Department of Biological Sciences

Faculty of Science, Engineering and Agriculture

Department of Biological Sciences

Contact Us
We are situated in a truly fascinating region of the world, the Vhembe District, South Africa and we are the only Zoology Department in the world situated within a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve!

Contact details:
Department of Biological Sciences
University of Venda
Private Bag X5050

Contact persons in the Department
Prof SH Foord +27 15 962 8492
Prof IEJ Barnhoorn +27 15 962 8041

About Us

The Department of Biological Sciences, by virtue of its unique biogeographic position, is focused on bringing its research and teaching to bear on sustainable rural livelihoods. In essence, the aim is to resolve conflicts between rapidly developing rural communities and ecosystems so that ecosystem resilience and services are not irreparably compromised for future generations. This research is all firmly entrenched in a rural setting where teaching is focused on students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The department’s expertise is therefore focused on the conservation of natural animal biodiversity, assessment of ecosystem health and change(terrestrial and aquatic) using animals as indicators and the teaching of underprepared students.
The Department also forms part of the newly established SARChi chair, “Biodiversity value and change in the Vhembe Biosphere Reserve”, housed in the School of Mathematical and Natural Science and Chaired by Prof PJ Taylor. This exciting new development will develop the University of Venda as a vibrant regional hub for biodiversity science, training and conservation action, centred on the Vhembe Biosphere Reserve.

Teach, research and communicate knowledge in the ecology, conservation and management of rural areas with the following thrusts:
· Global change ecology
· Evolutionary Genetics
· Alien invasion
· Freshwater conservation
. Insect Taxonomy

To discover, teach and broadly communicate, knowledge on sustainable rural livelihoods.

Strategic objectives
· Provide quality training for undergraduate students from previously disadvantaged communities that will enable them to access postgraduate opportunities nationally and internationally at reputable tertiary institutions.
· Maintain a rigorous, broad-based major in biological sciences that provides a compelling learning experience.
· Emphasize general purpose problem solving and analytical abilities that have broad applicability and so foster an ability to adapt to the changing world.
· Emphasize the fundamental building blocks in biology that constitute themes of unification and integration.
· Devise and maintain a non-major instructional program that captures the attention of students and enables them to understand a wide range of contemporary biomedical, biological, medical, and environmental issues.

· Focus research on scarce resources, water and biodiversity in particular.
· Develop strategic liaisons with national and international Universities, research institutions and international conservation organisations.


Communicate contemporary biological science in a compelling way to the public through lectures, workshops, service on boards, outreach to schools, interviews with the media, and other appropriate endeavors.

Inform public policy on the pressing problems of the day (e.g., bio-ethics, environment, evolution) through consultations, service on boards, and related endeavors.

Foster the development of science through service with professional societies, editorial boards, foundations, and funding agencies.

  • Advise undergraduates on the structure of their degree programs, research, and careers.
The following courses are offered by Zoology

BSc Botany and Zoology
BSc Biodiversity and Conservation
Diploma in Freshwater Technology
BSc Hons Zoology
BSc Hons Conservation Biology
MSc Zoology
PhD Zoology

Minimum requirements for BSc degree
National senior certificate as certified by the Council for General and Further Education and Training (Umalusi) with an achievement rating of 4 (Adequate achievement; 50-59%) or better in each one of the following four recognized 20-credit NSC subjects:
i) English
ii) Mathematics
iii) Physical Science
iv) Any other related subjects as judged by responsible Departments

Minimum requirements for Diploma in Freshwater Technology
National senior certificate with a minimum of 30% in the language of learning coupled with an achievement rating of 3 (moderate achievement; 40-49%) or better in four of the recognized 20-credit NSC subjects and a 4 in either Biology, Agricultural Science or Physical Science.

Courses / Modules
The department offers the following modules to its graduate and post-graduate students:

First year courses

BIO1541: Diversity of Life
Biological principles and the science of biology, the origin and chemistry of life, classification and phylogeny of animals, review of bacteria, fungi and viruses, kingdom protista (classification 7 characteristics), kingdom animalia (a general review), kingdom plantae (review , life cycles and theories of their possible origin).

BIO1542: Cell Biology
Organic chemistry: the scope of biochemistry, organic compounds of importance to the living system, structure, functional groups, stereochemistry and characteristics of the carbohydrates, lipids, proteins and nucleic acids, chemical-physical principles of biochemical bonds, matrix of life: weak interactions in an aqueous solution, energetics of life. Cytology: history of cell biology, cell theory, membrane biology, structure and features of eukaryotic cells, techniques used in cytology. prokaryotic cells. Genetics: DNA replication, transcription and translation, introductory principles of mitosis and meiosis, Chromosome variation, sex determination and the mechanism of sex related inheritance, Mendelian genetics, multiple factor inheritance

BIO 1643: Ecology, Adaptation and Evolution
Ecosystems, Energy flow and nutrient cycling, Analysis of communities, ecological hierarchy and sampling methodology, species and their relationship, common and rare species, latitude gradients, interactive network and food webs, niches and competition, demography, dispersal, evolution and natural selection, microevolution, macroevolution, origin of life.

