The eleventh recipient of the Fellowship, Germiston-born Professor Duncan Mitchell is a NRF A1-rated scientist and holds the position of Emeritus Professor of Physiology at the University of the Witwatersrand. He is a founder member of the Academy of Science of South Africa, a Fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa, Honorary Fellow of the Physiology Society of Southern Africa and serves on a number of international scientific bodies. Professor Duncan was voted one of the four Outstanding Young South Africans in 1980 and has lectured in twenty six countries in the course of his career.
The Award enabled Professor Mitchell and his team to acquire research equipment to take their work on responses of large mammals to global warming and to southern hemisphere drying, to a new level. Well-informed and well-balanced scientists have predicted that many of the animal species that attract tourists to South Africa no longer will be able to survive in our game parks and nature reserves by the middle of this century; many animal species have gone extinct during previous global warming events of similar size. Using instruments – that the animals themselves carry – to measure the physiology of free-living animals in their natural habitats, Mitchell’s team is exploring, in southern Africa and Australia, whether some animal species have hidden physiological talents that, for them, may avert that catastrophe. He is a world leader in this research technique and while he cannot yet say which mammals could survive global warming, what he has discovered already about the physiology of free-living animals will require textbooks to be re-written.
Said Mitchell “I have used this generous award to pursue research of which I hope the late Harry Oppenheimer would have been proud. His commitment, and that of his family and the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust, to the advancement of excellence, has been exceptional. So too has been their commitment to the maintenance of South Africa’s natural heritage.”