Rhodes>Environmental Science


Who are we?

We are a small department dedicated to advancing inter- and trans-disciplinary science and learning aimed at understanding and managing complex human-environmental/social-ecological systems, with a focus on Africa.  We have five core academic staff members, a DST/NRF (SARChI) Research Chair in “Land and Natural Resource Use for Sustainable Livelihoods”, and four support staff.  We draw students from all faculties and we are one of the most productive departments in the university in terms of per capita research outputs.

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VISION: Achieve sustainable human-environment systems that are inclusive and equitable.

MISSION: To be an inclusive, vibrant, engaged leader in knowledge generation, capacity building,  advocacy and action  for transformative impact to achieve sustainable and equitable  human-environment systems


  • Mutual respect, open mindedness, and non-discrimination.
  • Empathy, compassion and humility.
  • Clear and on-going communication (including openness to difficult conversations).
  • Integrity, trust, sincerity, and honesty. 
  • Professionalism, reliability, commitment and reflexivity.
  • Sensitivity to the environment and commitment to addressing sustainability challenges.

What is our focus and core areas of research?

We are interested in human-environment interactions and in the governance and sustainable management of complex social-ecological systems. We recognise that we are living in a globalising and rapidly changing world characterised by numerous interconnected environmental and social challenges. We undertake research on the ecological and socio-economic dimensions of these challenges, with the goal of contributing towards more resilient, equitable and sustainable pathways into the future. The nexus between human well-being, livelihoods, vulnerability, ecosystem services and change is central in all our work.  Key areas of research include:

  • Livelihoods, vulnerability and biodiversity
  • Ecosystem services and societal benefits
  • Non-timber forest products use, trade and management
  • Landscape change and land degradation
  • Co-management and governance of protected areas
  • Community based natural resource management
  • Social learning for change
  • Climate change adaptation
  • Urbanisation, urban greening and forestry
  • Ecosystem restoration and carbon sequestration
  • Invasive plants – uses, impacts and management
  • Food security, especially in relation to ecosystem services provision and wild foods

Who do we work with?

We work with a range of international, national, regional and local partners and collaborators from research institutions and universities; government and non-government agencies; networks, working groups and communities of practice; and local communities. We participate in large interdisciplinary, cross-institutional and country research teams, with recent and current partners coming from Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, Malawi, Indonesia, Sweden, and India to mention some. For a small department, we have an established and respected international and national reputation and are often invited to participate in international forums, projects and conferences.


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