BIO1644: Introductory Human Anatomy and Physiology
Introduction to human Physiology and Anatomy: chemical basis of life, introduction to cytology and cell physiology, histology: skin and integument, support and movement, integration and coordination, reproduction, processing and transportation

Second year modules
BIO2542: Ecology
Population distribution and abundance, population dynamics, population growth, life histories, competition, predation, herbivory, parasitism, mutualism. energy flow and nutrient cycling in ecosystems; biomes and factors determining spatial distribution of life zones in the world and South Africa.

ZOO 2544: Principles of Genetics
An introduction to the central principles of Genetics, covering the following topics: Genes and loci, Genetic markers and variation, DNA replication, Mutation, Recombination, Transcription, Protein synthesis (Translation), Regulation of gene expression, Genetic engineering, Genetic structure, Gene flow, Genetic drift, Selection, Artificial selection and domestication, Assortative mating/Sexual selection, Evolution, Mendelian Genetics, Modelling evolution

BIO 2646: Conservation Biology I
The natural world; principles and concepts; human impacts; habitat destruction and disturbance; sustainability; history of conservation biology; selecting protected areas; in situ and ex situ conservation issues; the landscape mosaic; managing for biodiversity; ecological restoration.

ZOO 2541: Animal Physiology
Introduction to cell structure and functions of cell organelles, specialized cell types, cell division, principles of cellular transport, Structure and function of tissues, organs and organ systems, Nutrition and feeding, Structure and function of the respiratory systems, including movement of respiratory gases in, out and around the body, Structure and function of the urinary system, and its role in regulating body fluids, Characteristics of body structure of a range of invertebrates and vertebrates in particular to type of skeletal systems, and movement, tructure and function of the nervous system including sense organs, initiation and transmission of nerve impulses and conduction across the synapse, co-ordination of the body in terms of sensory, integrative and motor functions of the nervous system

ZOO2648: Animal Phylogeny
Introduction to evolutionary biology, the tree of life: classification and phylogeny, patterns of evolution, evolution in the fossil record, history of life on earth, biogeography, evolution of biodiversity. Major animal body plans

Third year modules
BIO3646: Conservation Biology II
The natural world; principals and concepts; human impacts, habitat destruction and disturbance; sustainability; history of conservation biology, selecting protected areas; in situ and ex situ conservation strategies; the landscape mosaic, managing for biodiversity, ecological restoration.

BIO3544: Basic Freshwater Ecology
Identifying the applicable ecological concepts, the physic-chemical aspects of water, the hydrological cycle, the global and national water situation. The definition, structure, classification and functioning of wetlands and riparian areas. The origin, geomorphology, and zoning of wetlands. A review of rivers, fresh water lakes and wetland types in a global and regional perspective. Processes within water bodies (gasses, nutrients, primary and secondary production and the cycling of nutrients).

ZOO3649: Evolutionary Genetics

Darwin and Selection, Sexual selection, Adaptation, Mendel and Inheritance, Gene frequencies and allele frequencies, The Modern Synthesis, Genetic Drift and Migration, Recombination, Neutral vs Functional Variation, Epigenetics, Speciation, Molecular ecology, Conservation genetics, Ancient DNA, Measuring Genetic Diversity and Structure, Population genetics, Modelling and model testing, Coalescence, phylogenetics, Gene trees, Species trees and phylogenomics, phylogeography.

Honours modules
ZOO5607: Molecular Ecology
Human Evolution: from Africa to the world, Host-parasite interactions, Inferring Genetic Structure, Inferring Admixture, Models and model testing, Maximum Likelihood vs Bayesian Inference, Heuristic parameter estimation, Markov Chain Monte Carlo Simulations, Approximate Bayesian Computation, Coalescent Theory, Migration-Drift Equilibrium, Changes in Effective Population Size, Trees vs Networks, “Model-free” inference, Genetic landscapes

ZOO5611: Conservation Biology
Concepts (niche, life history, migration and dispersion, small populations, metapopulations, population interactions, succession, food webs, ecosystem functioning, biodiversity, island biogeography, sustainability) and the applications (alien invasive, restoration, conservation, minimum viable populations, habitat fragmentation, global climate change, economic thresholds, biological control, integrated pest management, eutrophication, agriculture, ecosystem health, conservation planning, economic implications

BIO5510: Freshwater Ecology
We examine four fundamental ecological questions that aquatic ecologists ask when assessing the distribution and abundance of organisms in freshwater systems. Fundamental ecological questions are used to identify key ecological processes that can play a role in determining the abundance of organisms in any freshwater ecosystem. Approaches to examine the regulation of water regimes, pollution, biomanipulation of food webs to improve water quality, and managing the impact of introduced species.

ZOO5609: Animal Ecophysiology
Costs of living: Cost of production and cost of maintenance, cost of reproduction, trade-offs and their measurements, Physiological energetic (feeding, metabolism and growth): the comparative physiology of animal digestive system, feeding and digestion, optimal foraging and optimal digestion, constraints imposed by food items, Growth in animals: central concept, growth curves, metabolism and growth, physiology and cellular aspects of growth, the regulation and integration of growth, hormonal influences, environmental factors and growth, environmental tolerance, environmental stressors, Niche overlap and diet analysis: measurement of niche breadth and niche overlap, dietary preferences and indices, Reproduction: endocrine control, species difference in reproductive mechanisms, ovulation rate, embryonic mortality, gestation length, patterns of reproduction, pregnancy and lactation, the costing of reproduction, types of costing, trade-offs and their causes, the environment and reproduction.

