Snap shots from 11th Oppenheimer Research Conference

The Oppenheimer Research Conference creates a platform for researchers and practitioners in conservation sustainability to share their knowledge to increase its impact. Here are a few snap shots of presentations.

Colleen Downs: Persistence of wildlife in mosaic urban landscapes – a KwaZulu-Natal perspective

How to deal with monkeys in urban areas? Professor Colleen Downs says an understanding of the persistence of wildlife in urban mosaic landscapes gives insights into how changing land use affects biodiversity. She says that her research is important in showing how animals continue to survive in the human-modified mosaic environments they live in.

Many of the vertebrate species that exploit urban environments are able to do so as they can rely on human food or refuse. Citing a study on vervet monkeys at the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast’s Simbithi Housing Estate, Downs said the research offered practical management recommendations to ensure residents and animals could live in harmony. “The survival of many of the ‘scavengers’ in our urban environments is due to easily accessible refuse. A simple recommendation then would be to suggest monkey-proof refuse bins, for example, or to educate people on the dangers of feeding the monkeys.”

Prof Colleen T. Downs (BSc Hons, MEd, PhD, Pr Nat Sci) has been at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) since mid-1994. She is a Professor in the School of Life Sciences, UKZN, Pietermaritzburg campus and is a University Fellow. Downs holds a NRF SARChI Research Chair in Ecosystem Health and Biodiversity in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. She is a terrestrial vertebrate biologist with broad and interdisciplinary research interests. These include conservation, ecology, physiology and behaviour of terrestrial vertebrates (herps, birds and mammals) in unpredictable environments and with changing land use. Another interest is science education (particularly problems experienced by Biology students and the development of strategies to address these). Her other contribution has been developing research capacity, particularly at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

Author
Yves Vanderhaeghen

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