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Research initiatives


ABEERU conducts basic and applied research to solve industry-related problems within the field of behavioural ecology. Based at the University of South Africa, the interdisciplinary unit’s research scope centres on the reaction of all components (biotic and abiotic) of ecosystems to changes in the urban and natural environment. ABEERU focuses on the management of associated cultural resources to ensure optimised and responsible utilisation of such resources to the benefit of all involved, without destroying the resources.
How can sustainable management and use of wildlife conserve nature and contribute to inclusive sustainable development in Africa? OGRC has partnered with AWEI to encourage conversation and undertake the research to find out what works for African wildlife economies, for both people and planet. The AWEI thinktank is focused on deepening knowledge of wildlife economies, disseminating knowledge to stakeholders, and utilising it to strengthen policy, governance and practice. Key focus areas include governance, ethics and operations of the wildlife economy. The multidisciplinary institute is based at Stellenbosch University but operates across the African continent.
The African island of Madagascar boasts a rich biodiversity, with as much as 90% found nowhere else on earth. However, it stands to lose 30% of its fauna and flora by the end of the 21st century. OGRC is partnering with The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust to support their species recovery work in Madagascar. In order to ensure species recovery and persistence, Durrell Conservation Trust focuses on rebuilding habitats, restoring ecological processes, and captive breeding programmes.

To match the scale, magnitude and urgency of environmental issues emerging worldwide, OGRC has partnered with the Global Change Institute (GCI) at the University of Witwatersrand and the Global Systems Institute (GSI) at the University of Exeter to develop an integrated, impactful portfolio for ecosystem scale research in Africa.

The programme will confront environmental degradation in Africa and explore avenues for maintaining resilient ecosystems under varying levels of human utilisation.  A key component of this research is the construction of a framework for prioritising ecosystem interventions in Africa, including what to protect and what to rehabilitate. Key issues include the economics of degradation, the definition of degradation and environmental and social justice.


Led by the University of Exeter in partnership with the University of the Witwatersrand, OPALS seeks to create long-term benefits to landscape understanding and management against a background of rapid environmental change.

Through funding, mentorship, and postgraduate training at the University of Exeter followed by placements with partner organizations, the programme will empower a cohort of African individuals, known as “Oppenheimer Impact Scholars”, with the expertise, experience, and networks at the interface of research and application to address some of the most pressing environmental challenges facing the continent. Research is designed around four cross-cutting themes: accessing and using environmental information for sustainable land management, modelling resilience in African landscape systems, supporting adaptation in African agricultural systems and supporting coastal adaptation.

Jennifer Ward Oppenheimer Research Grant

In partnership with Oppenheimer Generations Philanthropies, OGRC facilitates the awarding the Jennifer Ward Oppenheimer Research Grant. This research grant enables an early career African scientist with strong links to credible African institutions to undertake research that addresses real-world African issues of current and future importance. A grant of U.S.$150,000 is awarded every year to a new applicant to support a research project for up to three years.

Research Chairs

Professor Andre Ganswindt

andre ganswindt
Professor Andre Ganswindt is the Oppenheimer Chair for Emerging African Scientists in Non-invasive Wildlife Research at the University of Pretoria where he is Director of the Mammal Research Institute (MRI). Ganswindt studies behavioural endocrinology and reproductive science to improve animal management and welfare. The Chair provides multiple postgraduate studentships to young African scientists at the MRI. Research focuses on devising scientific methods for conducting physiological research without affecting animal health, and using these methods to determine how human activity affects animal stress to improve management policies for wildlife reserves, tourism and captive breeding.

Professor Paul Lane

professor paul lane
Professor Paul Lane is the Jennifer Ward Oppenheimer Professor of Deep History & Archaeology of Africa, based at the University of Cambridge. Lane is an archaeologist driven by anthropological and historical questions. Lane and two fellows in African Archaeology also supported in part by OGRC, are establishing the applied value of ecological knowledge to present day socio-ecological systems. Key topics explored include anthropological systems of water management, relationships between pastoralism and ecology, and the inclusion of African history to schooling systems.

Dr Riaan Rifkin

Riaan Rifkin

Dr Riaan Rifkin is the Oppenheimer Chair of Molecular Archaeology at the Centre for Microbial Ecology and Genomics, University of Pretoria. Rifkin’s interdisciplinary work spans anthropology, genetics and evolution, and focuses on the role of our historical relationship with pathogens in human evolution, migration and cultural adaptation to environment. Current research topics include reconstructing the original human disease profile through the examination of ancient DNA, and the impact of medication and Western diet on gut microbiome health in San communities. Honours and postgraduate studentships, and post docs are also supported through the Chair.


The Living Deserts of Southern Africa
The Living Deserts of Southern Africa

Southern African deserts are far from barren. These landscapes teem with endemic life specially adapted to cope with the dynamic extremes of desert environments. In 2020 OGRC partnered with Dr Barry Lovegrove, University of KwaZulu-Natal Professor Emeritus and esteemed evolutionary physiologist, to revisit these places and examine how climate change is changing their ecosystems since the first edition of “The Living Deserts of Southern Africa” was published in 1993.