ZOO 5606: Insect Diversity and Conservation
Basic insect morphology; higher classification of the Class Insecta; threats to insects; response of insects to the landscape mosaic; surveying and monitoring, insect conservation planning and management.

Modules: Diploma in Freshwater Technology
The department offers the following taught modules to its diploma students while the other FWT modules are offered as projects that form part of work integrated learning

FWT 1641 : Fluvial geomorphology and the physico-chemical aspects of water
Fluvial geomorphology: The concept of fluvial geomorphology. Linking the river channel to the catchment and the concept of landscape connectivity. The geomorphological classification and zonation of rivers. Drivers of rivers systems . Water: The water molecule, the hydrological cycle, acids bases and buffers, gasses dissolved in water, the electrical conductivity of water, light, temperature, sediments, turbidity, suspended solids, dissolved substances and nutrients in water.

FWT 2531 : Basic Freshwater Ecology
Defining limnology and introducing the relevant ecological concepts. Classification of water bodies. General introduction to Wetlands (definition, classification, functioning), Lentic water bodies (definition, origin, classification functioning, and zonation) and Lotic water bodies (the river continuum concept, zoning, reaches and habitats). The physico-chemical character of water bodies. Primary and secondary production and the cycling of nutrients and energy. The impacts of damming, alien invasives, pollution and eutrophication on river systems.

FWT 2532: Freshwater Biology
Bacteria in freshwater. Freshwater algae and their role in the aquatic environment. The structure and function of plant and animal communities of rivers and wetlands, Review of the biology of the crustaceans, aquatic insects and freshwater fish.

FWT 2631: Identification of freshwater organisms
The role played by morphological characteristics in the identification of organisms. The use of keys and identification guides. The identification of microcopic organisms (algae and diatoms). The identification of aquatic macro-invertebrates. The identification of aquatic macrophytes with an emphasis on aquatic weeds and alien invasive organisms. The identification of freshwater fish.

FWT 3531 : Sampling technology
The purpose of water quality, monitoring. Sampling design. Measurement of the physical properties of water (DO, temperature, pH, conductivity, Turbidity, Light penetration), Sampling techniques of water sediment and fish for chemical analyses (major inorganic ions, heavy and trace metals, organic compounds) sampling techniques for biological and bacteriological analyses. Sampling techniques for toxicity testing. Early detection and eradication of alien invasives.
Sampling and preservation techniques of biological samples. (algae/diatoms/plants/insects/ fish)
c) The role of voucher specimens and other specimens for future reference.

Basic principles of management and sustainable development. Sustainable development and management of water resources. The principles and application of water and sewage treatment. Control of invasive plants and animals.

FWT 3631: Biomonitoring technology
Reasons for biomonitoring. The history and development of biomonitoring. EcoStatus and Ecological Reserve determination. Planning of a biomonitoring exercise. Introduction to indices currently in use in South Africa (FRAI, VEGRAI, MIRAI and SASS).

Diploma in Freshwater Technology
The Diploma in Freshwater Technology has been developed in response to identified needs within the water sector and will train technicians that can assist in the conservation of South Africa’s freshwater resources. The course draws considerably from the department’s strength in teaching and many years of research in freshwater biology.

Course coordinator: Ms Hermien Roux

Learning programme: Diploma in Freshwater Technology

Year 1 (NQF Level 5)Year 2 (NQF Level 6)Year 3 (NQF Level 7)
Semester 1Semester 2Semester 1Semester 2Semester 1Semester 2
Core modules
BIO 1543 (16)

Diversity of life for diploma students

BIO 1645 (16)

Ecology, Adaptation and Evolution for diploma students

FWT 2531 (20)

Basic Freshwater Ecology

FWT 2601 (30) Aquatic habitat delineation and classification


FWT 3531 (20) Sampling technologyFWT 3601 (30)

Water sampling (Project)


BIO 1544 (16)

Cell biology  for diploma students

FWT 1641 (16)

Fluvial geomorphology and the physico-chemical aspects of water

FWT 2532 (20)

Freshwater Biology

FWT 2602 (30) Collection and identification of freshwater organisms


FWT 3532 (20) Introduction to water resource managementFWT 3602  (30) Biomonitoring of a freshwater ecosystem


FWT 1541 (16)

Introductory biometry

FWT 1601 (28) An introduction into research methodology and project planningFWT 2533 (20) Identification of freshwater organisms FWT 3533 (20) Biomonitoring technology 
Fundamental modules
HWR 1541 (8)


COM 0601 (4)

