PhD student

James Macpherson

Thesis topic: Biome distributions and dynamics at Ecotones in the Greater Cape Floristic Region.

Supervisors: A/Prof Lindsey Gillson, Prof M. Timm Hoffman
Office: Room 5.12.2, HW Pearson Building
Telephone: +27 21 650 2762




Expecting PhD (Botany), University of Cape Town, 2015. 
MSc Quaternary science (merit), Royal Holloway/ University College London, UK.
BSc Geography (first class), Plymouth University, UK. 

Project description: 

The distributions of biomes within with the Greater Cape Floristic Region (GCFR) of South Africa have been stable relative to those expressed more commonly globally in the Late Quaternary. In fact, they often appear so stable in the fossil record that it is difficult to infer the long-term ecological processes determining biome distributions and dynamics. Understanding how relevant environmental parameters - such as climate, fire, herbivory and land-use – interact with plant ecosystems is particularly important with respect to protecting and managing the Cape flora’s outstanding biodiversity. My research seeks to emphasise changes in biome distribution in relation to environmental parameters by sourcing sediment cores directly from present-day biome ecotones in the GCFR. Pollen, charcoal, and coprophilous fungal spores were analysed from radiocarbon dated cores at fynbos-succulent karoo and fynbos-afrotemperate forest biome ecotones. 

Funding/ awards:

NRF African Origins Platform grant-holder linked (L. Gillson) student bursary; African Climate and Development Initiative Ph.D. scholarship 2010-2013; Dorothy Cameron Scholarship, Department of Botany, University of Cape Town, 2012; Natural Environment Research Council M.Sc. studentship 2009-10.
Biodiversity Southern Africa conference, University of Cape Town Best Student Poster 2013 (runner-up); Quaternary Research Association, New Research Workers Award 2013; Southern African Society for Quaternary Research, Best Student Poster, Gobabeb 2012; R.G.S./I.B.G. Alfred Steers Dissertation Prize 2009 (runner-up); Biogeography Research Association, Dissertation Prize 2009 (runner-up); University of Plymouth, School of Geography, Dissertation Prize 2009; University of Plymouth, School of Geography Prize for Excellent Academic Performance 2009; University of Plymouth, Karen Davis Memorial Prize for Excellence in a Pre-final Year 2008; University of Plymouth, Ede and Ravesnscroft Prize for Excellence 2008 (Runner-up).