Change the world


Emily and Samantha McCulloch-Jones, will both graduate with a PhD in Nature Conservation at Nelson Mandela University’s George Campus Ceremony on 8 April.

Emily (30), who obtained 89% for her master's in Nature Conservation, was the winner of three top awards at the University’s Academic Awards ceremony in 2019. She won the best Master’s Degree by Dissertation in Science, Engineering and Technology award, the Rupert Gesinstigting Academic Award and the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Academic Excellence as the best postgraduate in Science, Engineering and Technology. She also obtained her BTech cum laude from Mandela Uni.  

Emily was known as “the fern lady” as her research focused on invasion biology; and particularly, alien ferns, their ecology and distribution globally. She also focused on how trade influences their invasion potential as well as a source of introduction for alien species.

For her PhD, Samantha (36) worked with governance, looking at landscape scale conservation initiatives on the west coast of South Africa and the transfer of knowledge between conservation entities. She also obtained her BTech and master’s at Mandela Uni.

Emily PhD was supervised Dr Tineke Kraaij of the Science Faculty and Samantha's was supervised by Prof Dirk Roux of the Science Faculty and co-supervised by Dr Bianca Currie-Killick of the Department of Natural Resources Science and Management.

Samantha works in the consultancy field and is currently compiling a state of knowledge report and data repository for the Garden Route Biosphere Reserve.

Emily is currently doing a post-doc with SANBI (the South African National Biodiversity Institute) at Stellenbosch University, developing a method to assess the environmental damage costs of alien trees on water systems in South Africa.

“We both enjoy the prospects of our current trajectories and hope to continue to grow in these roles”, says Emily. 

Emily (pictured left) and Samantha married in April 2021, both with less than a year to go in their studies.

“Being able to complete our studies side by side after having walked this PhD journey together with all of its ups and downs, has been the most incredible and fulfilling experience. We hope to make women in science proud and together work towards bridging the gap between science and practice to facilitate the shift towards an environmentally conscious future in South Africa”, says the couple.  

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