Professor Norman Owen-Smith, Emeritus Research Professor in the School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences at the University of the at Witwatersrand, was awarded the Fellowship in 2005 – the fifth recipient of the Award and the second from Wits.
An A rated scientist, Owen-Smith’s interests lie in the ecology of large mammalian herbivores and their interactions with vegetation, with special reference to African savanna ecosystems. He comments “The intent of my research is to place the conservation of these species and the regions that they inhabit on a firmer scientific foundation. Actions undertaken with good intentions have frequently led to adverse consequences because of inadequate understanding of ecological processes. At the same time, ecology is a challenging science because many influences operate, often not in simple or direct ways. Hence I have emphasised computer modelling as an essential support for field studies, and books that I have written have outlined how such models might be formulated.”
Professor Owen-Smith received his MSc from the University of Natal and PhD from the University of Wisconsin in 1973. Following postdoctoral study at the University of Pretoria and a lectureship at the University of Zimbabwe, he joined Wits in 1979 and was promoted to Research Professor in African Ecology in 1997, a position he held until his retirement in 2008. He has authored or edited five books, including Megaherbivores: The Influence of Very Large Body Size on Ecology, Adaptive Herbivore Ecology: From Resources to Populations in Variable Environments and Adaptive Herbivore Ecology.