30 March 2023

As a passionate teacher, he lectures several undergraduate courses including cell biology, African mammalogy, African vertebrate ecology, and conservation biology, with an emphasis on both theoretical understanding and practical application of knowledge.

Having been recently re-evaluated as a C2 rated researcher by the NRF and recently appointed as a full professor, Professor Parker's research career has centred around developing a theoretical grounding in ecology by incorporating a diverse range of ecological skills and techniques.

Initially, his research concentrated on the interactions between plants and animals using giraffes and elephants in the Eastern Cape as his animal models. However, he has now broadened his area of interest to encompass the biology of large carnivores and terrestrial biodiversity.

“Since my research career began, I have managed to develop a sound theoretical grounding in ecology by incorporating a diverse range of ecological skills and techniques into my research.

Although my formative research focused on the plant-animal interactions of giraffes and elephants in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, I am also particularly interested in large carnivore biology and terrestrial biodiversity,” he says.

Teaching beyond the classroom

For his PhD, Professor Parker investigated the effects of elephants in four vegetation types and the cascade effect on three associated taxa and two ecosystem processes at five sites with elephants and five paired sites without elephants in the Eastern Cape province, between April 2005 and July 2007.

“In my study I concluded that, at their current densities, elephants do not (in most cases) negatively affect plant and animal communities or ecosystem processes in enclosed reserves. However, elephants had only been present at each site for a relatively short period and so their impact will likely be cumulative, increasing over time.”

Professor Parker also heads the Wildlife and Reserve Management Research Group (WRMRG) at UMP, which aims to promote postgraduate education and skilled personnel creation through postgraduate research management at UMP.

“The group also assists protected-area managers by undertaking research directed at relevant problems and questions, and contributes to conservation efforts by conducting fundamental research,” Professor Parker explains.

Beyond his teaching and research, Professor Parker is the immediate past president of the Southern African Wildlife Management Association, and Editor-in Chief of the African Journal of Wildlife Research. He has supervised over 35 Masters and PhD students, served on the committees of several professional organizations, authored over 150 scientific articles, technical reports, and conference presentations, and led some key partnerships for UMP.

As a young institution, building partnerships is crucial to UMP's success, and Professor Parker hopes to continue championing such partnerships to grow the university's teaching and research footprint.

“I have been lucky to be involved in some the first MOUs (Memorandum of Understanding) that have been signed between UMP and several conservation-related agencies. I hope to continue to champion these partnerships going forward, and carry on to fly the UMP flag high and grow our teaching and research footprint.”

@ Story by Lisa Thabethe. Pictures supplied.