SARChI Chair University of Venda

The University of Venda based South African Research Chair in Biodiversity and Change in the Vhembe Biosphere Reserve is a vibrant hub for biodiversity science, training and conservation application in the Southern African Development Community – a body of established and emerging researchers, postgraduate and postdoctoral candidates. The Research Chair, co-hosted by the Centre for Invasion Biology at the University of Stellenbosch, is funded by the Department of Science and Technology and administered by the National Research Foundation.

Insect diversity and conservation

Colin Schoeman is studying beta diversity and turnover of ants, beetles and spiders across five longitudinal transects in the Vhembe Biosphere Reserve, representing the different vegetation units in the region. The rate of turnover in species diversity over large geographic areas differs not only between vegetation units, but within them as well, which has important implications for conservation. Sampling was done in February and March 2012, and December 2012, and January 2013. The study is for his PhD, supervised by Stefan Foord from the University of Venda and Michelle Hamer from SANBI.

Colin and specimens

Colin Schoeman with some of the thousands of beetle specimens collected.

The richness and abundance of specimens from the pitfall traps is considerable, but the project has enjoyed huge support from the most incredible people. Colin is currently sorting through the beetles to morphospecies. Because of the size of the pitfalls used, beetles, unexpectedly, comprised the greatest proportion of species in the samples. Ruth Müller from the Ditsong Museum and Mary-Louise Penrith has already identified many of these to genera and species during a research trip to Sanbi earlier this year. All the spiders were sent to Ansie Dippenaar Schoeman, who has kindly agreed to identify them. The Millipedes are being sorted and identified by Michelle Hamer.
The project should be completed by the end of next year.


  • Stefan Foord Stefan Foord
  • Colin Schoeman Colin Schoeman