Honorary Research Associates

Prof Graeme Cumming

Prof. Graeme Cumming
BSc (Hons) Rhodes, DPhil (Oxon)


Activities and research interests

Landscape Ecology, Conservation Biology, Community Ecology, Resilience and Complex Systems Theory.

About me: I grew up (well, mostly) in Harare, Zimbabwe, where I went to Saint George’s College. I studied Zoology and Entomology to the honours level at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa. I then moved to Oxford University, U.K., on a Rhodes Scholarship. While at New College, Oxford, I completed my doctorate on ‘The Evolutionary Ecology of African Ticks’ under the supervision of Drs. Sarah Randolph and David Rogers. From Oxford I moved to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, funded by a D. H. Smith Postdoctoral Fellowship from The Nature Conservancy (TNC). In Madison I worked with TNC and Professor Steve Carpenter at the Center for Limnology on applying species-based models to management and conservation-related problems in freshwater systems. After two years as a postdoc, I was hired as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation at the University of Florida. I left UF at the end of 2005 and occupied the Pola Pasvolsky Chair in Conservation Biology at the University of Cape Town until end June 2015.

From the beginning July 2015, I am employed by the ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Ecology at James Cook University in Townsville, Australia, as a research professor.

I have a wide range of interests, centering around understanding spatial aspects of ecology and the relevance of broad-scale pattern-process dynamics for ecosystem (and social-ecological system) function and resilience. I am also interested in the applications of landscape ecology and complexity theory to conservation and the sustainable management of natural resources.

Research Programmes

My research at the Fitztitute focused on two programmatic areas: (1) the community ecology and movement ecology of wetland-associated birds, their parasites, and their pathogens; and (2) the spatial resilience of protected areas.

Graduated students

Thesis MSc

Advisor: John Heydinger (2014); Gregory Mutumi (2011); Ann George, Brian Spiesman (2006); Heidi Richter (2004)
Co-advisor: Matthew Bokach, Cerian Gibbes, Rebecca Hylton, Melissa Moyer, Cedric Worman (2004); Claudia Stickler (2003)

Conservation Biology MSc (thesis component)

Advisor: Jenna Bowker, Marcela Espinaze (2015); Jordan-Laine Calder, Zanne Labuschagne (2014); Jeremy Goss, Christine Moore (2012); Ben Heermans, Allison Skidmore (2010); Simon Dures (2009); Matt Child, Glynis Humphrey (2008); Lindy MacGregor (2007)
Co-advisor: Tsholofelo Dithlobolo (2009); Hannah Thomas (2007)

Doctoral Students

Advisor: Julia Baum, Hayley Clements, Dominic Henry, Chevonne Reynolds (2016); Mduduzi Ndlovu (2012); Sharon Okanga (2013), Grant Joseph (2012)
Co-advisor: Lin Cassidy (2007); Matt Marsik (2008); Arpat Ozgul, Jim Surdick (2005)

Past Postdocs

Advisor: Eleonor Hellard (2013-15);  Alta de Vos (2013-14); Kristine Maciejewski (2013-14); Felix Nchu (2010-11); Xanic Rondon (2009-10); Leo Bruinzeel (2007-8)

Recent peer-reviewed publications

You can check out citation metrics for my ISI-listed journal articles here or through Google scholar here. Full texts of most of my articles can be found or requested (through Research Gate) here.


Baum, J., Cumming, G.S. and De Vos, A. 2017. Understanding spatial variation in the drivers of nature-based tourism and their influence on the sustainability of private land conservation. Ecological Economics 140: 225-234. 

Clements, H.S. and Cumming, G.S. 2017. Manager strategies and user demands: determinants of cultural ecosystem service bundles on private protected areas. Ecosystem Services 28: 228-232.

Clements, H.S. and Cumming, G.S. 2017. Traps and transformations influencing the financial viability of tourism on private-land conservation areas. Conservation Biology.

Cumming, G.S. and Allen, C.R. 2017. Protected areas as social-ecological systems: perspectives from resilience and social-ecological systems theory. Ecological Applications 27: 1709-1717.

Cumming, G.S. and Maciejewski, K. 2017. Reconciling community ecology and ecosystem services: cultural services and benefits from birds in South African National Parks. Ecosystem Services 28: 219-227.

Cumming, G.S., Henry, D.A.W. and Reynolds, C. 2017. A framework for testing assumptions about foraging scales, body mass, and niche separation using telemetry data. Ecology and Evolution 7: 5276-5284.

