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Research fellowships
© Dr Gita Surajnarayan

Some of the world’s biggest environmental challenges can be better understood, responded to and sometimes solved, through science and research. To advance our natural world and enhance people’s lives, we should invest in our country’s future problem solvers.

What is the issue?

There is a common disconnect between studying and the world of work. Academic learning often lacks a focus on real life challenges, especially when human needs and development meets conservation and environmental management.

When these graduates enter into the workplace, they often have only academic knowledge on the many complex environmental issues and risks. And have not had an opportunity to apply their creative thinking to the realities of the real world and contribute to finding relevant, workable solutions.

Encouraging bright young minds to research issues and responses can inspire creative solutions to our most complex environmental challenges.

What are we doing?

WWF awards Research Fellowships to Honours and Masters students that provides financial support and encourages them to undertake research that connects them into communities of practice and contributes to WWF’s environmental goals.

How do we do this?

Post-graduate students from South African universities can apply for WWF’s Research Fellowship linked to research priorities in its various conservation and environmental management programmes. Areas of research can cover natural resources, ecosystems and species conservation; protected area expansion; sustainable food production and consumption; climate change adaptation and mitigation, and the interface between people and the natural world, amongst others.

The fellowship financial award is available for academic fees, equipment and fieldwork costs, as well as some personal expenses of the student.

Research fellows are encouraged to interact with WWF staff and partner organisations to advance their research and share their findings. In this way they are able to connect with like-minded individuals and specialised networks to support their research and ongoing career development. These post graduate students then have the opportunity to apply to the WWF Graduate Internship Programme.

Who do we work with?

We work with all universities in South Africa and our environmental partners including private and corporate companies, government departments, NGOs and research institutions.

How did it start?

After funding was secured for this opportunity, the first Research Fellowship was awarded to Lumka Madolo in 2016. Lumka was one of the WWF graduate interns from 2013 to 2015 and found her research interest while working with WWF’s freshwater programme. Her research involves assessing the restoration of riparian areas through propagating and replanting indigenous plants. This is done to prevent further erosion of the banks and loss of valuable topsoil.

What are the big wins?
  1. WWF’s first Research Fellow has been part of establishing an indigenous nursery in the small town of Genadendal in the Western Cape which is helping to restore the local Sonderend River and provide jobs for people in the area.

  2. Through close associations with organisations working in marine conservation, the research outcomes of these research fellows make a real contribution to conservation management in South Africa.