Conservation Ecology & Entomology
Prof Sonja Matthee
I completed my postgraduate training in 2000 in the Department of the Veterinary Tropical Diseases at Pretoria University. My interest is macroparasites, but I also have an interest in the pathogens that they transmit. For the past 20 years my research programme have focussed on deciphering the role of parasite, host and environmental factors in shaping parasite diversity, distribution and communities at a local and regional scale. Land-use type studies conducted at local scale aligns with the One Health and EcoHealth approaches that highlight an important link between ecosystem-, animal- and human health. At a regional scale my research looks at large scale ecological factors such as biome/habitat-mediate effects and host biology on parasite diversity and communities.
I am fortunate to have an extended network of collaborators from across the globe that is involved in my research programme. My personal feeling is that a multidisciplinary research approach facilitates high quality and often novel research, with the potential for cutting-edge peer-reviewed publications. Locally, collaborations focus on, amongst others, parasite evolutionary ecology (phylogeny and phylogeography) with Prof Conrad Matthee (Stellenbosch University), vector and reservoir ecology in an epidemiological framework with Prof Marinda Oosthuizen and Prof Armanda Bastos (Pretoria University). mite taxonomy with Prof Eddie Ueckermann (North-West University) and helminth diversity and ecology with Prof Chris Marufu (Pretoria University). Regional collaborations focus on parasite diversity and ecology (Prof John Mfune, University of Namibia, Namibia) and rodent pathogen diversity (Dr. Simbarashe Chitanga, University of Zambia, Zambia). International collaborations focus, amongst others, on chigger diversity (Dr Alexandr Stekolnikov, Russian Academy of Science, Russia), lice taxonomy, ecology and evolution (Profs Lance Durden (Georgia Southern University, USA) and Jessica Light (Texas A&M, USA)), parasite ecology (Profs Boris Krasnov (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel) and Serge Morand (University of Montpellier, France)) and helminth taxonomy (Dr A Ribas, Barcelona University).
Current postgraduate students (registered at Stellenbosch University):
- Espinaze, M. Establishing the effect of nest type on nest parasite infestations in African penguins (Spheniscus demersus).
- Van der Mescht, L. Deciphering the taxonomy and evolutionary relationships within the southern African cat flea complex and exploring the mechanisms that shape the diversity of their bacterial communities.
- Stevens, L. Parasites associated with the Namaqua rock mouse (M. namaquensis) and that factors that drive parasite abundance and species composition.
- Smith, A. Parasites associated with rodents (G. leucogaster and S. campestris) and the effect of host identity and habitat type on parasite diversity, infestations and community structure.