Computer literacy

Total credits = 112Total credits = 120Total credits = 128

Hermien Roux
Tel 015 962 8041

Post Doctoral Research Fellows
Dr Sam Williams (PhD)— My research interests include conservation ecology, wildlife management, and animal behaviour, with an emphasis on African carnivores. I have a particular focus on identifying and mitigating threats to wildlife, and assessing the ecosystem services provided by predators.
I am an Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at Durham University in the UK. My previous positions include Research Coordinator at the Primate and Predator Project (South Africa), and Cheetah Project Coordinator at Dambari Wildlife Trust (Zimbabwe). I conducted my PhD at Durham University, studying the impact of land reform on the status of large carnivores in Zimbabwe. In addition to working in southern Africa, I have fieldwork experience in southeast Asia and Latin America.
Website:, Twitter:
Recent publications
Williams, S.T., Williams, K.S., Lewis, B.P. and Hill, R.A. (2017) Population dynamics and threats to an apex predator outside protected areas: implications for carnivore management. Royal Society Open Science 4. doi: 10.1098/rsos.161090. Download pdf.
Pitman, R.T., Fattebert, J., Williams, S.T., Williams, K.S., Hill, R.A., Hunter, L.T.B., Robinson, H., Power, J., Swanepoel, L., Slotow, R. and Balme, G.A. (2017), Cats, connectivity and conservation: incorporating datasets and integrating scales for wildlife management. Journal of Applied Ecology. DOI 10.1111/1365-2664.12851. Download pdf.
Williams, S.T., Williams, K.S., Joubert, C.J. and Hill, R.A. (2016) The impact of land reform on the status of large carnivores in Zimbabwe. PeerJ 4, e1537. DOI 10.7717/peerj.1537. Download pdf.
Pitman, R., Fattebert, J., Williams, S.T., Williams, K.S., Hill, R., Hunter, L., Slotow, R. and Balme, G. (2016) The conservation costs of game ranching. Conservation Letters. DOI: 10.1111/conl.12276. Download pdf.
Swanepoel, L.H., Balme, G., Williams, S., Power, R.J., Snyman, A., Gaigher, I., Senekal, C., Martins, Q. and Child, M. (2016) A Conservation Assessment of Panthera pardus. In: M.F. Child, L.R., D. Raimondo, E. Do Linh San, J. Selier and H. Davies-Mostert (eds), The Red List of Mammals of South Africa, Swaziland and Lesotho. South African National Biodiversity Institute and Endangered Wildlife Trust, Johannesburg. Download pdf.

Dr Andrinajoro (Joro) Rakatoarivelo (PhD)

Joro hails from Madagascar and did his PhD on the comparative genetics of bat species on that diverse island. Now, Joro is applying genomics to answer further unresolved issues in African mammal evolution. He is presently investigating incipient speciation of the bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus) complex, where ecological drivers are known to drive the evolution genetic structure. Using whole genome sequences Joro will also be looking at the genomic mechanisms of speciation and convergent evolution within closely related spiral-horned antelopes using bioinformatics and coalescent modelling.

Recent publications
Goodman, S.M., Schoeman, M.C., Rakotoarivelo, A., & Willows-Munro, S. (2016) How many species of Hipposideros have occurred on Madagascar since the Late Pleistocene? Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 177: 428-449.
Rakotoarivelo, A., Willows-Munro, S., Schoeman, M.C., Lamb, J.M. & Goodman, S.M. (2015) Cryptic diversity in Hipposideros commersoni sensu stricto (Chiroptera: Hipposideridae) in western Madagascar. BMC Evolutionary Biology 15:235.
Dr Grant Joseph (MBCHb PhD) — Grant is a medical practitioner, postdoctoral research scientist and conservation biologist. He is presently evaluating the interplay between termitaria, biodiversity, megaherbivores and global change in savannah systems. He maintains ongoing research in both invertebrate and vertebrate invasion biology (and in particular impacts to riparian and savannah systems through development of infrastructure and changed landuse), conservation biology, ornithology, and is presently investigating how ecological systems impact human health. He feels that through education and knowledge-sharing, scientists can play a pivotal role in achieving a sustainable future.
Recent publications
Joseph, G.S., Seymour, C.L. and Foord, S.H. 2017. The effect of infrastructure on the invasion of a generalist predator: Pied crows in southern Africa as a case-study. Biological Conservation (205) 11-15.
Joseph, G.S., Seymour, C.L., Coetzee, B.T.W., Ndlovu, M., de la Torre, A., Suttle, R., Hicks, N., Oxley, S. and Foord, S.H. 2016. Microclimates mitigate against hot temperatures in dryland ecosystems: termite mounds as an example.  Ecosphere 7(11) e01509. doi: 10.1002/ecs2.1509.
Seymour, C.L., Joseph, G.S., Makumbe, M., Cumming, G.S., Mahlangu & Cumming, D.H.M. 2016. Woody species composition in an African savanna: determined by centuries of termite activity but modulated by 50 years of ungulate herbivory. Journal of Vegetation Science Doi: 10.1111/jvs.12393.
Seymour, C.L., Simmons, R.E., Joseph, G.S. & Slingsby, J.A. 2015. On bird functional diversity: species richness and functional differentiation show contrasting responses to rainfall and vegetation structure in an arid landscape. Ecosystems. Doi: 10.1007/s10021-015-9875-8.
Joseph, G.S., Makumbe, M., Seymour, C.L., Cumming, G.S., Mahlangu, Z., and Cumming, D.H.M. 2015. Termite mounds mitigate against 50 years of herbivore-induced reduction of functional diversity of savanna woody plants. Landscape Ecology 30: 2161-2174. doi:10.1007/s10980-015-0238-9.
Joseph, G.S., Seymour, C., Cumming, G.S., Cumming, D.H.M., and Mahlangu, Z. 2014. Termite mounds increase functional diversity of woody plants in African savannas. Ecosystems. DOI: 10.1007/s10021-014-9761-9
Seymour, C.L., Milewski, A.V., Mills, A.J., Joseph, G.S., Cumming, G.S., Cumming, D.H.M. & Mahlangu, Z. 2014. Do the large termite mounds of Macrotermes concentrate micronutrients in addition to macronutrients in nutrient-poor African savannas? Soil Biology and Biochemistry 68:105-105.

Post graduate students

B Linden (2011 – ) Topic: Population dynamics and conservation of samango monkeys in the last remaining forest patches of the Soutpansberg.
CS Schoeman (2011-) Topic: Ant and beetle beta diversity and compositional turnover in an ancient quartzitic inselberg, the Soutpansberg, South Africa.
VT Egan (2011-) Topic: Niche Partitioning in the Genus Platysaurus (Squamata, Cordylidae) and Implications for its Conservation in North-Western Limpopo.
V Linden (2015—) Topic: How bat and bird communities affect insect damage of macadamia trees.
M Tonderai (2016—) Topic: Cultural ecosystem services provided by the Vhembe Biosphere Reserve: An assessment of the role of heritage databases and indigenous knowledge in conservation planning.
S Weier (2015—) Topic: Management of bat communities to increase pest control in Macadamia orchards, South Africa.
C Vise (2016—) Topic: Towards a Framework for Invasive Alien Plant Management in Biosphere Reserves
A Nengovhela (2015—) Topic: 3D cranial morphometry, sensory ecology and climate change in African rodents.
P Ramulifho (2016—) Topic: Modelling flow and temperature in the Luvivhi catchment and their impact on selected macroinvertebrate taxa (Simulidae & Ephemeroptera).
S Stringer (2017 —-) The relative role of sympatric primate species to seed dispersal and species composition in a matrix of land types in the Soutpansberg Mountain, South Africa

B Mboweni (2011-) Topic: An investigation of the genetic relationship between O. mossambicus and O. niloticus occurring in Nandoni Dam with the use of microsatellites markers.
J Linden (2015—) Topic: Priorities for biodiversity conservation planning in the Vhembe Biosphere Reserve.
F Elegbeleye ( 2016—) Topic: Conservation genomics of remnant Southern African population of Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis).
M Mululvhahothe (2016—) Topic: Trait-based approach in understanding ant assemblage structure across an elevational gradient, Soutpansberg Mountain, South Africa.
FM Seshoka (2016 – ) Topic: Mancozeb in natural water sources in the Vhembe District and the possible endocrine disrupting activity/potential there-of.
K Emslie (2015—) Topic: The effects of anthropomorphically mediated vegetation structure on the foraging behaviour of small mammals exposed to varying predation pressures .
Z Nethavhani (2017—) Topic: Ecology and potential for sustainable economic use of Imbrasia belina (mopane worm) in Limpopo province, South Africa.
W Pretorius (2017 —) Diversity and pathogen regulation : Testing the dilution effect across a diversity gradient.

Visiting Academics

Professor Dippenaar-Schoeman retired in 2013 after 46 years as Specialist Scientist and Unit Manager of the Arachnology Unit of the Biosystematics Division, ARC . She still works at the ARC on a part-time basis as a mentor and continues to identify material for students and the SANSA project. She is an extraordinary professor at the University of Pretoria, an association she has held since 2002, and holds an appointment as a Adjunct Professor at the University of Venda. She recently received a B2 rating from the National Research Foundation for the period 2015–2020, independent evidence of her worth and status within the South African and international scientific community. Her research interests are very broad, as demonstrated by her publication list, and include taxonomy and systematics, biodiversity, ecology, biology and predation behaviour of arachnids. She continues to be heavily involved in SANSA activities, publications and identifications. She is presently involved in the first Red Data assessments of South African spiders, one of the required outputs from the SANSA project. This will lead to the publication of an updated atlas on all the spider species of South Africa. She has now time to continue with research on the Thomisidae and is working on a handbook on them.


Professor Dalton’s research focus is in the field of molecular ecology and her areas of expertise is to determine the genetic integrity of populations and contribute to genetic management of wildlife species in Africa. Her specialization includes marker development and identification and validation of rapid and accurate methods for genetic analysis of species and especially for the field of forensic genetics where reliable, robust and reproducible results are critical. She currently conduct multidisciplinary research on flagship species such as cheetah, pangolin, sungazer and penguin.


