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International recognition for South African conservation biologist
Author: Media & Communication, Faculty of Science
Published: 15/10/2019

​​​​Prof Wendy Foden is the second South African conservation scientist to receive the George Rabb Award for Conservation Innovation from the Species Survival Commission (SSC) of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Prof Foden, general manager of Cape Nature's Cape Research Centre and associate professor at Stellenbosch University, received the award in recognition of her “innovative, dynamic and thoughtful leadership of SSC's work on climate change, especially for breaking new boundaries in the use of traits-based analyses and the IUCN SSC Guidelines for Assessing Species' Vulnerability to Climate Change".

The award, which includes a prize of US$5 000, was announced at the SSC's leaders meeting in Abu Dhabi on 9 October 2019. Mr Michael Hoffmann, currently based at the Zoological Society of London, won the award in 2015 for inter alia his “inspirational leadership of the IUCN Red List Committee".

Since 2012 Prof Foden has chaired a group of about 50 experts from around the world that provides guidance to the IUCN's Species Survival Commission on how to minimise the impact of climate change on biodiversity. This committee, called the Climate Change Specialist Group, also won a Chair's Citation of Excellence award. There are now more than 160 specialist groups advising the IUCN. Two other groups chaired by South Africans also won the Chair's award: the Crane Specialist Group under the leadership of Kerryn Morrison, manager of the African Crane Conservation Programme, and the African Rhino Specialist Group under the leadership of the wildlife ecologist Dr Mike Knight.

Prof Foden says she is very grateful for the recognition of her work, and will use the opportunity to amplify the call for action against climate change: "I hope that recognising the vital role that nature plays in helping us to reduce and cope with climate change, as well as the concerning impacts that climate change is already having on nature, will help to mobilise large and local-scale conservation efforts."

She supports the IUCN's urgent appeal to the world's governments, international agencies and the private sector to halt species decline and prevent human-driven extinctions by 2030. Click here for a media release on the Abu Dhabi Call for Global Species Conservation Action.