PhD student

Wesley Bell

Thesis topic: Land degradation and land use in Namaqualand: Threats and opportunities for conservation.

Supervisor: Prof M. Timm Hoffman 
Office: Room 5.09, HW Pearson Building



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


Having grown up in Botswana, Wesley was fortunate to spend many holidays camping in some of the most wild and remote game reserves in the world. He spent a lot of time in particular in game reserves in the Kalahari Desert, developing a passion for these unique environments. These experiences inspired a career in conservation and having completed an MSc in Conservation Biology, Wesley interned with the WWF South Africa Land Programme. Here his primary focus was on investigating a more socially inclusive approach to the work of the programme. The call of the bush was strong however so he decided to leave Cape Town and embark on a field guide training course on a big five game reserve in KwaZulu-Natal. After a short but memorable time in the bush, Wesley then returned to UCT to start a PhD in March 2017.

Activities and Research Interests

Wesley is primarily interested in the field of conservation biology and is particularly interested in the interdisciplinary nature of the research undertaken. With his PhD focussing on the threats and opportunities posed by land degradation in Namaqualand, Wesley is hoping to find a niche for himself within the field of degradation and ecosystem assessment with specific reference to dryland ecosystems. Drylands are arid, semi-arid and sub-humid regions around the world that are hugely important from both a biodiversity and socio-economic perspective. Centuries of the institutionalised perception of drylands as desert wastelands has resulted in inappropriate policy and practice within dryland ecosystems. Wesley is therefore hoping to help change this perception and promote the conservation of these landscapes, and the development of people living in drylands, through new and innovative research.

Peer-reviewed publications

Hoffman MT, Skowno A, Bell W & Mashele S 2018. Long-term changes in land use, land cover & vegetation in the Karoo drylands of South Africa: Implications for degradation monitoring. African Journal of Range & Forage Science 35: xx-xx. (In Press). DOI: