Did you know?

The University Research Office is based at the Govan Mbeki building on Westville campus

The University of KwaZulu-Natal currently has more than 250 post-doctoral fellows

Funds requests must be directed through the Colleges at the office of the College Dean of Research

You can upload your own publications on IRMA and ResearchSpace

ResearchSpace is the institutional repository of UKZN. It is a collection of full text theses and also includes research publications produced by UKZN academics.
College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science

Prof Colleen Thelma Downs

Professor Colleen DownsProfessor Colleen Downs, who has been at the University of KwaZulu-Natal since 1994, currently lectures first and second year Biology courses as well as being a course co-ordinator and project supervisor at second, third and Honours year levels.

Her research interests are broad and multidisciplinary. They include the conservation, general biology and ecophysiology (particularly nutrition, digestive physiology, frugivory and thermal biology) of terrestrial vertebrates in unpredictable environments. This includes ecosystem health in KwaZulu-Natal incorporating conservation, general biology and urban ecology.

Another interest is science education, particularly problems experienced by Biology students and development of strategies to address these.

Research by Downs has made an important contribution to understanding the relationships between the physiology, behaviour and ecology of southern African terrestrial vertebrates, especially Leopard Tortoises, Nile Crocodiles, various bird species and small mammals.

In terms of ecology and conservation, she and her students have made contributions to the understanding of and conservation of several endangered species as well as contributed to the management of several species and of protected areas. Some of their findings have been novel and include folivory in mousebirds, heterothermy in passerines, no crop in sunbirds, use of airbags in hornbill nestlings and the body temperature of leopard tortoises, tree-rats and Nile crocodiles. Others were more practical such as pelican, oribi and parrot conservation.

Of her 151 published papers up to 2012 about 33 percent relate to vertebrate dietary aspects including water and energy turnover - especially frugivory and nectarivory; about 25 percent to aspects of vertebrate thermal biology including those that relate to thermoregulation and behaviour; about 36 percent to vertebrate conservation and ecology and about 6 percent to science education.

Another major contribution by Professor Downs has been in the development of research capacity, particularly at both undergraduate and graduate levels. She has supervised more than 60 postgraduate students, reviewed numerous papers for a broad range of international journals and examined theses for both UKZN and other universities.

She is on the editorial boards and committees of various scientific bodies and has participated in review panels. Professor Downs presented a plenary at the 2010 Frugivory and Seed Dispersal Symposium in France and is convening the 2015 conference in South Africa. She is the Scientific Chair of the Pan African Ornithological Congress to be held in Arusha, Tanzania in October 2012.

Downs has organised the annual national Cape Parrot Counting Day for the past 15 years. This has involved liaising with public volunteers nationally (about 300 people), producing reports, magazine articles, and making public presentations. She is currently the Chairperson of the Cape Parrot Working Group based at UKZN.

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