Professor Hill’s main research interests are in the behavioural ecology of primates and other large mammals and in particular in understanding the decisions animals make about their social and reproductive strategies. In doing so he combines field studies with theoretical analyses based on modelling. He runs the Primate & Predator Project based at the Lajuma Research Centre in the Soutpansberg Mountains, South Africa, and have previously managed other projects in South Africa based at De Hoop Nature Reserve and in the Kruger National Park. His postgraduate students have conducted projects across southern Africa, and increasingly their work is examining mammalian conservation and human-wildlife conflict from an interdisciplinary perspective. He also has interests in applying evolutionary principles to explore a number of different aspects of human behaviour, particularly in understanding the role of the colour red in human competitive interactions.


Prof. Norbert Hahn is a biologist resident in the Soutpansberg and is the curator of the Herbarium Soutpansbergensis (ZBP). He is a SACNASP registered Professional Natural Scientist, Botanical Science (400241/14). He has undertaken many scientific studies within the Soutpansberg and southern Africa mainly focused on botany, biogeography, endemism and related disciplines. The results of these studies are published in books, peer reviewed journals and other sources. He has also conducted many surveys for various companies, Government Departments and Universities relating to botany within the Limpopo and North West Provinces. He is one of the founding members of the Vhembe Biosphere Reserve, of which he is presently a board member.
In 2002 he concluded his MSc. thesis on the Endemic Flora of the Soutpansberg through the University of Natal (cum laude). In 2006 he obtained his PhD, entitled: Floristic diversity of the Soutpansberg, Limpopo Province, South Africa trough the University of Pretoria.
Professor Hahn collected and described several new species endemic to the Vhembe Biosphere Reserve including: Combretum Van Wyk vendae var. glabrata N. Hahn (Combretaceae), Ledebouria caesiomontana A.J. Hankey & N. Hahn, Pavetta tshikondeni N. Hahn (Rubiaceae), Rabdosiella leemannii N. Hahn (Lamiaceae), Senegalia montis-salinarum N. Hahn (Fabaceae) and Vangueria soutpansbergensis N. Hahn (Rubiaceae).  His achievements are also honoured in the naming of Aloe hahnii G.F. Smith & R.R. Klopper G.F. Smith & R.R. Klopper endemic to both the Soutpansberg and Blouberg.
Recent publications:
HAHN, N. 2011. Refinement of the Soutpansberg Geomorphic Province, Limpopo, South Africa. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa 66(1): 32–40.
HAHN, N. 2012. A revision of the Combretum vendae complex. South African Journal of Botany 78: 147–149.
HAHN, N. 2013. Senegalia lotterii (Fabaceae) a new species endemic to the Barberton Centre of Endemism, South Africa. Phytotaxa 119(1): 51–54.
HAHN, N. 2016. Senegalia montis-salinarum, a new species of Fabaceae: Mimosoideae endemic to the Soutpansberg, South Africa. Phytotaxa 244(2): 174–180.

Research Profile and Activities
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Evolutionary and Conservation Genetics – Prof Yoshan Moodley
Research opportunities
The Department of Zoology has an established bioinformatics and population genetics hub at the University. This platform presently runs several standard bioinformatics pipelines used for the manipulation of next generation sequencing (NGS) data. These include mapping short-read sequences, editing and sorting contigs and multiple genome alignments. We also perform a wide range of evolutionary analyses such as coalescent modelling, Baysesian and likelihood approaches and applied Bayesian computation.
Below is a list of just some of the exciting topics within the fields of evolutionary and conservation genomics research presently carried out at the Moodley lab. We are always on the look out for interested students at the MSc and PhD level, so if you find this kind of work exciting, please get in contact with us. Please also be informed that genetics at the Department of Zoology is not laboratory based. The Department does not have the capability presently to generate NGS data, and so all wet lab data generation is either outsourced or carried out abroad. Our focus is thus highly analytical, and before applying for a postgrad degree in this field, students should be aware that they require a very good understanding of the evolutionary processes that change population allele frequencies and in particular the interplay between the forces of selection and demography.
General research topics (feel free to suggest your own!):
Tracing human migrations using Helicobacter pylori
Speciation using the spiral-horned antelopes (Tragelaphus), prions (Pachyptila) and African rhinoceros (D. bicornis, C. simum) as models
Conservation Genetics: African rhinoceros, mountain zebra, and various other species.
Phylogeography: Pan African studies using widespread species such as the bushbuck as models.

Global change and invertebrates – Prof Stefan Foord
Invertebrates comprise the bulk of biodiversity and contributes most of the ecosystem services humans rely upon. My research group therefore also has disparate taxonomic interests, ranging from termites through to mopane worms. Our main research focus though, s that of invertebrate diversity and their role in ecosystem function in an environment that is rapidly changing. The Vhembe region provides an ideal geographical location to study these changes with contrasting land use practices that vary from the iconic Kruger National Park through to intensive commercial subtropical farming. This together with a rapidly growing human population has undoubtedly resulted in the changes historically never experienced in the region. Our approach in addressing these questions are mainly field-based and experimental with an emphasis on quantitative analysis which vary from network through to multivariate approaches
Current projects:
Long-term monitoring of ant and spider assemblages across an elevational transect. This project is now in its 9th year and includes abundance data for 135 ant species and 257 spider species at 44 sites stratified across elevations (Collaborator: Dr TC Munyai – UKZN)
Insect and spider ecosystem services in Mango and Macadamia (Collaborators: Dr CL Seymour – SANBI, Dr I Grass – University of Göttingen, Prof T Tscharntke – University of Göttingen
Mopane worm abundance and distribution (Dr RVeldtman – SANBI)
Benthic macroinvertebrate diversity in the Luvuvhu river catchment (Dr. Nick Rivers-Moore – Freshwater Research Centre (FRC))
Functional invertebrate diversity in communal lands (Dr G Joseph)
South African National Survey of Arachnida (Prof AS Dippenaar-Schoeman, Dr Charles Haddad, Dr L Lotz, Ms R Lyle)

