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Reasons to be Proud: Congratulations to Distinguished Professor in the Department of Zoology, and founding Director of the Centre for African Conservation Ecology (ACE), Professor Graham Kerley, who has been awarded a fellowship of the Royal Society of South Africa.

Fellowships are awarded to individuals who have “done outstanding work in the furtherance of science in South Africa as evidenced by original publications”, and must be nominated by four or more existing Fellows and then are elected by the body of all the Fellows.  

The Royal Society of South Africa is the country’s premier multi-disciplinary scientific organisation having received its Charter from Edward VII in 1908. The Society owes its existence to the efforts of members of the South African Philosophical Society (founded in Cape Town in 1877) who collaborated with scientists from three provinces after the Anglo-Boer War to establish a truly South African, broad-based scientific society. For a century, the Society has consistently played the leading role in being the public face of South African science.

Citation for Prof Kerley

Graham Kerley is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Zoology, and founding Director of the Centre for African Conservation Ecology (ACE) at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. Under his direction ACE (previously the Terrestrial Ecology Research Unit) has achieved international recognition for research and teaching. Graham has authored/co-authored 200 articles in peer-reviewed journals, 18 book chapters, 3 books, 19 conference proceedings, 61 technical reports, 29 popular articles and 296 conference presentations. He has supervised or co-supervised 50 MSc and 19 PhD students, with 8 MSc and 5 PhD students current, and 9 past or current postdoctoral fellows. He has served as external examiner for 10 South African universities and four internationally. His Google Scholar h-index is 46 and covers >6600 citations and his NRF rating is C1.

Graham started his research career with an MSc on hybridization of fur seals on Marion Island, which resulted in 13 publications. His PhD, on the role of small mammals as granivores in the Karoo, revised the then prevailing paradigm that desert rodents were granivores. He has since expanded his focus to the ecology of large mammals, animal plant interactions, predator prey interactions and environmental history, with conservation biology as a cross-cutting theme. His work on the historical occurrence of large mammals was published in three books with co-authors and papers from this include the extinction of the blue antelope, the hitherto unrecognised migratory herds of ungulates in the South African Highveld and an atlas of the historical distribution of 36 species (included in the recent Trans Roy Soc SA virtual volume on the most influential environmental studies 1877-2016).

The application of Graham’s work on prey preferences to predator ecology and management has extended to prey ecology and management, including activity patterns of mesoherbivores vs megaherbivores, and cascading interactions between megaherbivores, predators and prey. This has emphasized the value of studying African ecosystems with intact guilds of large predators and diverse ungulates. This research has included elephant diets, rhino forage availability, competition between elephant and rhino, the role of water provision in elephant impacts, and identification of plant species vulnerable to elephant impacts. Work on conservation biology included the recovery and emerging risks to the Cape mountain zebra and translocation success of black rhinos. His linking ecotourism and conservation led to the Greater Addo National Park Concept. He developed the refugee species idea to show how altered ecological baselines may lead to inappropriate conservation interventions, a concept he successfully applied to the European bison and to the mountain zebra.

Graham has played a leading role in science/conservation governance, serving on the Council (1995-2003) and as President (1998 -1999) of the Zoological Society of Southern Africa, the Boards of South African National Parks (2009-2015), Eastern Cape Parks (2004 -2010), and the Society for Conservation Biology (2008-2010, ex officio as Chair of Conference Committee). He sits on the editorial boards of two international and three South African journals and has served as reviewer for 43 journals. He has served as evaluator nationally for the Claude Leon Foundation, CSIR, five universities, Worldwide Fund for Nature, and internationally for the Austrian Science Fund, Foundation for Science and Technology Portugal, Griffiths Univ. (Australia), National Geographical Society, National Science Foundation (USA), Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research, Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research, and Wageningen University. He is an invited member of the IUCN Pig & Peccaries SSC.

Graham has received numerous awards, including : Port Elizabeth Citizen of the Year (Environmental Conservation) 1998; Mail & Guardian Green Trust Award (Overall winner – emerging) 1999; Special Presidential Award, Wildlife and Environment Society of SA, 1999;  “Top Ten Conservationists of the Decade” Mazda Wildlife Fund, 2000; Nelson Mandela Bay Citizen of the Year (Environmental Conservation) 2007;  Mike Cawood Trophy from the Eastern Cape Game Management Association 2007; Researcher of the Year, NMMU, 2007; Marie Curie Fellowship, Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences, 2009; Gold Medal, Zoological Society of Southern Africa 2015.

Graham collaborates with a diverse array of top scientists from all over the world and a third of his students and postdocs are from abroad, attesting to his international recognition.

Contact information
Professor Graham Kerley
Professor, Zoology & Director: Centre for African Conservation Ecology
Tel: 27 41 504 2308