De Vos, A., Cumming, G.S. and Roux, D.J. 2017. The relevance of cross-scale connections and spatial interactions for ecosystem service delivery by protected areas: insights from southern Africa. Ecosystem Services 28: 133-139.

Henry, D.A.W. and Cumming, G.S. 2017. Can waterbirds with different movement, dietary and foraging functional traits occupy similar ecological niches. Landscape Ecology 32: 265-278.

Ndlovu, M., Hockey, P.A.R. and Cumming, G.S. 2017. Geographic variation in factors that influence timing of moult and breeding in waterfowl. Zoology 122: 100-106.

Ndlovu, M., Cumming, G.S. and Hockey, P.A.R. 2017. Body mass and pectoral muscle size changes in African Waterfowl during moult. African Journal of Wildlife Research 47: 24-31.

Reynolds, C., Cumming, G.S., Vilà, M. and Green, A.J. 2017. Birds as key vectors for the dispersal of some alien species: further thoughts. Diversity and Distributions 23: 577-580.

Suri, J., Anderson, P.M., Charles-Dominique, T., Hellard, E. and Cumming, G.S. 2017. More than just a corridor: a suburban river catchment enhances bird functional diversity. Landscape and Urban Planning 157: 331-342.


Abolnik, C., Olivier, A.J., Reynolds, C., Henry, D.A.W., Cumming, G.S., Rauff, D., Romito, M., Petty, D. and Falch, C. 2016. Susceptibility and status of avian influenza in ostriches. Avian Diseases 60: 286-295.

Allen, C.R., Angeler, D.G., Cumming, G.S., Folke, C., Twidwell, D. and Uden, D.R. 2016. Review: quantifying resilience. Journal of Applied Ecology 53: 625-635.

Ament, J.M. and Cumming, G.S. 2016. Scale dependency in effectiveness, isolation, and social-ecological spillover of protected areas. Conservation Biology

Clements, H.S., Baum, J. and Cumming, G.S. 2016. Money and motives: an organizational ecology perspective on private land conservation. Biological Conservation

Clements, H.S. and Cumming, G.S. 2016. Positives and pathologies of natural resource management on private land conservation areas. Conservation Biology.

Clements, H.S., Cumming, G.S. and Kerley, G.I.H. 2016. Predators on private land: broad-scale socioeconomic interactions influence large predator management. Ecology and Society 21: 45.

Congrains, C., Carvalho, A.F., Miranda, E.A., Cumming, G.S., Henry, D.A.W., Manu, S.A., Abalaka, J., Rocha, C.D., Diop, M.S., Sá, J., Monteiro, H., Holbech, L.H., Gbogbo, F. and Del Lama, S.N. 2016. Genetic and paleomodelling evidence of the population expansion of the Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis in Africa during the climatic oscillations of the Late Pleistocene. Journal of Avian Biology 47: 001-012.

Cumming, G.S., Harebottle, D.M., Mundava, J., Otieno, N. and Tyler, S.J. 2016. Timing and location of reproduction in African waterfowl: an overview of >100 years of nest records. Ecology and Evolution 6: 631-646.

De Vos, A., Cumming, G.S., Cumming, D., Ament, J.M., Baum, J., Clements, H., Grewar, J., Maciejewski, K. and Moore, C. 2016. Pathogens, disease, and the social-ecological resilience of protected areas. Ecology and Society 21: 20.

De Vos, A., Cumming, G.S., Moore, C.A., Maciejewski, K. and Duckworth, G. 2016. The relevance of spatial variation in ecotourism attributes for the economic sustainability of protected areas. Ecosphere 7: e01207. http://dx/

Hellard, E., Cumming, G.S., Caron, A., Coe, E. and Peters, J.L. 2016. Testing epidemiological functional groups as predictors of avian haemosporidia patterns in southern Africa. Ecosphere 7:e01225

Henry, D.A.W., Ament, J.M. and Cumming, G.S. 2016. Exploring the environmental drivers of waterfowl movement in arid landscapes using first-passage time analysis. Movement Ecology 4: 8.

Henry, D.A.W. and Cumming, G.S. 2016. Spatial and environmental processes show temporal variation in the structuring of waterbird metacommunities. Ecosphere 7: e01451.

