SAAB Awards 2021

Silver Medal Winner: Prof Timm Hoffman

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Prof Timm Hoffman

Prof. Timm Hoffman holds the Leslie Hill Chair in Plant Conservation in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Cape Town. After completing his PhD at UCT in 1989 he spent a post-doc at the Jornada Long Term Ecological Research program in New Mexico, USA before joining the South African National Biodiversity Institute in 1991. He led a national review of land degradation in South Africa which was published as a co-authored book in 2000. He has been at UCT since 2001 where he is the Director of the Plant Conservation Unit. Timm is interested in how southern African environments have changed over time primarily in response to land use and climate. He has a special interest in the arid parts of southern Africa and uses repeat photography to understand the nature, extent and rate of long-term vegetation change in the region. He takes an interdisciplinary approach to the study of environmental change and includes elements from the historical, anthropological and social sciences in his research. In recognition of the interdisciplinary nature of his contributions, especially in the communal areas of Namaqualand, Timm was the recipient of the WWF Living Planet Award in 2020. He also received the SAAB 2021 Silver Medal Award for his research and other contributions to the advancement of botany in South Africa. Further details about his research and teaching interests can be found at:

Bronze Medal Winner: Dr Blair Cowie

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Dr. Blair Cowie, our SAAB Bronze Medal winner for 2021, undertook his PhD studies at the University of the Witwatersrand from 2017 to 2020 under the supervision of Professors Ed Witkowski and Marcus Byrne.  The focus of his study was the noxious “famine weed” Parthenium hysterophorus,one of South Africa’s most damaging invasive weeds, which threatens food security, our native biodiversity and hence human livelihoods and well-being. All of Blair’s undergraduate and postgraduate years were spent at Wits, where he developed a reputation for being an outstanding student. During his postgraduate years of study, Blair worked on a range of invasive alien plants in South Africa (Eichhornia crassipes, Lantana camara, Opuntia spp., Solanum mauritianum) – contributing to an understanding of their invasive ecology and assessing control programmes for them. Blair has also contributed to policy developing an integrated management strategy for the control of Solanum mauritianum (bugweed) in South Africa, and already published 12 articles in international journals and presented his work at many conferences, both local and international. Blair has also co-supervised two Honours students and helped numerous others during his time at Wits.  He is currently a Post-Doctoral Researcher at the Centre for Biological Control in the Department of Zoology and Entomology at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, where he is continuing his work on invasive alien plants, namely the biological control of Mesquite (Prosopis spp.).