Postdoctoral Researcher

Dr Wesley Bell

Office: Room 5.09, HW Pearson Building

PhD Biological Sciences; MSc Conservation Biology; BSc (Hons) Botany; BSc Ecology and Environmental and Geographical Science




Activities and research interests

I have a broad range of research interests within conservation and the ecological sciences but have, of late, focused primarily on assessing land degradation in dryland environments. For my PhD, I developed a regional approach to assess habitat condition for the Namaqualand Hardeveld bioregion of the Succulent Karoo. This approach makes use of earth observation data from satellites to more reliably estimate the condition of the veld in dryland environments than has previously been possible. I am currently using this methodology to produce habitat condition assessments for the rest of the biome that will be used by conservation practitioners working in the region.



I grew up in Gaborone, Botswana but completed all of my secondary and tertiary education in South Africa. After completing undergraduate (2009-2011), honours (2012) and master’s (2013) degrees at the University of Cape Town, I worked as an intern, first at the Iziko South African Museum (2014), and then at WWF South Africa (2015). I was based within the Land Programme team at WWF-SA, where I assisted with their protected area expansion work while also developing a proposal that focused on how more socially inclusive projects could be incorporated into the work of the programme. After a short stint as a field guide trainee on a big five game reserve in Kwa-Zulu Natal in 2016, I returned to UCT in 2017 to commence my PhD.



  1. McAuliffe JR, Hoffman MT, McFadden LD, Jack S, Bell W and King MP 2019. Whether or not heuweltjies: Context-dependent ecosystem engineering by the southern harvester termite, Microhodotermes viatorJournal of Arid Environments 163: 26-33.
  2. McAuliffe, JR, Hoffman MT, McFadden LD, Bell W, Jack S, King MP and Nixon V 2019. Landscape patterning created by the southern harvester termite, Microhodotermes viator: Spatial dispersion of colonies and alterations of soils. Journal of Arid Environments 162: 26-34.
  3. Hoffman MT, Skowno A, Bell W and Mashele S 2018. Long-term changes in land use, land cover and vegetation in the Karoo drylands of South Africa: Implications for degradation monitoring. African Journal of Range and Forage Science 35(3-4): 209-221.


PhD: Mapping desertification: towards an approach for mapping regional land degradation in drylands. Supervisors: Professor M Timm Hoffman; Dr Vernon Visser.

MSc: Pheromonal responses of Dactylopius opuntiae males in cross pairings of two female biotypes. Supervisor: Associate Professor John Hoffmann.