Seeds of Good Anthropocenes: Managing invasive species in South Africa

Deadline for applications: 12 July 2021

Project background

We live in the Anthropocene, an era of escalating global challenges such as climate change, food and water security, biodiversity loss, socio‐political conflict and economic volatility. It is increasingly recognized that meeting these challenges demands new approaches to governing our environment and societies – approaches that recognize the complex inter‐relationships between human well‐being and ecological sustainability. Developing new governance and management approaches may be helpfully informed by successful examples of alternative ways of doing things. Such examples can help us build alternative visions of the future, that can in turn help direct actions and enable policymakers to identify opportunities for facilitating positive systemic change.

Biological invasions are one of the most challenging facets of global change. The extent and impact of invasive species is increasing in all ecosystems, and invasions often act synergistically with other global-change drivers to cause ecosystem degradation and attrition of the capacity of ecosystems to deliver critical services that underpin human well-being. This situation is also very evident in South Africa where invasive species pose a huge threat to biodiversity and ecosystem services, with consequences that often impact especially on the poor and most vulnerable in society.

Although the country is known for its innovative approaches to management of invasions, notably through the Working for Water programme, and for substantial expenditure on managing invasions, the magnitude and complexity of impacts associated with invasions is increasing. In some quarters the feeling is that “we are fighting a losing battle”. Despite the huge challenges, there are, however, many success stories – cases where a particular intervention has had impressive results, for example in reducing the extent or impact of a particular invader, resolving conflicts of interest around a particular alien species, or restoring a particular ecosystem that had been degraded by invasive species.

Inspired by and drawing on the “Seeds of Good Anthropocenes” initiative (, the aim of this project is to compile a database of success stories in invasive species management in South Africa, explore the reasons for success, and to determine whether it is feasible to build new strategies and initiatives based on these “seeds of success”. The project will require a combination of literature review, interviews with land managers and policy-makers, and participatory workshops. In particular, we aim to draw on the scenarios and futures methodologies developed in the Seeds of Good Anthropocenes project to identify potential leverage points for change.

Call for applications

We seek motivated individuals who have a keen interest and passion for linking theory and practice to advance practical sustainability-related initiatives, an interest and ability to integrate across the social and natural sciences, and who enjoy collaboration and working in teams. Interested individuals should have a strong academic track record, preferably with a background in ecology, environmental science or sustainability-related studies.

The applicant will be jointly supervised by Prof. Dave Richardson at the Centre for Invasion Biology ( and Prof. Reinette (Oonsie) Biggs at the Centre for Sustainability Transitions ( at Stellenbosch University. The candidate can choose where they would primarily like to be based once office-based work resumes.


The Fellow will be jointly funded from the DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology and the DSI/NRF SARChI chair held by Prof Biggs. We would like the fellowship to start as soon as possible, and run till end 2022. Funding will be R300,000 per year, plus travel expenses.


Potential candidates should have completed a PhD degree or equivalent. Experience with interviews and participatory methods will be an advantage. All candidates should show evidence of strong scholarly performance. Based on the National Research Foundation’s funding guidelines, strong preference will be given to South African nationals and under-represented groups.

To apply

All interested candidates must email the following documents to by 12 July 2021 with the subject line “Postdoc application: Managing Invasive Species”:

  • a motivation letter (detailing your previous academic and work experience, and how your experiences and skills speak to the proposed research topic, as well as your specific interests with regard to the proposed project);
  • a detailed CV that includes your academic record, previous work experience, any scientific publications on which you have been an author, and the names of at least two academic referees;
  • a copy of your ID or passport;
  • transcripts of academic qualifications;
  • at least one example of recent written work (e.g. a paper, report, thesis chapter).


Enquiries can be directed to Please use the subject line “Postdoc application: Managing Invasive Species”, as enquiries about multiple adverts are being directed to this address.