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Honorary Research Associates

Dr Rob Simmons

Dr Rob Simmons

Dr Robert E. Simmons
BSc (Hons) (London), MSc (Acadia), PhD (Witwatersrand)

John Day Building: 3.14
Tel: +27 (0)21 650 3310
Fax: +27 (0)21 650 3295

Email: rob.simmons@uct.ac.za

Rob is a behavioural ecologist, conservation biologist and ornithologist specialising in the ecology of raptorial birds, cats and giraffe. His studies have taken him from the UK to Canada, and Sweden to Africa with his main interests being mating systems of harriers, sibling aggression in eagles, reproductive constraints in subtropical species, the evolution of giraffe, the impact of cats and climate change effects on birds. He moved from Windhoek in 2003 where he was part of the Biodiversity Programme for 14 years, specializing on the conservation of endemic, montane and wetland birds in Namibia. He now lives in Cape Town drawn here by black harriers, black eagles, whales and a stimulating research environment. His academic research on harrier ecology span both hemispheres and resulted in the publication of his first book Harriers of the World: their behaviour and ecology, published by Oxford University Press. He is continuing that work in collaboration with Fitz students with a 15-yr genetic, ecological and satellite-tagging study of endemic black harriers. A film of this work was completed in 2011 (The Secret Life of the Circler - HomeBrew Films). Rob's studies of climate change effects on birds include vultures and fynbos-endemics (with Phoebe Barnard) and he has also initiated the African continents' first studies of the impact of domestic cats on the biodiversity in greater Cape Town. Following his long-term studies of threatened birds in Namibia he has written his second book on Namibia's threatened birds, Birds to Watch in Namibia: red, rare and endemic species, with Chris Brown, and Jessica Kemper due for publication in 2015. He watches buzzards, whales and cats in between environmental impact assessments, from Constantia with his partner Marlei and two daughters.

50/50 recently aired an insert on Rob and Frances Morling's work on the impact of domestic cats on biodiversity in the Western Cape. Watch it here.

Research programmes

Raptor Research, Life History Strategies, Seabird Research,

Current students

Doctoral

Marie-Sophie Garcia-Heras: Integrating ecological parameters, foraging strategies and health status for the conservation of avian predators: the case of the threatened Black Harrier Circus maurus. (Co-supervisor: Arjun Amar)

Conservation Biology Masters

Dara Sands: Avian sensitivity map for Lesotho: a tool to aid planning and conservation in relation to the development of wind farms and associated wind energy infrastructure. (Co-supervisors: Arjun Amar, Samantha Ralston)

Graduated students

Doctoral

Sonja Krüger: Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus meridionalis population dynamics and conservation in the 21st Century (Co-supervisor: Arjun Amar) Graduated Dec 2014

Conservation Biology Masters

Frances Morling: Cape Town’s cats: re-assessing predation through kitty-cams (Co-supervisor: Justin O’Riain) Graduated June 2014

Masumi Gudka: The effects of pesticides on the breeding success and population of African Fish Eagles at Lake Naivasha, Kenya (Co-supervisor: Peter Ryan) Graduated June 2012.

Sharon George: Cape Town's domestic cats: prey and movement patterns in deep-urban and urban-edge areas (Co-supervisor: Justin O’Riain) Graduated December 2010

Recent peer-reviewed publications

For a more comprehensive list see Google Scholar profile

2015

Kruger, S.J., Simmons, R.E. & Amar, A., (2015) Anthropogenic activities influence the abandonment of Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) territories in southern Africa. Condor 117:94-107.

Oatley, G., Simmons, R.E. & Fuchs, J. (2015) A molecular phylogeny of the harriers (Circus, Accipitridae) indicate the role of long distance dispersal and migration in diversification. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. DOI: 10.1016/j.ympev.2015.01.013.

Seymour, C., Simmons, R.E., Joseph, G. & Slingsby, J. (in press) On bird functional diversity: species richness and functional differentiation show contrasting responses to rainfall and vegetation structure across an arid Landscape. Ecosystems.