Aquatic Toxicology – Prof Irene Barnhoorn
The freshwater toxicology research group pays attention to research on endocrine disruption and health effects in aquatic and terrestrial wildlife. Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) have been defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as “an exogenous agent that interferes with synthesis, secretion, transport, metabolism, binding action, or elimination of natural blood-borne hormones that are present in the body and are responsible for homeostasis, reproduction, and developmental process.” The importance of endocrine disruption studies cannot be overemphasized as EDCs have been considered as carcinogenic, mutagenic and neurotoxic. In South Africa various research groups reported the presence of an array of EDCs in water, sediment and fish tissues. The EDCs that are specifically more harmful are called Persistent Organic Pollutants, or POPs. The list of POPs are enclosed by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. The Stockholm Convention in short as described by UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization); ”The Stockholm Convention is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from persistent organic pollutants (POPs). POPs are chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods, become widely distributed geographically, accumulate in the fatty tissue of living organisms and are toxic to humans and wildlife. POPs circulate globally and can cause damage wherever they travel. In implementing the Convention, Governments will take measures to eliminate or reduce the release of POPs into the environment. Some of the POPs are included in the pesticides, veterinary drugs and metals reported in fresh water, sediment and fish species.
Research from the past, before 2016, mainly focused on the the story of DDT as the prime endocrine disrupting chemical (EDC) and the impact of contamination in this Vhembe District of South Africa. However other chemicals such as metals, organophosphorus pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic compounds (PAHs), phenols, personal care products, pharmaceuticals and ARV’s have been found in the water from selected sites in the Luvuvhu River catchment.. Currently the focus is on ARV’s and pharmaceuticals and research projects are ongoing.
Current projects:
1) ARV’s in rivers feeding the Nandoni Dam and the potential fish health effects.
2) Mancozeb in natural water sources in the Vhembe District and the possible endocrine disrupting activity/potential thereof.
3) The concern for human health effects in communities after consumption of fish harvested from the Nandoni Dam in the Luvuvhu River catchment.
4) Antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) in the surface water from a rural area in South Africa and their potential environmental risks

Conservation Ecology of carnivores – Dr Lourens Swanepoel
My current research focuses on issues related to the Conservation Ecology of carnivores.  These include the role of mammalian (meso-carnivores) and avian predators play in ecosystem functioning and ecosystem services, the conservation management of carnivores, the density/diversity and distribution of small carnivores, and the ecology of small carnivores inhabiting the agro-ecological matrix. Parallel to these projects I also focus on prey animals for small carnivores, largely small mammals (rodents). Finally, I have recently become interested in the disease component of small carnivores inhabiting human dominated landscapes. I occasionally get involved into projects relating to conservation genetics, social sciences and community based conservation. Our research is field based, however, we also rely on large dataset previously collected. As such prospective MSc students will often only be required to do limited fieldwork and use existing datasets (unless they are independently funded). PhD students should have proven ability to work independently they must have medium to advanced statistical ecology knowledge. We rely heavily on R software and I require that prospective PhD studies have R coding skills, or they should be willing to enroll to online courses to improve skill levels.

Current research:
1) Ecologically based rodent management – Vhembe District Limpopo and Free State
2) Predation ecosystem services modeled with APSIM crop models.
3) Small mammal population dynamics – Secunda Synfuel plant.
4) Small mammal population dynamics – Hoopstad & Sandveld Nature Reserve
5) Small mammal population dynamics – Vhembe District
6) Small carnivore and rodent disease ecology – Secunda, Free State, Vhembe District
7) Small carnivore diversity and distribution – Limpopo and KZN provinces
8) Small carnivore diversity and distribution in agro-ecological matrixes
9) Civet latrine study—Soutpansberg
10) Civet and genet population dynamics—Soutpansberg
11) Livestock guard dogs—Soutpansberg

The following is a list of staff in the Department of Biological Sciences

Name:  Mr Maanda Hadzhi Ligavha-Mbelengwa
Designation:  Lecturer
Qualification:  UED (University of Venda Production), BSC (University of Venda Production), BSC (University of Venda Production), BSCHON (University of Venda Production), BSCHON (University of Venda Production), MSC (UNIVERSITY OF CAPE TOWN)
Telephone:  0159628275
Office:  LIFE SCIENCES Building, Office Number  , Floor Number  

