Dr Jeanne Nel, principal scientist in biodiversity and ecosystem services at the CSIR, was named one of 2013’s four GreenMatter senior fellows. Her appointment is particularly appropriate, given that the fellowship programme’s theme for this year is ‘Biodiversity and Responses to Climate Change’ – both areas in which Jeanne is an undisputed leader.
According to GreenMatter, a network that encourages the development of biodiversity skills in South Africa, the Senior Fellow Awards recognise sector leaders’ contributions and support their on-going work. To this end, the award carries a grant that can be spent at the recipient’s discretion.
Nel wants to use the fellowship to advance the work she is doing to link ecosystem science into policy, and make it part of the day-to-day activities of decision-makers in both the public and private sector. She will also be interacting with international scientists around advancing research into societies’ ability to deal with global change. “I am planning a strategic international trip to share our experiences in the science-policy interface arena with the world. We have a great deal to share from our experiences in South Africa where scientists have to work closely with policymakers – capacity constraints don’t allow us the luxury of exclusivity.”
In addition, the grant will support some of the work Nel does with the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and SANParks. “Due to limited budgets, it is not always possible to be remunerated for the time and effort we invest in cross-organisational projects. The grant will certainly provide some space to do this.”
One of the main tasks of a senior fellow is to support human capital development – a focus that is close to Nel’s heart. She views the mentoring and coaching of young scientists as crucial. “Once people have obtained a degree, they need support to settle into their job roles. The fellowship is a golden opportunity to mentor scientists across institutions within the biodiversity sector. Such cross-organisational capacity building is the lifeblood of the industry.”
Nel was nominated for the Senior Fellow Award by Dirk Roux, fresh water conservation specialist at SANParks.