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Research Assistant

Sam Jack

MSc (Cape Town)

PCU Research Assistant (2013-2017)




Sam's broader research interests lie in the fields of spatial ecology and environmental change, with a specific focus on vegetation change, indicator species and long term monitoring. He is interested in understanding both the rates and causes of change and in using this knowledge to inform evidenced-based conservation. He also has a keen interest in developing methods and techniques that make it easier for conservationists and land managers to establish and maintain their own monitoring programmes. When not out in the field gathering data, Sam relishes adventurous pursuits like hiking, rock climbing, kloofing, kayaking and mountain biking.

Chilly start to the day on a recent fieldwork trip to the Drakensberg

Sam has a long standing connection with the Biological Sciences Department and the Plant Conservation Unit in particular. After completing his undergraduate degree in Environmental & Geographical Science and Ecology in 2005, and his Honours in Botany in 2006, Sam conducted local and international fieldwork for Assoc. Prof Ed February and Lindsey Gillson. In 2008 he started a MSc degree with Prof Timm Hoffman investigating the suitability of A. dichotoma as a climate change sentinel in southern Africa. The project involved an ambitious data gathering component in Namibia and the Northern Cape. Findings were presented at both local and international conferences and the degree was awarded with a distinction in 2011. Since 2012, Sam’s role in the PCU has been to lead data gathering efforts, expand the Unit’s repeat photograph collection and supervise student projects. A notable recent data gathering expedition led by Sam was the first continuous source-to-sea ecological census for the Senqu and Gariep Rivers ( To date Sam has co-supervised five student projects, two of which were recently awarded a first (BSc Hons) and a distinction (MSc), respectively. His plans for the remained of the year involve ongoing supervision and support for three student projects, a publication and book chapter and further building the Unit’s repeat photo database.

As of September 2017, Sam is following his passion for adventure by taking a year-long cycle trip from Cape Town to Australia. He has kept a photojournal while he travels, which you can view here. We will be following Sam closely on his travels and wish him all the best!

Published Research Papers

  1. Rohde RF, Hoffman MT, Durbach I, Venter Z and Jack S In Press. Vegetation and climate change in the Pro-Namib and Namib Desert based on repeat photography: Insights into climate trends. Journal of Arid Environments
  2. McAuliffe JR, Hoffman MT,  McFadden LD, Jack S, Bell W and King MP In Press. Landscape patterning created by the southern harvester termite, Microhodotermes viator: Spatial dispersion of colonies and alteration of soils. Journal of Arid Environments
  3. McAuliffe JR, Hoffman MT,  McFadden LD, Bell W,  Jack S, King MP and Nixon V In Press. Whether or not heuweltjies: Context-dependent ecosystem engineering by the southern harvester termite, Microhodotermes viator. Journal of Arid Environments
  4. Tokura W, Jack SL, Anderson T and Hoffman MT 2018. Long-term variability in vegetation productivity in relation to rainfall, herbivory and fire in Tswalu Kalahari Reserve. Koedoe: African Protected Area Conservation and Science 60(1) a1473. DOI:
  5. Diamond RE and Jack S 2018. Evaporation and abstraction determined from stable isotopes during normal flow on the Gariep River, South Africa. Journal of Hydrology 559: 569-584. DOI:
  6. White JDM, Jack SL, Hoffman MT, Puttick J, Bonora D, Visser V and February EC 2016. Collapse of an iconic conifer: long-term changes in the demography of Widdringtonia cedarbergensis using repeat photography. BMC Ecology 16: 53. DOI: 10.1186/s12898-016-0108-6.
  7. Okubamichael DY, Jack S, De Wet Bösenberg J, Hoffman MT and Donaldson JS 2016. Repeat photography confirms alarming decline in South African cycads. Biodivers Conserv 25: 2153. DOI:10.1007/s10531-016-1183-x.
  8. Jack SL, Hoffman MT, Rohde RF and Durbach I 2016. Climate change sentinel or false prophet? The case of Aloe dichotoma.  Diversity Distrib.. DOI:10.1111/ddi.12438.
  9. Jack SL, Hoffman MT, Rohde RF, Durbach I and Archibald M 2014. Blow me down! A new perspective on Aloe dichotoma mortality as a result of windthrow. BMC Ecology 14:7 DOI: 10.1186/1472-6785/14/7.
  10. Gillson, L., T. P. Dawson, S. Jack, and M. A. McGeoch. 2013. Accommodating climate change contingencies in conservation strategy. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 28:135-142.

Published Scientific Reports

  1. Jack SL, Nicolson G and Durbach I 2016. Upper Olifants River survey: An assessment of woody riparian and alien vegetation. Plant Conservation Unit, University of Cape Town, Cape Town. 14pp.
  2. Jack SL and Nicolson G 2015. Twenty-four rivers: A basic vegetation survey.
  3. Diamond RE and Jack SL 2014. Evaporation and abstraction on the Gariep River, South Africa. Unpublished manuscript. Department of Geological Sciences, University of Cape Town. 17pp.
  4. Jack SL and Els Y 2013. Final report on the Gariep mega-transect diatom data collection project. Plant Conservation Unit, University of Cape Town, Cape Town. See also

Popular Articles and Professional Communications

  1. Okubamichael D, Jack S, de wet Bosenberg J, Hoffman MT and Donaldson JS 2016 Repeat photography confirms alarming decline in South African cycads. Veld & Flora December 2016.