Honorary Research Associates

Prof. Phoebe Barnard

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

Chief Science and Policy Officer,
Conservation Biology Institute

Affiliate Professor, University of
Washington at Bothell


Increasingly, we conservation biologists need to operate in triage mode – separating out and focusing on those things that we can change, versus managing as well as possible those things that we cannot change, and having the wisdom and serenity to know the difference. Phoebe’s work now therefore focuses on ecological connectivity and smart decisions at global and regional levels, to help as many species as possible make it through the anthropogenic gauntlet of the next few centuries. She is helping organizations and agencies develop and apply global policy, ground-level training, and the principles of rapid, evidence-based decision support platforms, using citizen science and professional science, in order to do so.

Having relocated back to the USA after 34 years in Africa, Phoebe remains active in the African conservation and science-policy scenes as a consultant to the Center for Large Landscape Conservation (which is leading global connectivity conservation through the IUCN Connectivity Conservation Specialist Group and World Commission on Protected Areas) and Conservation Biology Institute (which is advising China on the biodiversity impacts of its massive Belt and Road Initiative for global infrastructure development, and hosting her development of biodiversity early warning systems in North America).  She is also an affiliate full professor at the University of Washington, Bothell, and remains a mentor and supervisor for students, postdocs and young professionals throughout Africa, including MSc and PhD students and postdocs at the Fitz. 

At the Fitz from 2008-2017, Phoebe led a joint UCT/SANBI international research team on global change and conservation biology of fynbos endemics, using global change biology, conservation biology, biogeography, and behavioural, evolutionary, population, molecular and stress ecology in order to understand bird vulnerability in real-life and virtual landscapes. She also established, with the late Phil Hockey and then with Peter Ryan and postdoc Dayo Osinubi, the Fitz’s research program on intra-African bird migration.

She has worked diverse issues, large and small -- from the finer points of sexual selection in flashy African birds, and the energetics and behaviour of raptors in North America and southern Africa, to national-scale biodiversity and climate change strategic planning, policy and research, to the status and trends of the world’s ecosystems and their ability to support human health, livelihoods and wellbeing.

Earlier, Phoebe founded and ran Namibia’s national biodiversity and climate change programmes, contributed to that country’s environmental observation system, to the global board and scenarios group of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, and she coordinated the scientific work of the Global Invasive Species Programme secretariat. She has produced three books, numerous booklets and book chapters, and a government policy, in addition to over 100 scientific papers, and has successfully raised funds to establish a national park in Namibia.

Phoebe was previously principal and lead scientist for climate bioadaptation (2005-2016) and biodiversity futures (2015-2016) at the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), honorary research associate of the African Climate and Development Initiative, and honorary president of BirdLife South Africa (2013-2016). She serves on the editorial boards of Ecography, Climate Change Responses and African Journal of Ecology, and recently, Biology Letters and Animal Conservation.  She has been honoured with a Fulbright Fellowship (1993-94) and a Society for Conservation Biology Distinguished Service Award (government category), the latter in 2002, the same year as Sir David Attenborough (media category) and Prof Georgina Mace (academic category)..

Current students


Daniël Cloete (UCT): The impact of fragmentation on bird-pollinated fynbos communities (Co-supervisors: Peter Ryan and Mark Brown)

Lavinia Perumal (UCT): The impact of large-scale infrastructure and foreign direct investments on biodiversity intactness, ecological function and ecosystem services in Africa and South Africa (Co-supervisors: Mark New and IIASA systems analyst Matthias Jonas)


Campbell Fleming (UCT): Understanding palaeo gene flow as a backdrop to current climate change adaptation options for fynbos-endemic birds. (Co-supervisors:  Jacqueline Bishop and Peter Ryan).


Earlier postdoctoral researchers and students

Postdoctoral researchers

Samuel Temidayo (Dayo) Osinubi:  Influence of climate and land use changes on past ranges and current populations of focal intro-African migratory landbird species (Co-supervisor: Peter Ryan)

Alan T.K. Lee: Spatial and temporal patterns of abundance and dispersal by fynbos avifauna (Co-supervisor: Peter Ryan)

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


Anina Heystek (U. Stellenbosch): Spatial ecology of bird pollination in the Cape Floristic Region (2014-15) (Co-supervisor: Anton Pauw)

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

Thabiso Mokotjomela (U.Stellenbosch): Bird dispersal of invasive alien plants in changing climates: emerging invaders in South Africa (2008-10) (Co-supervisors: Karen Esler, Charles Musil)

Seb Rahlao (U.Stellenbosch): Current and future vulnerability of South African ecosystems to perennial grass invasion under global change scenarios (2006-09) (Co-supervisors: Karen Esler, Sue Milton)


Beth Mackay (UCT): Urbanization and disease in Cape Sugarbirds (2013-14)

Anina Heystek (U.Stellenbosch): Spatial ecology of bird pollination in the Cape Floristic Region (2012-13, upgraded, Co-supervisor: Anton Pauw)

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


Anina Heystek (U.Stellenbosch): Competition for pollination structures in Erica communities (2011) (Co-supervisor: Anton Pauw)

Lara Croxford (U.Stellenbosch): Avians versus arthropods: what really pollinates Protea lepidocarpodendron? (2011) (Co-supervisor: Anton Pauw)

Will Wyness (UCT): Protea compacta architecture and Cape Sugarbird (Promerops cafer) behaviour: a loose connection or tight bond? (2011) (Co-supervisor: Jeremy Midgley)

Recent Publications


Lee, A.T.K., Barnard, P., Fraser, M., Lennard, C., Smit, B. and Oschadleus, H.D. 2020. Body mass and condition of a fynbos bird community: investigating impacts of time, weather and raptor abundance from long-term citizen- science datasets. Ostrich.

