Congratulations, Dr Sally Hofmeyr
A couple of days before setting off to the Pan-African Ornithological Congress, Sally Hofmeyr heard the excellent news that her PhD had been through all the hoops, and that she was now Dr Hofmeyr. One of the first people she met at the conference was one of her three examiners, Dr Juliet Vickery, of the RSPB in the UK. (Sally's examiners were happy to have their names disclosed – the other two were Professor Andre Dhondt, Cornell University, and Professor Jeremy Greenwood, St Andrews University and former Director of the British Trust for Ornithology.)
We congratulate Sally on this fantastic achievement. Her thesis is entitled Impacts of environmental change on large terrestrial bird species in South Africa: insights from citizen science data. The research project involved using data collected by hundreds of citizen scientists over a period of 24 years to examine the status and ecology of six large terrestrial bird species. This was done with a view to understanding the effects of ongoing anthropogenic environmental change on these species, and to improving our understanding of their conservation needs. The research utilised data from two citizen science projects: the Coordinated Avifaunal Roadcounts (CAR) project, and the first and second Southern African Bird Atlas Projects (SABAP1 and SABAP2). The thesis begins with an investigation into the reliability of data from the CAR project, using counts conducted on consecutive days. Some species are more reliably surveyed by this methodology than others, depending behavioural characteristics. Subsequent chapters interrogate the data on each of the six focal species. One, the Southern Black Korhaan, was found to have decreased significantly in abundance, and it was recommended for inclusion in the IUCN Red List. The Blue Crane has undergone a dramatic shift of its core range from the Grassland biome where habitat destruction caused populations to decline, to the agricultural lands in the Fynbos biome, where extensive land transformation has made new habitat available. The thesis includes an analysis of the diversity of bustards and korhaans across South Africa, an assessment of coverage of key regions by CAR and SABAP2, and the conservation implications of the study. The research presents new ways of combining data from two different long-running citizen science projects to provide much needed information about the status and conservation needs of birds that are otherwise relatively poorly studied.
Sally's interest in ecology and conservation began in earnest on a wilderness trail run by the Wilderness Leadership School in the Umfolozi Game Reserve in 1994. Since then her passion for wild nature has grown, and with it a desire to understand the effects of anthropogenically caused environmental change on natural ecosystems. Her undergraduate degree focused on Wildlife Science, with a final year research project on the endangered Cape Vulture, when her supervisor Professor Steven Piper instilled in her an appreciation for the value of large, pre-existing and relatively unused data sets. Sally’s coursework MSc focused on African mammals, with a research project on giraffes and Acacia nigrescens, which was conducted in the Kruger National Park.
This PhD was supervised by Dr Phoebe Barnard (SANBI) and myself.
Sally moves on to a postdoc on Secretarybirds, with Dr Craig Symes at the University of the Witwatersrand as mentor, and I will play a role as well. She will be based at the Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, near Kuruman.
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