Honorary Research Associates

Prof. Phoebe Barnard

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

Executive Director,
Pacific Biodiversity Institute

Affiliate Professor, University of
Washington at Bothell


Phoebe’s work asks why some species (and even some endemic species) are more vulnerable to environmental change than others, what birds can tell us about ecosystem health and human well-being, how species move across fragmented landscapes in response to climate and land-use change, and what options we have to help them persist through the next few difficult centuries.

Her joint UCT/SANBI research team on global change and conservation biology of fynbos endemics uses the lenses of biogeography, behavioural, evolutionary, population, molecular and stress ecology in order to understand bird vulnerability in real-life and virtual landscapes.

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

As lead climate scientist at SANBI and Fitz research associate, Phoebe works with postdocs Alan Lee and Dayo Osinubi, Brian Huntley and Yvonne Collingham (Durham University), Rhys Green (Cambridge University/ RSPB), Clare Spottiswoode (Cambridge University/ PFIAO), Jaime Jiminez and Roberto Rozzi (Universidad de Magallanes/ University of North Texas), Dale Wright (BirdLife South Africa), Mark Brown (Nature’s Valley Trust),  Jacqueline Bishop (UCT), Anton Pauw, Anina Heystek and Bongani Mnisi (Stellenbosch University), Ross Turner (University of KwaZulu-Natal), Sjirk Geerts (Cape Peninsula University of Technology) Martine Maron (Queensland University) and the BirdLife Northern Gauteng ringers among others, to understand bird vulnerability to global change at the edge of Gondwana continents, and options for increasing adaptation in fragmented landscapes.

In late 2015, Phoebe founded a research/policy program on biodiversity futures at SANBI to address societal and economic curve-balls for biodiversity and ecosystems, including bird population futures.  This program involves systems analysis, scenarios and horizon-scan methods to anticipate plausible trajectories for society which may undermine planetary health and biodiversity.   It is undertaken in partnership with the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), outside Vienna, and a number of other institutes, and Phoebe co-supervises a group of PhD students and postdocs on subjects ranging from economic policy and multilateral investments to catchment and fire management and food production shifts.

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 scientific papers, and has successfully raised funds to establish a national park in Namibia.

Phoebe was recently honorary president of BirdLife South Africa (2013-2016) and serves on the editorial boards of Climate Change Responses and African Journal of Ecology, as well as recently Biology Letters and Animal Conservation.  She and two young 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 Fulbright Fellowship and a Society for Conservation Biology Distinguished Service Award (government category), the latter the same year as Sir David Attenborough (media category) and Prof Georgina Mace (academic category).

Research programmes

Climate Change Vulnerability & Adaptation

Current 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)


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

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


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

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.