Ripple, W.J., Wolf, C, Newsome, T.M., Barnard, P., Moomaw, W.R., Law, B.E. and Maas, B. 2020. The climate emergency, forests, and transformative change. BioScience, in press.


Barnard, P.  2019.  Tracking species in space and time: citizen science in Africa.  In: Wilson, J. and Primack, R.B. (eds).  Conservation Biology in Sub-Saharan Africa. Sinauer Associates.  Published online 9 September 2019 at   

Ripple, W.J., Wolf, C, Newsome, T.M., Barnard, P., Moomay, W.R. and 10,205 scientist signatories from 153 countries. 2019.  World scientists’ warning of a climate emergency.  BioScience.  Published online 5 November 2019.  (now 13,632 scientist signatories from 156 countries).


Coetzee, A. and Barnard, P.  2018. Nectar quandary: surviving the suburbs.  African Birdlife: July/August 2018: 70-72.

Coetzee, A., Barnard, P. and Pauw, A. 2018. Urban nectarivorous bird communities in Cape Town, South Africa, are structured by ecological generalization and resource distribution. Journal of Avian Biology.

Osinubi, S.T., Dalton, D., Barnard, P. and Ryan, P. 2018. A tale of three kings: study of the intra-African migration of the woodland kingfisher. Poster paper, International Ornithological Congress, Vancouver, Canada, August 2018


Barnard, P.  2017. Climate change, biodiversity early warning systems, and Africa’s future. Africa Conservation Telegraph 12 (1). Published January 2017 online at

Barnard, P., Altwegg, R., Ebrahim, I. and Underhill, L.G.  2017.  Early warning systems for biodiversity in southern Africa – how much can citizen science mitigate imperfect data?  Biological Conservation 208:183-188. (published online 27 Sept 2016,

Chambers, L.E., Barnard, P.,  Poloczanska, E.S., Hobday, A.J., Keatley, M.R., Allsopp, N and Underhill, L.G. 2017. Southern hemisphere biodiversity and global change: data gaps and strategies. Austral Ecology 42:20-30. (Published online 24 Aug 2016)

Lee, A.T.K. and Barnard, P.  2017. How well do bird atlas reporting rates reflect bird densities? Correlates of detection from the Fynbos biome, South Africa, with applications for population estimation, Ostrich 88:1, 9-17, DOI: 10.2989/00306525.2016.1219413.

Lee, A.T.K., Altwegg, R. and Barnard, P.  2017. Estimating conservation metrics from atlas data: the case of southern African endemic birds. Bird Conservation International (in press):  DOI: 10.1017/S0959270916000307.

Lee. A.T.K., Wright, D. and Barnard, P. 2017. Hot bird drinking patterns: drivers of water visitation in a fynbos bird community. African Journal of Ecology 55: 541-553.

Mackay, B., Lee, A.T.K., Barnard, P., Moller, A.P. and Brown, M. 2017. Urbanization, climate and ecological stress indicators in an endemic nectarivore, the Cape sugarbird.  Journal for Ornithology DOI: 10.1007/s10336-017-1460-9.  Published online 12 May 2017.

Sutherland, W.J. Barnard, P., Broad, S., Clout, M., Connor, B., Côté, I.M, Dicks, L.V., Doran, H., Entwistle, A.C., Fleishman, E.,Fox, M., Gaston, K.J., Gibbons, D.W. Jiang, Z, Keim, B., Licorish, F.A., Markillie, P., Monk, K.A., Pearce-Higgins, J.W., Peck, L.S., Pretty, J., Spalding, M.D., Tonneijck, F.H., Wintle, B.C.  and Okendon, N. 2017.  A 2017 horizon scan of emerging issues for global conservation and biological diversity. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 32: 31-40


Barnard, P. 2016. Meet the conservationist:  a passion for the ocean – Kerry Sink.  Africa Conservation Telegraph 10(1). Published online 22 April 2016). 

Barnard, P. 2016. Biodiversity horizons. SANBI Science Published online 29 June 2016.

Barnard, P. 2016.  Women in science, changing how the world works.  SANBI Science. Published online 27 Sept 2016.

Barnard, P., Altwegg, R., Ebrahim, I. and Underhill, L.G.  2016.  Early warning systems for biodiversity in southern Africa – how much can citizen science mitigate imperfect data?  Biological Conservation (in press, Sept 2016).

Coetzee, A., Pauw, A., Geerts, S. and Barnard, P. 2016.  Do sunbirds like pink flowers?  Promerops, Magazine of the Cape Bird Club 305:13. (March 2016).

