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Two new SAEON research associates boost the Arid Lands Node

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Prof. Sue Milton is regarded as one of the most seasoned ecologists and environmental practitioners of the Karoo, and arid regions in general

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Dr Richard Dean has produced over 200 scientific publications, many of them on the Karoo, but also made significant marks in several other fields, especially ornithology

By Dr Joh Henschel, Manager, SAEON Arid Lands Node

Thirty years ago two young biologists ventured into the Karoo, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Thanks largely to their efforts locally and abroad, the Karoo is no longer regarded as the ‘Outback’ of South Africa, more ‘Infront’, though not quite cosmopolitan.

In 2007, these two pioneers put theory into practice, focusing their knowledge and experience of ecology, land management and land degradation into the establishment of a landmark company: Renu-Karoo Veld Restoration. In August 2014, these eminent ecologists joined the ranks of SAEON research associates. Welcome, Prof. Suzanne Milton and Dr Richard Dean.

Sue Milton - ecologist, lecturer, author

Sue studied at the Universities of Cape Town (UCT) and Stellenbosch, where she later lectured, as she did at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. She held a professorship at Stellenbosch University from 1999 until 2007, thereafter an honorary professorship at UCT, supervising over 27 postgraduate students. She (co-)authored eight books, 15 book chapters, and more than 135 scientific papers, also serving as editor for several journals.

Always cognisant of the need for ecology to reach out to the frontiers of application of knowledge and new inspiration for nature, Sue also kept up a steady flow of popular writing and provided tangible natural products through her nursery. Furthermore, she frequently conducted expert consultancies concerning management of environmental impacts in the development of industrial and agricultural projects. Currently, Sue is rightfully regarded as one of the most seasoned ecologists and environmental practitioners of the Karoo, and arid regions in general.

Richard Dean - artisan, conservation practitioner, author

Richard first gained a broad background as artisan and as conservation practitioner in many different areas of Africa and globally before his MSc on ant-plant interactions at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, followed by his PhD on nomadic birds through UCT. He has maintained his affiliation to the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology at UCT to this day.

Richard produced over 200 scientific publications, many of them on the Karoo, but also made significant marks in several other fields, especially ornithology, including authoring the definitive book on nomadic desert birds, co-authoring revision VII of Roberts Birds of South Africa, and serving as editor of the journal Ostrich. Together with Sue, Richard edited the milestone book: “The Karoo – Ecological Patterns and Processes” (Cambridge University Press, 1999).

Tierberg - their living legacy

The Tierberg Karoo Research Centre near Prince Albert in the southern Karoo, which Sue and Richard had co-founded in 1986, was kept going by them over decades through their persistent, diligent networking, motivating, negotiating, informing and supervising, which attracted a steady stream of scientists and successive funding, and generated many invaluable products - data and knowledge materials. Thanks to this remarkable legacy as well as the generosity of the land owner, earlier this year Tierberg came into the ownership of the National Research Foundation, managed by SAEON as Tierberg-LTER, an advanced foothold on the Karoo.

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Sue and Richard co-founded the Tierberg Karoo Research Centre in the southern Karoo in 1986

Sue and Richard continue to be involved, and are providing significant assistance to SAEON to renovate the facilities erected by them nearly 30 years ago. Furthermore, their continued involvement is helping to invigorate the next phase of research at Tierberg, as well as at the nearby Wolwekraal Nature Reserve, owned and managed by Sue and Richard.

SAEON gains significantly through our association with these scientists. The SAEON Arid Lands Node could not call on better advisors than them.

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