the protection of increasingly threatened & scarce water supplies across our biodiversity rich landscapes.

Prof Cowling is a respected and beloved leader with a cause; his dedication and integrity will continue to inspire hope for our South African landscapes and its people well into the future.

Contact information
Ms Elma de Koker
Internal Communication Practitioner
Tel: 041-504 2160