Cunningham, S., Madden, C., Barnard, P. and Amar, A. 2016. Electric crows: power lines, climate change and the emergence of a native invader. Diversity & Distributions 22:17-29. (Published online 18-12-2015; published in hard copy Jan 2016)

Huntley, B., Collingham, Y.C., Singrayer, J.S., Valdes, P.J., Barnard, P., Midgley, G.F., Altwegg, R. and Ohlemueller, R. 2016. Explaining patterns of avian diversity and endemicity: climate and biomes of southern Africa over the last 140,000 years. Journal of Biogeography 43(5):874-886. (Print May 2016; online Feb 2016). DOI: 10.1111/jbi.12714.

Lee, A.T.K. and Barnard, P. 2016. How well do bird atlas reporting rates reflect bird densities?  Correlates of detection from the fynbos biome, South Africa, with applications for population estimation. Ostrich

Osinubi, S.T., Hand, K., van Oijen, D.C.C., Walther, B.A. and Barnard, P. 2016. Linking science and policy to address conservation concerns about African land use, land conversion and land grabs in an era of globalization. African Journal of Ecology 54:265-267.


Barnard, P. 2015. Lanner Falcon hunting large forest hornbills in the east Usambara Mountains, Tanzania. Ornithological Observations 6: 26-28. ISSN 2219-0341,

Barnard, P. 2015.  South Africa must start managing its retreat from the coast.  The Conversation 8 May 2015.

Barnard, P. 2015. Fast, cheap calories may make city birds fat and sick.  The Conversation  4 June 2015.

Barnard, P. 2015. The health of city birds can tell us what we’re doing wrong. Sunday Weekend Argus 7 June 2015.

Barnard, P. 2015. Early warning systems help track the weather and can do the same for species. The Conversation 28 August 2015.

Barnard, P. and Ryan P. 2015. Fire in the city. African Birdlife May/June 2015: 14-16.

Heystek, A., Pauw, A. and Barnard, P. 2015. Proteaceae nectar sources for nectarivorous birds at landscape level. South African Journal of Botany 98:179-180, May 2015, doi:10.1016/j.sajb.2015.03.047.

Lee, A.T.K. and Barnard, P. 2015. Endemic birds of the Fynbos biome: a conservation assessment and impacts of climate change. Bird Conservation International,  Available on CJO 2015 doi:10.1017/S0959270914000537.

Lee, A.T.K., Barnard, P. and Hockey, P.A.R. 2015.  Population metrics for fynbos birds, South Africa: densities, detection- and capture rates from a Mediterranean type ecosystem. Ostrich DOI: 10.2989/00306525.2015.1021287.

Maron, M., McAlpine, C., Watson, J.E.M., Maxwell, S. and Barnard, P. 2015. Climate-induced resource bottlenecks exacerbate species vulnerability: a review. Diversity & Distributions. DOI: 10.1111/ddi.12339.


Barnard, P. 2014. Letter to the Editor [Volume 14 No. 4 (2014)] on gluten, nutrition, food security and health in Africa.  African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development 14(4), 9 June 2014. ISSN 1684 5374.

Barnard, P. 2014. Climate change adaptation.  Tsevhi – the Informer. August 2014: 5-6.

Downs, C, Harebottle, D., Dodman, T., Ndiaye, A, Barnard, P.,  Huntley, B., Ogada, D., Botha, A. and Ng’weno, F. 2014. Birds in a changing environment: Report on the 13th Pan-African Ornithological Congress in Arusha, Tanzania. Ostrich 85:1, iii-vi. DOI 10.2989/00306525.2014.912452

Collingham, Y.C., Huntley, B, Altwegg, R., Barnard, P., Beveridge, O.S. Gregory, R.D., Mason, L.R. Oschadleus, H.D., Simmons, R.E., Willis, S.G. and Green, R.E. 2014.  Prediction of mean adult survival rates of southern African birds from demographic and ecological covariates. Ibis (in press, 29 July 2014)

Heystek, A., Geerts, S., Barnard, P. and Pauw, A. 2014. Pink flower preference in sunbirds does not translate into plant fitness differences in a polymorphic Erica species. Evolutionary Ecology, DOI 10.1007/s10682-014-9693-z

Huntley, B., Midgley, G.F., Barnard, P. and Valdes, P.J. 2014.  Persistent climatic suitability at sub-orbital time scales in Cape centres of biological diversity. Journal of Biogeography 41: 1338-1351

Lee, A.T.K. and Barnard, P. 2014. Aspects of the ecology and morphology of the protea seedeater, Crithagra leucopterus, a little-known Fynbos endemic.  African Zoology 49(2):295-300.

Lee, A.T.K. and Barnard, P. 2014.  Have elaborately ornamented birds evolved extra means to escape predators? Fynbos Endemic Birds Survey Blogspot 4 January 2014,

Lee, A, Barnard, P. and Wright, D. 2014. The bold and the beautiful: Orange-breasted Sunbird. African Birdlife 2(3):61.

Rahlao, S.J., Milton, S.J., Esler, K.J. and 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.