Name:  Mr Thivhulawi Robert Tshivhandekano
Designation:  Senior Lecturer
Qualification:  BSC (University of Venda Production), BSCHON (UNIVERSITY OF CAPE TOWN), MSC (UNIVERSITY OF CAPE TOWN)
Telephone:  0159628261
Office:  LIFE SCIENCES Building, Office Number  , Floor Number  

Name:  Prof Yoshan Moodley
Designation:  Professor
Telephone:  0159628000
Office:  LIFE SCIENCES Building, Office Number  , Floor Number  

Name:  Mr Humbulani Edward Munzhelele
Designation:  Lecturer
Telephone:  0159628000
Office:  LIFE SCIENCES Building, Office Number  , Floor Number  

Name:  Miss Nonkululeko Swelankomo
Designation:  Lecturer
Telephone:  0159628000
Office:  LIFE SCIENCES Building, Office Number  , Floor Number  

Name:  Miss Hermien Roux
Designation:  Lecturer
Telephone:  0159628000
Office:  LIFE SCIENCES Building, Office Number  , Floor Number  

Name:  Mr Mashudu Gabriel Phaphana
Designation:  Lab Technician
Qualification:  UED (University of Venda Production), BA (University of Venda Production)
Telephone:  0159628009
Office:  LIFE SCIENCES Building, Office Number  , Floor Number  

Name:  Miss Mankone Priscilla Legodi
Designation:  Laboratory Technician
Telephone:  0159628133
Office:  LIFE SCIENCES Building, Office Number  , Floor Number  

Name:  Dr Sanet Hugo
Designation:  Lecturer
Telephone:  0159628000
Office:   Building, Office Number  , Floor Number  

Name:  Prof Irene Ellen Jane Barnhoorn
Designation:  Professor
Telephone:  0159628492
Office:  LIFE SCIENCES Building, Office Number  , Floor Number  

Name:  Dr Colin Stefan Schoeman
Designation:  Senior Lecturer
Telephone:  0159628000
Office:  LIFE SCIENCES Building, Office Number  , Floor Number  

Name:  Dr Khathutshelo Magwede
Designation:  Lecturer
Qualification:  UED (University of Venda Production), MAD (University of Venda Production), BSCHON (University of Venda Production), PHD (UNIVERSITY OF JOHANNESBURG)
Telephone:  0159628007
Office:  LIFE SCIENCES Building, Office Number  , Floor Number  

Name:  Prof Milingoni Peter Tshisikhawe
Designation:  Professor
Qualification:  PDIP (RHODES UNIVERSITY), BSC (University of Venda Production), MSC (University of Venda Production), BSCHON (University of Venda Production), PHD (UNIVERSITY OF PRETORIA)
Telephone:  0159628301
Office:  LIFE SCIENCES Building, Office Number  , Floor Number  

Name:  Prof Lourens Hendrik Swanepoel
Designation:  Professor
Telephone:  0159628000
Office:  LIFE SCIENCES Building, Office Number  , Floor Number  

Name:  Prof Nndivhaleni Anox Masevhe
Designation:  Lecturer
Qualification:  UED (University of Venda Production), BA (University of Venda Production), BSC (University of Venda Production), MSC (University of Venda Production), BSCHON (University of Venda Production), DPHIL (UNIVERSITY OF PRETORIA)
Telephone:  0159628000
Office:  LIFE SCIENCES Building, Office Number  , Floor Number  

Name:  Mr Desmond Edward Conlong
Designation:  Casual Employees
Telephone:  0159628000
Office:   Building, Office Number  , Floor Number  

Name:  Dr Sarah Marguerite Venter
Designation:  Casual Employees
Telephone:  0159628000
Office:   Building, Office Number  , Floor Number  

Name:  Miss Mokgadi Flesher Seshoka
Designation:  Lecturer
Telephone:  0159628000
Office:  ADMINISTRATION BUILDING Building, Office Number  , Floor Number  

Name:  Mr Vusi Besil Mboweni
Designation:  Part Time Lecturer(Zoology)
Telephone:  0159628000
Office:   Building, Office Number  , Floor Number  

Name:  Dr Maud Bonato
Designation:  Senior Lecturer
Telephone:  0793689568
Office:   Building, Office Number  , Floor Number  

Name:  Ms Mulalo Meriam Muluvhahothe
Designation:  Casual Employees
Telephone:  0159628000
Office:   Building, Office Number  , Floor Number  

Name:  Miss Tebogo Allison Mocheki
Designation:  Part-Time Lecturer(Botany)
Telephone:  0159628000
Office:  ADMINISTRATION BUILDING Building, Office Number  , Floor Number  

Name:  Mr Consol Kubayi
Designation:  Casual Employees
Telephone:  0159628000
Office:   Building, Office Number  , Floor Number  

Dr Sanet Hugo – Lecturer – Department of Biological Sciences – Faculty of Science, Engineering and Agriculture
Dr Sanet Hugo – Lecturer – Department of Biological Sciences – Faculty of Science, Engineering and Agriculture
Dr Sanet Hugo is a Lecturer in the Department of Biological Sciences. She has worked for over five years in the higher education sector. She specialises in ecological statistics and has published extensively in peer reviewed and accredited journals. Qualifications: PhD in Zoology (University of Pretoria) Phone: Email:

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