Orange-breasted Sunbird
Staff, Students & Associates
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The Niven Library's online public access catalogue is a searchable database listing all publications in the Library. Reprints can be obtained by contacting the Library Manager.

Staff, Students & Associates

Honorary Research Associate

Phoebe Barnard
BSc Hons (Acadia, Canada), MSc (Witwatersrand), PhD (Uppsala, Sweden)

Birds & Environmental Change Partnership Programme, South African National Biodiversity Institute

Tel:  +27 (0)21 799 8722
Fax: +27 (0)21 799 8705

Phoebe’s research interests include why some species are more vulnerable to environmental change than others, what bird data can tell us about ecosystem health and human well-being, how species will move across fragmented landscapes in response to climate change, and what options we have to help them persist through the next few difficult centuries. 

Her research team combines conservation biology and global change biology with behavioural, evolutionary, population and stress ecology to understand the vulnerability of birds to global change in fragmented landscapes.  She initially worked on sexual selection in flashy African brood parasites, and on behavioural energetics of birds of prey in North America and southern Africa. But being acutely aware that Rome is burning, and that sexual selection research adds little to urgent conservation measures, she switched to global change and conservation biology. She has spent the last 19 years in conservation biology strategic planning, direction, policy and research.

As principal scientist on climate change adaptation of the South African National Biodiversity Institute and a Fitz research associate, Phoebe combines her twin passions of biodiversity and climate change by looking at the vulnerability and adaptation of African birds, especially fynbos endemics, to environmental change in transformed landscapes. Together with postdoctoral fellow Alan Lee in the Baviaanskloof, she also works collaboratively with Brian Huntley and Yvonne Collingham (Durham University), Rhys Green (Cambridge University/ RSPB), Dale Wright (BirdLife South Africa), Mark Brown (Nature’s Valley Trust), Jeremy Midgley and Jacqueline Bishop (UCT), Anton Pauw and students Anina Heystek and Bongani Mnisi (Stellenbosch University), Ross Turner (University of KwaZulu-Natal), Sjirk Geerts (Cape Peninsula University of Technology) and Martine Maron (Queensland University) to understand different parts of this system.

Earlier, Phoebe founded and ran the Namibian national biodiversity and climate change programmes, contributed to the development of Namibia’s environmental observation systems and the global governance of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, and worked as scientific coordinator for the Global Invasive Species Programme. Her interests in environmental change in Africa include the roles of young scientists, professional networks, and long-term environmental observatories. She has produced several books, numerous booklets and book chapters, and a government policy in addition to scientific outputs, and has successfully raised funds to establish a national park in Namibia.

Phoebe is currently honorary president of BirdLife South Africa (2013-2015) and serves on the editorial boards of Animal Conservation and African Journal of Ecology.  She and two co-editors are working on a Society for Conservation Biology book, profiling inspiring young women in African conservation biology.  She has been honoured with a Fullbright Fellowship and a Society for Conservation Biology Distinguished Service Award.

Research programmes

Climate Change Vulnerability & Adaptation

Current postdoctoral researchers and students

Postdoctoral researchers

Alan T.K. Lee: Spatial and temporal patterns of abundance and dispersal by fynbos avifauna (Supervisors: Phoebe Barnard and Peter Ryan)


Anina Heystek (U. Stellenbosch): Spatial ecology of bird pollination in the Cape Floristic Region (Supervisors: Anton Pauw and Phoebe Barnard)


Beth Mackay (UCT EGS): Urbanization and disease in Cape Sugarbirds

Earlier postdoctoral researchers and students

Postdoctoral researchers

Clelia Sirami: Global changes and bird community responses to vegetation structure in southern Africa (2007-2010, Supervisors: Phoebe Barnard, Guy Midgley)


Seb Rahlao: Current and future vulnerability of South African ecosystems to perennial grass invasion under global change scenarios (2006-09, Supervisors: Karen Esler, Sue Milton, Phoebe Barnard)

Thabiso Mokotjomela: Bird dispersal of invasive alien plants in changing climates: emerging invaders in South Africa (2008-10, Supervisors: Karen Esler, Charles Musil, Phoebe Barnard)

Sally Hofmeyr: Impacts of environmental change on large terrestrial bird species in South Africa: insights from citizen science data (2008-12, Supervisors: Les Underhill, Phoebe Barnard)


Loïc Chalmandrier: Fire impact on bird communities of the Cape fynbos (2008-09, Supervisors: Clelia Sirami, Phoebe Barnard)

Anina Heystek:  Spatial ecology of bird pollination in the Cape Floristic Region (upgraded)