Simmons, R.E., C.J.& Kemper, J. (2015) Birds to watch in Namibia: red, rare and endemic species. Ministry of Environment & Tourism and Namibia Nature Foundation, Windhoek.

Simmons, R.E., Kolberg, H., Braby, R. & Erni, B. (2015) Declines in migrant shorebird populations from a winter-quarter perspective. Conservation Biology DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12493.

2014

Collingham, Y.C.. Huntley, B., Altwegg, R., Barnard, P., Beveridge, O.S., Gregory, R.D., Mason, L., Oschadleus, H.D., Simmons, R.E., Willis, S.G. & Green, R.E. (2014). Prediction of mean adult survival rates of southern African birds from demographic and ecological covariates. Ibis 156:741-754.

Fuchs, J., Mindell, D.P., Bowie, R.C.K., Oatley, G. & Simmons, R.E. 2014. Lack of mtDNA genetic diversity in the Black Harrier (Circus maurus), a Southern African endemic. Ibis 156:227-230.

2013

Jenkins, J.,Simmons, R.E., Curtis, O., Atyeo, M., Raimondo, D. & Jenkins, A.R. 2013. The value of the Black Harrier (Circus maurus) as predictors of biodiversity in the plant-rich Cape Floral Kingdom, South Africa. Bird Conservation International 23:66-77

2012

Goulding W., Pettifor R.A. & Simmons, R.E. 2012. High mite burdens in an island population of Cape Wagtails Motacilla capensis: release from predation pressure? Ostrich 83:85-89.

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.

2011

Braby, J., Underhill, L.G. & Simmons, R.E. 2011. Prey capture success and chick diet of Damara Terns Sterna baleanarum in Namibia. African Journal of Marine Science 33(2):247-254.

Simmons, R.E. 2011. Greater Kestrel survives impact with power lines. Ostrich 82:75-76.

Simmons, R.E., Retief, K. & van Beuningen, D. 2011. Blade runner: Jackal Buzzard Buteo rufofuscus and other birds in a wind farm environment in South Africa. Gabar 22 11-18.

2010

Jeltsch, F., Blaum, N., Classen, N., Eschenbach, A., Grohmann, C., Gröngröft, A., Joubert , D.F., Horn A., Lohmann, D., Linsenmair, K.E., Lück-Vogel, M., Medinski, T.V., Meyfarth, S., Mills, A., Petersen, A., Popp A., Poschlod, P., Reisch, C., Rossmanith, E., Rubilar, H., Schütze, S., Seymour, C, Simmons, R.E., Smit, G.N., Strohbach, M., Tews, J., Tietjen, B., Wesuls, D., Wichmann, M., Wieczorek, M., Zimmermann, I. 2010. Impacts of landuse and climate change on the dynamics and biodiversity in the Thornbush Savanna Biome. In: Hoffman, M. T., Schmiedel, U., Jürgens, N. (eds.) Biodiversity in southern Africa. Volume 3: Implications for landuse and management: pp. 33–74, Klaus Hess Publishers, Göttingen & Windhoek.

Simmons, R.E. 2010. The nest, eggs and diet of the Papuan Harrier from Eastern New Guinea. Journal of Raptor Research 44: 12-18.

Simmons, R.E. 2010. First breeding records for Damara Terns and density of other shorebirds on Angola's Namib Desert coast. Ostrich 81:19–23.

Simmons, R.E. 2010 African Wahlberg's Eagle and its single egg. In: The Eagle watchers: Observing and Conserving Raptors around the World. Ruth E. Tingay (Editor); Todd E. Katzner (Editor); Keith L. Bildstein (Foreword); Jemima Parry-Jones , MBE (Foreword) ISBN: 978-0-8014-4873-7. Cornell University Press. New York.

Simmons, R.E. & Altwegg, R. 2010. Necks-for-sex or competing browsers? A critique of ideas on the evolution of giraffe. Journal of Zoology 282:6-12.