The Institute’s proud record of research, teaching, and raising the public awareness of science was built over more than 60 years of hard work and strategic planning. Securing a sustainable future in the face of escalating global environmental change will require innovative approaches to conserving biodiversity. We have a vision to build on the successes of the past to ensure even greater contributions to science, conservation, education and outreach in the future.

Funding for Research

The Fitz has a number of ongoing research projects. Central among these are (1) a set of long-term research projects that have been supported over long time periods (decades, in some cases); (2) a series of shorter-term, more responsive projects and programmes that are aimed at both academic and applied aspects of ecology, conservation biology, and the sustainability of natural systems; and (3) research-oriented interactions with international researchers.

Long-term projects are essential for understanding ecological dynamics that occur over large time scales. However, they can go in and out of fashion, and all too often a lack of sustainable funding creates gaps that are difficult to fill later. These projects need flexible research funds that can be targeted towards particular goals as funding levels change.

Shorter-term projects may last for several months or up to three or four years. The primary advantage of funding for short-term projects is the opportunity to capitalize on our ability to respond rapidly to urgent conservation issues and/or stakeholder needs. Under short-term research funding, we also include the research costs (e.g., equipment, travel, on-site accommodation) of student projects such as those undertaken by our Conservation Biology MSc students. Short-term projects may be relatively less expensive. Therefore, we could greatly increase our research outputs (while also having a positive effect on student training) if we could build up flexible funding that could be directed annually, on a competitive basis, to the most potentially productive projects. It would be even better for us if we could guarantee up to three years of funding support to individual projects; this would allow us to increase our MSc and PhD intake substantially.

We have many interactions with international researchers. Having a visiting researcher’s fund, that would contribute towards covering the costs of visitors to the Fitz, would greatly increase our ability to invite and host top researchers from other countries. Such people may potentially have a large impact on our overall productivity, standard of research, and international profile. They could also help teach on the MSc course (see also the third category in the next section).

Funding for Teaching

Our primary funding goals for teaching fall into three categories:

The first of these is student support. Each year we unfortunately turn away well-qualified applicants to the Conservation Biology course and our PhD programme for lack of funds. We would particularly like to be able to offer more bursaries to students from both South Africa and from other African countries.

The second category is that of funding for field work. Students learn by hands-on experience, and we often lack sufficient funds to allow our students to pursue high-profile projects in their desired areas of study. We also have a need for support for class outings that are undertaken during the MSc course. 

The third teaching-related category concerns teaching capacity. The MSc course is currently taught as a series of modules that are presented by a combination of internal and external lecturers. 

In a period of unprecedented global change, demand for conservation and ecology research and trained conservation scientists will keep growing for the foreseeable future: with your help, we can continue to build capacity for conservation in Africa and contribute to cutting edge research that improves our knowledge of ecology, evolution and conservation at a global scale.

Funding for Outreach Activities

Our outreach activities are critically important to engage broader society, particularly to foster a connection with the natural world for the younger people. Growing up with a strong connection to nature is essential for well-being and enables people from all walks of life to engage with conservation.  Coordinating and promoting outreach activities requires the investment of both time and money - even small amounts can allow us to fund promotional walks, school outreach etc.

For more information on the Institute’s fundraising goals or on how you can support the Institute, please contact Nqubeko Hlekwayo e-mail or tel: +27 (0)21 650 3291.