Henry, D.A.W. and Cumming, G.S. 2016. Can waterbirds with different movement, dietary and foraging functional traits occupy similar ecological niches? Landscape Ecology.

Maciejewski, K., Baum, J. and Cumming, G.S. 2016. Integration of private land conservation areas in a network of statutory protected areas: implications for sustainability. Biological Conservation 200: 200-206.

Nelson, J.T., Wilson, R.E., McCraken, K.G., Cumming, G.S., Joseph, L., Guay, P-J. and Peters, J.L. 2016. Divergence and gene flow in the globally distributed blue-winged ducks. Journal of Avian Biology.

Reynolds, C. and Cumming, G.S. 2016. Seed traits and bird species influence the dispersal parameters of wetland plants. Freshwater Biology  61: 349-361.

Reynolds, C. and Cumming, G.S. 2016. Seed dispersal of waterbirds in southern Africa: comparing the roles of ectozoochory and endozoochory. Freshwater Biology

Seymour, C.L., Joseph, G.S., Makumbe, M., Cumming, G.S., Mahlangu, Z. and Cumming, D.H.M. 2016. Woody species composition in an African savanna: determined by centuries of termite activity but modulated by 50 years of ungulate herbivory. Journal of Vegetation Science 27: 824-833.

Suri, J., Anderson, P.M., Charles-Dominique, T., Hellard, E. and Cumming, G.S. 2016. More than just a corridor: a suburban river catchment enhances bird functional diversity. Landscape and Urban Planning 157: 331-342.


Cumming, G.S., Abolnik, C. Caron, A. Gaidet, N., Grewar, J., Hellard, E., Henry, D.A.W. and Reynolds, C. (2015). A social-ecological approach to landscape epidemiology: geographic variation and avian influenza. Landscape Ecology 30:963-985.

Cumming, G.S., Allen, C.R., Ban, N.C., Biggs, D., Biggs, H.C., Cumming, D.H.M., De Vos, A., Epstein, G., Etienne, M., Maciejewski, K., Mathevet, R., Moore, C., Nenadovic, M., and Schoon, M. (2015). Understanding protected area resilience: a multi-scale, social-ecological approach. Ecological Applications 25:299-319.

Espinaze, M., Hellard, E. and Cumming, G.S. 2015. Analysis of large new South African data set using two host specificity indices shows generalism in both adult and larval ticks of mammals. Parasitology 143:366-373.

Joseph., G.S., Makumbe, M., Seymour, C.L., Cumming, G.S., Mahlangu, Z. and Cumming, D.H.M. 2015. Termite mounds mitigate against 50 years of herbivore-induced reduction of functional diversity of savannah woody plants. Landscape Ecology 30:2161-2174.

Maciejewski, K. & Cumming, G.S. 2015. The relevance of socioeconomic interactions for the resilience of protected area networks. Ecological Society of America 6(9): 1 – 14.

Maciejewski, K. & Cumming, G.S. 2015. Multi-scale network analysis shows scale-dependency of significance of individual protected areas for connectivity. Landscape Ecology.

Maciejewski, K., De Vos, A., Cumming, G.S., Moore, C.A. & Biggs, D. 2015. Cross-scale feedbacks and scale mismatches as influences on cultural services and the resilience of protected areas. Ecological Applications 25:11-23.

Moore, C., Grewar, J. and Cumming, G.S. 2015. Quantifying network resilience: comparison before and after a major perturbation shows strengths and limitations of network metrics. Journal of Applied Ecology

Palmer, C., Biggs, R. and Cumming, G.S. (2015). Applied research for enhancing human well-being and environmental stewardship: using complexity thinking in Southern Africa. Ecology and Society 20(1) 53.

Reynolds, C. and Cumming, G.S. 2015. The role of waterbirds in the dispersal of freshwater cladocera and bryozoa in southern Africa. African Zoology 50: 307-311.

Reynolds, C. and Cumming, G.S. 2015. Defining functional groups using dietary data: quantitative comparison suggests functional classification for seed-dispersing waterfowl. Basic and Applied Ecology.

Reynolds, C., Miranda, N.A.F. and Cumming, G. 2015. The role of waterbirds in the dispersal of aquatic alien and invasive species. Diversity and Distributions 21: 744-754.

Thomas, H.L., Hockey, P.A.R. & Cumming, G.S. 2015. Solving the challenges of monitoring mobile populations: insights from studies of waterbirds in southern Africa. Ostrich 86:169-178.