Anina Heystek: Competition for pollination structures in Erica communities (2011, Supervisors: Anton Pauw, Phoebe Barnard)

Lara Croxford: Avians versus arthropods: what really pollinates Protea lepidocarpodendron? (2011, Supervisors: Anton Pauw, Phoebe Barnard)

Will Wyness: Protea compacta architecture and Cape Sugarbird (Promerops cafer) behaviour: a loose connection or tight bond? (2011, Supervisors: Jeremy Midgley, Phoebe Barnard)

Recent peer-reviewed publications

In press

Heysteck, A., Geerts, S., Barnard, P. & Pauw, A. (in press). Pink flower preference in sunbirds does not translate into plant fitness differences in a polymorphic Erica species. Evolutionary Ecology IP. 

Huntley, B., Midgley, G.F., Barnard, P. & Valdes, P.J. (in press). Suborbital climatic variability and centres of biological diversity in the Cape region of southern Africa. Journal of Biogeography IP.


Rahlao, S.J., Milton, S.J., Esler, K.J. & Barnard, P. 2014. Performance of invasive alien fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum) along a climatic gradient through three South African biomes. South African Journal of Botany 91:43-48.


Chalmandrier, L., Midgley, G.F., Barnard, P. & Sirami, C. 2013. Effects of time since fire on birds in a plant diversity hotspot. Acta Oecologica 49:99-106.

Chambers, L.E., Altwegg, R., Barbraud, C., Barnard, P., Beaumont, L., Crawford, R., Durant, J., Hughes, L. Keatley, M., Low, M., Morellato, P., Poloczanska, E., Ruoppelo, V., Vanstreels, R., Woehler, E. & Wolfaardt, A. 2013. Phenological changes in the southern hemisphere. PLoS ONE 8(10): e75514.  doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0075514.

Heystek, A., Geerts, S., Barnard, P. & Pauw, A. 2013. Abstract SAAB Annual Meeting: Flower colour preference of sunbird pollinators. South African Journal of Botany 86:160.

Huntley, B., Allen, J.R.M., Barnard, P., Collingham, Y.C. & Holliday, P.R. 2013. Species distribution models indicate contrasting late-Quaternary histories for Southern and Northern Hemisphere bird species. Global Ecology and Biogeography 22:277-288. 


Altwegg, R., Broms, K., Erni, B., Barnard, P., Midgley, G.F. & Underhill, L.G.. 2012. Novel methods reveal shifts in migration phenology of barn swallows in South Africa. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 279:1485-1490.

Evans, D.M., Barnard, P., Koh, L.P., Chapman, C.A., Altwegg, R., Garner, T.W.J., Gompper, M.E., Gordon, I.J., Katzner, T.E. & Pettorelli, N. 2012. Funding nature conservation: who pays? Animal Conservation 15:215-216.

Huntley, B., Altwegg, R., Barnard, P., Collingham, Y.C. & Hole, D.G. 2012. Modelling relationships between species spatial abundance patterns and climate. Global Ecology and Biogeography IP.

Huntley, B. & Barnard, P. 2012. Potential impacts of climatic change on southern African birds of fynbos and grassland biodiversity hotspots. Diversity and Distributions IP.

Turner, R.C., Midgley, J.J., Barnard, P., Simmons, R.E. & Johnson, S.D. 2012. Experimental evidence for bird pollination and corolla damage by ants in the short-tubed flowers of Erica halicacaba (Ericaceae). South African Journal of Botany 79:25-31.


Barnard, P. & Midgley, G. 2010. No going back for species and ecosystems. Book Review: Heatstroke: Nature in an Age of Global Warming by Anthony D. Barnosky. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 25:9-10.

Huntley, B., Barnard, P., Altwegg, R., Chambers, L., Coetzee, B.W. T., Gibson, L., Hockey, P.A.R., Hole, D.G., Midgley, G.F., Underhill, L.G. & Willis, S.G. 2010. Beyond bioclimatic envelopes: dynamic species’ range and abundance modelling in the context of climatic change. Ecography 33: 1-6.

Rahlao, S.J., Esler, K.J., Milton, S.J. & Barnard, P. 2010. Nutrient Addition and Moisture Promote the Invasiveness of Crimson Fountaingrass (Pennisetum setaceum). Weed Science 58:154-159.

Rahlao, S.J., Milton, S.J., Esler, K.J. & Barnard, P. 2010. The distribution of invasive Pennisetum setaceum along roadsides in western South Africa: the role of corridor interchanges. Weed Research 50:537-543.


Last modified: 2014/04/02
Copyright: Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology 2013
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