We are offering two fully-funded PhD opportunities through the University of Botswana and the National University of Science & Technology in Zimbabwe, in partnership with Pretoria University in South Africa and Aarhus University in Denmark. The selected PhD candidates will form part of a broader programme that examines the contribution that different rangeland management practices make to wildlife conservation in Southern Africa.
Background: The broader programme, termed “Cattle Corridors – Aligning ecological processes and local livelihoods”, is funded by the Jennifer Ward Oppenheimer Research Grant through Oppenheimer Generations – Research and Conservation. The programme brings together academics and conservation practitioners from institutes across Southern Africa and Denmark.
The programme aims to demonstrate the ecological connectivity that can be achieved through the maintenance of functional rangelands. We will explore the ways in which, and the conditions under which, the presence of pastoralists and their cattle may provide functional ecological connectivity between more intact, but isolated wilderness ecosystems.
Despite the protection afforded to wildlife populations within the confines of protected areas, changes in land-use and land management approaches in the space that separates conservation areas, are causing the protected populations to become increasingly fragmented. Yet in many parts of Africa, semi-natural rangelands occur in landscape mosaics in and amongst protected areas and have the potential to make very meaningful contributions to conservation by facilitating species movement amongst protected areas. In this programme we will explore this potential and evaluate how cattle create habitat characteristics and vegetation structure that enable natural dispersal in animals and plants.
The PhD Opportunities:
There are two exciting opportunities for PhD candidates to each take charge of one component of this programme:
PhD 1: Evaluate the impact of different cattle management practices on rangeland vegetation structure and its implications for the dispersal potential of smaller wildlife species.
This candidate will be registered at the University of Botswana and will work towards understanding how the ecosystem impact of cattle shapes the physical structure of vegetation in rangelands (especially herbaceous layers). Among other topics, the selected candidate will explore the patterns and dynamics of herbaceous layer structure,
THI IN RM OTHER TE N S K
– at different spatiotemporal scales and
– under different cattle management practices (e.g., densities and mobility).
The candidate will investigate the links between any such spatiotemporal heterogeneity in the herbaceous layer, dispersal parameters such as cover and microclimates, and wildlife presence and behavior.
PhD 2: Explore the mechanisms through which cattle shape nutrient and mineral landscapes in rangelands and the implications for the dispersal potential of plant species.
This candidate will be based at the National University of Science and Technology in Zimbabwe and study the role of cattle in liberating nutrients and shaping elemental landscapes across rangelands.
Due to their large size and mobility, cattle will be expected to liberate and relocate large amounts of biological material, by consuming, transporting, and redistributing nutrients and minerals. Among other topics, the selected candidate will explore the role that cattle play in creating the nutrient and mineral conditions that facilitate plant dispersal. Using this nutrient information, the candidates will include controlled greenhouse experiments looking at germination rates and plant survival under different nutrient conditions.
Both PhD candidates will have an opportunity to work in at least two field sites (Shangani Ranch in Zimbabwe and the Eastern Okavango Panhandle in Botswana). Both projects will include extended fieldwork periods where the candidates will be expected to work together in data collection.
PhD 1 will be enrolled at the University of Botswana with a supervisory team as follows:
– Dr Edwin Mudongo (Head of Herding Programme at CLAWS, Conservancy-Communities Living Among Wildlife Sustainably)
– Dr Richard Fynn (Professor at the Okavango Research Institute, University of Botswana)
– Dr Elizabeth le Roux (Assistant Professor at the Section of Ecoinformatics and Biodiversity at
Aarhus University in Denmark and Fellow of the Mammal Research Institute at University of Pretoria)
PhD 2 will be enrolled at the National University of Science & Technology in Zimbabwe with a supervisory team as follows:
– Dr Rangarirai Huruba (Head of Operations at Shangani Holistic)
– Dr Allan Sebata (Professor at the National University of Science & Technology in Zimbabwe)
– Dr Elizabeth le Roux (Assistant Professor at the Section of Ecoinformatics and Biodiversity at Aarhus University in Denmark and Fellow of the Mammal Research Institute at University of Pretoria)
The PhDs will each be expected to be based at their university of enrolment but will be expected to spend a significant period of time (up to three months) at Aarhus University in Denmark in the final year of their PhD study period (travel expenses and accommodation in Aarhus will be covered by the project funds during this period).
In addition to the direct supervisory team, each PhD will have the opportunity to work and interact with several other programme partners, including wildlife managers, conservation practitioners and other academics.
Successful candidates will be expected to present the findings of their research to audiences at academic conferences (including one international conference) and at a final dissemination workshop involving the pastoralist communities that were involved in the research, conservation practitioners, ranch/conservancy managers and local decision makers. Applicants must hold African citizenship and thus we encourage all qualified African applicants to apply, regardless of gender, religion or ethnicity.
This project is funded by Oppenheimer Generations Research and Conservation through the Jennifer Ward Oppenheimer Research Grant. Selection Criteria for the Candidate
Essential requirements for both PhD candidates:
1. The candidate must be a citizen of an African country
2. An MSc degree in Environmental Science, Ecology, or other relevant field.
3. Basic experience with quantitative data collection, and a basic statistical understanding with experience in data analyses.
4. English proficiency – both verbal and written
Preferred additional requirements for both PhD candidates
1. A basic competence in the statistical analysis language R will be a great advantage.
2. Experience with mixed effect models
3. Proficiency in a local language of the country of enrolment will be an advantage, but not essential
4. Previous publications will be a great advantage, but not essential.
Each student will receive an annual stipend of 150 000 ZAR subject to adequate progress. In addition to this stipend, university tuition fees will be fully covered by the project funds, and each student will receive a computer to use through the three-year study period.
Applications must be sent to Dr Elizabeth le Roux at email@example.com
Please insert the following subject line: “PhD Application for Cattle Corridors” and indicate in your email for which of the two positions you are applying.
Documents to include:
– CV – A single page motivation, explaining why you would be interested in the position and why you believe your previous experience would make you a suitable candidate for consideration. – MSc, Honours degree and BSc transcript documents. – Names and emails of two referees (we will contact the referees from shortlisted candidates, please make sure that they are aware of your application and that they may be contacted)
Shortlisted candidates will be invited for an online interview. Candidates are encouraged to apply as soon as possible as interviews will be held on a rolling basis and the positions will be offered once two strong candidates have been identified. The position will remain open until filled. The start date will be March 2023 or as soon as possible thereafter. Any questions can be directed per email to Dr Elizabeth le Roux (firstname.lastname@example.org).