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PhD student

Cherié Dirk (Forbes)

Thesis topic: Using palaeoecology to investigate changes in ecosystem services in response to climate and social-ecological drivers in the Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area and surrounding agricultural lowlands, in the Cape Floristic Region, South Africa.

Primary supervisor: A/Prof Lindsey Gillson; Co-supervisor: Prof M. Timm Hoffman 
Office: Room 5.02, HW Pearson Building

Cherié is a PhD student at the University of Cape Town (UCT) specialising in applied palaeoecology and system dynamics. Previously she was a Project Manager at SouthSouthNorth working with local communities in Namakwa and Limpopo via the Community Adaptation Small Grants Facility project and as a Research Assistant on the Future Climate for Africa project working on scientific capacity development. Prior to that she was a Research Assistant at Conservation South Africa working for the GreenChoice Alliance, facilitating farmer study groups for the Business and Biodiversity Initiatives (2011).

She began her Natural Science career at UCT by obtaining a BSc in Marine Biology and Ecology (2008), BSc Honours in Botany (2009), and a MSc in Botany/Palaeoecology (distinction 2014). She was an ACCESS Global Change Scholar (2012-2014), participated in the ACCESS Teachers Training (2012), and volunteered in various environmental education programmes such as being a student lecturer at the UWC Habitable Planet Workshop (2012) and Kenya Habitable Planet Workshop (2013) and facilitated the Western Cape’s ACCESS Schools Engagement Programme at Kuils River Technical High School (2014).


Research interests:
Cherié's passion for botany, ecology and biodiversity conservation, coupled with a passion for people and environmental education has driven her towards her goal of successfully obtaining a Doctorate in order to apply the knowledge in the environmental affairs of our country - particularly to increase social and ecological resilience to the negative impacts of current and future climate change by mainstreaming ecosystem services into agriculture. Her goal is to work with people (particularly land-use managers such as conservation and restoration managers, farmers, extension officers, etc.) to increase their ability of sustainable land-use management planning by providing a long-term, palaeo-perspective on natural resources. Cherié is also interested in Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E), recognising that M&E and learning is essential in implementing successful sustainable development projects in South Africa.


  1. Dirk, C and Gillson, L. 2020. Using paleoecology to inform restoration and conservation of endangered heathlands. Past Global Changes Magazine, vol. 28(1), 1-32, 2020.
  2. Forbes, C.J., Gillson, L. and Hoffman, M.T. 2018. Shifting baselines in a changing world: identifying management targets in endangered heathlands of the Cape Floristic Region, South Africa. Anthropocene 22: 81-93
  3. Forbes, C., Ward, C. and Gammage, L., 2017. Reflections from Resilience 2017 Conference in The Adaption Network Newsletter. October 2017.
  4. Hawkins, H. and Forbes, J., 2011. What's for supper?: BotSoc partnerships and projects. Veld & Flora97(2), pp.56-57.